Like most of the world, my family has become infatuated (perhaps mildly obsessed) with the musical Hamilton. We had heard the hype, but until Disney released it to the adulation of the COVID-quarantined masses, we didn’t really understand. While the prude in me found the occasional salty language a bit unnecessary, you cannot deny the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece. History, artistry, and pop-culture collide into two-and-a-half hours of surprisingly solid historical education and emotional storytelling. It’s quite the ride.
I missed some of the incredible minutiae the first time I watched it, but the soundtrack has consistently accompanied our family car rides for the last 6 weeks. Each listen clarifies more of the storyline and sucks me deeper into the humanity of our nation’s founding.
The musical culminates with the moving song, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” It brings a haunting resolution to this chronicle of an ambitious orphan immigrant who willed himself to become one of our nation’s most influential founding fathers. Alexander Hamilton desperately wanted to matter in this life, and he leveraged all of his passion to make sure his name would be forever etched in our history books. Almost 250 years later, we’re still retelling his story in books, on monuments, and now 8 times a week at Richard Rogers Theater in New York City.
A Longing We All Share
It’s a longing all of us share in some way, isn’t it?
To be remembered.
To have our efforts live on long after we’re gone.
It’s actually part of our original design. Check out Genesis 1:28:
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
We were created to subdue and have dominion.
This isn’t a wrong emotion. We were made to be co-creators, image-bearers, vice-regents of God almighty. We were created to do things that matter, important things, things that echo into eternity. That deep longing for transcendence is baked into our God-given DNA.
It’s just been hijacked by sin.
And so instead of spending our days subduing and having dominion under God and to His glory, we strive to make a name for ourselves, we build monuments to our own fame, we endeavor to write stories we hope will keep people talking about us and our contribution. Maybe I can be interesting enough that someone will want to write a musical about me one day, too. You never know, right?
So we look for more purpose in that next relationship, the elusive dream-job, the likes and hearts of the hottest social media platform. Most of us never get there, and those who think they do find out that “immortality” isn’t all its cracked up to be.
While we were made to tell an epic story, that story has never been our own.
We Most Certainly Have a Story to Tell
“How do we understand the play, the real-life story of God and the world which reached its ultimate climax in Jesus of Nazareth and which then flows out, in the power of the spirit, to transform the world with his love and justice? How do we find our own parts and learn to play them? How do we let the poetry of the early Christians, whether it’s the short and dense poems we find in Paul or the extended fantasy-literature of the book of Revelation, transform our imaginations so that we can start to think in new ways about God and the world, about the powers that still threaten darkness and death, and about our role in implementing the victory of Jesus?“
You and I have a story to tell. Whether we are plumbers, or farmers, or Wall Street stockbrokers, missionaries, or waiters, accountants, pastors, CEOs, or small business owners, our story has a vital role in a much larger epic story that is not our own. How we’re remembered or whether we’re remembered at all really isn’t the ultimate objective.
Jesus Already Ensured that Your Story Matters
When Jesus cried “It is finished!” from the cross, He made the final declaration that we are loved, that we are cherished, and that we matter for eternity. And when this finished work of Christ finally fulfills those deepest soul-longings – to be known, to be remembered, to have a life that matters – then we will gladly allow our story to get lost in the Great Story of God where it beautifully belongs and finds its true meaning.
Perhaps then we can contently say with 18th Century religious and social reformer Count von Zinzendorf:
“Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”
When I listen to the closing track of Hamilton, I can’t help but get a little emotional. I feel the deep longing of a poor orphan kid who just wants to matter to somebody in this world. I feel the deep pain of Eliza, his wife, wanting to make sure no one ever forgets the vital contributions her husband made to the newly formed American experiment. And I feel the longing of each one of us, too, who live with a deep longing to be known, cherished, and ultimately remembered.
And then I remember the promises of the Gospel. Everything we need, in Christ, we already have. And with those foundational realities settled, we can finally embrace our role in the Great Story our lives were meant to tell.
Who lives, who dies, who tells His story?