On a recent trip to Chicago, I had an encounter with U.S. history that not only reminded me of our nation’s story (shout out to fireworks and all things Fourth of July coming this Thursday!), but taught me about my own story as well. It all started with a trip to Chicago and a ticket to see Hamilton.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last four years, you may have heard of the musical. In truth, it’s hard to avoid the stratospherically high hype that has swirled around the musical since it opened in 2015. The musical, which follows the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, has become one of the most successful musicals ever. It’s grossed more than $500 million and beyond Broadway, has permanent shows in San Francisco, Chicago and London, along with a national touring company that recently swept through Dallas. Even with so many places to see the musical, tickets are hard to come by and (when you can find them) pricey.

All that to say, as someone who doesn’t easily buy into hype and had to google Alexander Hamilton before the show began, I wasn’t so sure I’d care for this particular musical theater outing. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that when we found our seats for the show, my friend and I realized we were the last two chairs on the back row of the tip top balcony … with a pole somewhat blocking our view. Not exactly a prime-viewing situation.

Before I go any further, here’s a quick recap on Mr. Hamilton in case (like me) you need a refresh from eighth grade U.S. history class: Alexander was born in 1757, orphaned at age 13 and immigrated to New York from the British West Indies after his boss pooled resources to send him to America for an education. He attended Kings College (later renamed Columbia University) and joined the New York Provincial Artillery Company when the Revolutionary War began. He became George Washington’s assistant during the war and later a trusted advisor. He was one of the nation’s first lawyers, founded the New York Post, heavily influenced the approval of the U.S. Constitution and secured America’s brand-new economy as the nation’s first secretary of treasury. Phew. And that’s all before the age of 47 when he died in a duel with Aaron Burr.

It’s quite a story. But a musical? I wasn’t so sure.

So, cue the lights and the cast (and remember, we’re basically watching from the rafters, having to shift this way and that to catch the show). What happened over the next few hours wasn’t a performance … it was a Moment (yes, with a capital M) that I hope lives forever in my memory. The cast performed with every ounce of heart and energy they could muster. They filled every inch of that dark theater with their story, our story, really, and it felt like the cast was singing right to me. In fact, the music, the story, the performers’ voices were all so compelling that some moments I closed my eyes just to take it all in. It was a swirl of epic history and everyday life. It was hopeful and funny, quick, honest and surprisingly tender And all the way up in the back corner seats, in what felt like the rafters, the story and those telling it moved me.

I left the show that night, unable to let go of that “to-the-rafters” feeling. What if we all lived our lives in such a way that we reached people way up in the rafters?

In the weeks since, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how from their spots on stage, the cast of Hamilton had absolutely no way of knowing I was there. From where they stood they couldn’t see me any more than they could see dusty, red Mars — but that didn’t stop their words and work from reaching me way up in the rafters. They were impacting me with their passion and heart, with the words they had to say.

Even the historical figures they were depicting, I’d say, lived their lives “to the rafters.” Sure, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Eliza Hamilton lived in a world-changing moment of history, but underneath that, in the midst of actual text-book moments, they were still everyday people living everyday lives. They were real people who made mistakes, who shouldered responsibilities that felt too big; the work they were involved in was as messy as it was magnificent. Their lives were full of heart and history, but also happened day by day like our lives too. When it comes down to it, I realized they weren’t that different from all of us.

The men and women of the American Revolution had opportunities to make a great difference for their neighbors, their families, those who were hoping for a new, free life. They had an opportunity put in front of them to build a new nation – one where freedom would be bedrock and a north star. That’s not too different from us, right? In Christ, freedom is our bedrock and north star. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” Paul writes in Galatians 5:1. We’ve been put here and now to live out that freedom so that others — neighbors, friends, family, coworkers — see the hope of Jesus in us.

The cast of Hamilton and, for that matter, the historical figures they were playing, were simply living their everyday lives, doing the jobs they’ve been given, using the gifts they were born with and had developed — but they were giving it all they had. As Paul says in Acts 17, “From one man he [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” We’ve been put in our unique lives with relationships and opportunities on purpose. And there’s no telling when we might collide with someone who will be impacted by the story we have to tell.

We may not be founding fathers of a nation, but we’ve been put right where we are to love God and those around us. Will we let the compelling hope and freedom of Jesus Christ shine through us? Will we live with joy and grace and love so that others will be stopped in their tracks? Let’s do it all in such a way that even from a great distance, even all the way in the rafters, lives are changed.

 

 

Caitlin Rodgers

 

 

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Summer Stories
This Wednesday, July 3 | 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. | Oak Room
Before the holiday weekend begins, come have lunch with the women of Christ Chapel! We’re getting together for good food, community and Summer Jones’ story of how God has worked in her life. Please bring a salad or pick up something on the way to share. If you work, come on your lunch break — you won’t miss our speaker and we’ll have plenty of food for you!

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