Story Behind Song
But none have succeeded better than Steven Curtis Chapman in the tribute song to his daughter Emily, "Fingerprints of God."
In 1997 and 1998, the Paducah, Kentucky native took a well-deserved sabbatical following an incredible string of four Grammys, 10 top-selling albums, 30 number-one songs, and 37 Dove awards. The nine-time Gospel Music Association Songwriter of the Year spent much of the time off hanging out and spending time with his wife Mary Beth and their three children, Rory, Caleb, and Emily.
Before taking the time off, Chapman frequently joked with his studio ensemble that recording sessions ended by 6:30 p.m. in order to make the endless rounds of basketball games, soccer contests, and choral presentations. Without fail, the talented songwriter and singer appeared at 8:30 the next morning ready for another packed day of rehearsal and production.
Although the respite provided refreshment and renewal, it also contained harsh moments of heartache and grief. While the Chapman family journeyed to South Africa on a mission trip, 14-year-old Michael Carneal senselessly killed three students and wounded five at the singer's alma mater, Heath High School. Later that year, a close family friend lost a daughter in a tragic traffic accident following a holiday party the Chapmans had attended.
Consequently, both joy and sadness find expression in the musician's 1999 release, Speechless. Reviewers lavished Chapman's latest work with unabashed praise.
Billboard's Deborah Evans Price wrote, "Just when people might think Chapman couldn't top his previous work, he dives deeper into the well and delivers another incredible collection. As a singer, he's one of the most effective communicators in any field-his warm, accessible voice draws in listeners and maintains their attention with poignant, affecting songs. Chapman is particularly effective when he pours out his heart, as he does on, "What I Really Want to Say" and "Fingerprints of God."
During the production of Speechless, Emily turned 13. Her teenage turmoil brought times of both crying and laughter, but Emily's growing Christian faith bonded father, mother, and daughter into a stronger family unit.
Like many adolescent girls, Emily suffered from a case of the "terrible too's." Most teenagers, especially females, consider themselves too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too smart, too dumb, too awkward, or too full of whatever characteristic striking them at the moment. Recognizing his offspring's struggles with puberty and maturity, the prolific songwriter penned "Fingerprints of God" as a tribute to her and a source of inspiration to everyone grappling with their identity.
As Chapman described his inspiration and feelings, "I wanted to say to her somehow, 'Emily, you're a special treasure.' God created you just like you are, to look exactly like you do and you are precious to Him and to us. I don't know what you see when you look in the mirror that you don't like, but what I see is God's fingerprints all over you. He's created you and He's still at work. He's just getting started on this awesome work of art that He's creating in you."
The three-time GMA Male Vocalist of the Year drew the song's lyrics from Psalm 139:14-15 and Philippians 1:6. In verse 14, the Psalmist writes, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Chapman expanded this thought in the chorus of "Fingerprints," arranging the melody with an upbeat rocking rhythm reminiscent of the 60s British invasion. The song's central theme states, "I can see the fingerprints of God when I look at you. I can see the fingerprints of God, and I know it's true. You're a masterpiece that all creation applauds, and you're covered with the fingerprints of God."
Although the tune never reached the number one status of Chapman classics such as "For The Sake of the Call," "The Great Adventure," "Heaven in the Real World," "Signs of Life," and "Speechless," it debuted in the Christian Top 50 in mid-January 2000. "Fingerprints of God" remained on the charts for seven weeks, peaking at number 37.
Like many Christian fathers and teenaged daughters, Emily and her dad have entered into a relationship with many ups and downs but stabilized by their Christian commitment. As Chapman remarked in a recent interview, "It's (raising a teenager) like a hurricane, you know. A while back, she gave me a Valentine card saying 'Thanks Dad, for helping guard me...I don't always like it, but I'm thankful.' I told her, 'Em, most dads pray their whole life to hear that.'"