My 12-year-old niece, Tessa, is obsessed with “Hamilton.”
The pandemic seems to have contributed to her obsession – giving her ample time to watch and re-watch the musical on Disney+, memorize the songs, read the books and social commentaries, add memorabilia to her Amazon wish list, and become convinced that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius of the purest order.
I have never seen “Hamilton.”
History and government were never my thing in school. I was more into reading and re-reading Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”, Kerouac’s “On the Road”, Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and Krauker’s “Into the Wild.”
So when Tessa first mentioned Alexander Hamilton to me, I’m sure my response was, “Who?” Somewhere deep in the recesses of my memory was the fact that he was shot by Aaron Burr, but why that was important was beyond me.
Tessa took my ignorance as an open door to educate me.
She spent Thanksgiving dinner explaining to me in dramatic detail the marriage between Hamilton and Eliza, much to the heartbreak of Eliza’s sister Angelica. Over Christmas I learned about John Laurens and Charles Lee. As we celebrated family birthdays in January and February, she filled me in on Hamilton’s political and military career.
I was impressed with Tessa’s vast knowledge, but not particularly motivated to learn more for myself or even watch the musical in her absence. That is, until she started texting me sheet music of her favorite songs.
“Dear Theodosia” – in which Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton sing about making the world a better place for their children, and “Burn” – in which heartbroken Eliza burns all of Hamilton’s love letters after he goes public with his affair.
I’ve been plucking these songs out on the piano. And falling in love with the beauty and simplicity of the notes that tell such dramatic stories. Tessa had told me the story, but the music is what made it reach my heart.
After Jesus is resurrected from the dead, He appears to His disciples, who are still having a hard time believing that He is who He said He was. He’d been telling them the story for years.
He’d explained to them how Moses and the prophets had all foreshadowed this moment in time. He’d even told them how the story ends – Aaron Burr would kill Alexander Hamilton in a duel; the Son of God would be despised and rejected and pierced and buried and on the third day rise again.
They knew the storyline. They knew the plot twists and turns. But it hadn’t yet reached their hearts.
Then the resurrected Jesus shows up in the garden, holding a trowel and wearing overalls. He goes to Emmaus for dinner, eats again in the Upper Room, and fries up some fish over an open fire on the beach of the Sea of Galilee.
These life-altering encounters would change the lives of the disciples forever.
When Jesus says her name, “Mary”, the story reaches Mary Magdalene’s heart.
When He holds out His nail-pierced hands and lifts up His shirt to show off His scars, Thomas is finally convinced.
When He teaches the disciples yet again how to fish, the taste of tilapia for breakfast makes Peter a believer.
God knows what that thing is for each of us that will turn our hearts – the sound of our own name, the taste of a home-cooked meal, the feel of His wounds, the scent of wildflowers in spring, the sight of Him at work in the world, a painting, a song, a mathematical equation.
Take a lesson from Tessa. Keep telling your story and the stories of Jesus, in as dramatic detail as possible. This is a necessary part of our Christian faith.
But remember that the ultimate heart-turning and life-changing is up to God.
“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NLT)
Katie Ubry-Terrell is a member of the Religious Society of Friends/Quakers and serves as Coordinator for the Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.