The Bigger Story

by Karl Ihfe
I, along with a few hundred thousand of my closest friends, have been captured by the musical, Hamilton, written by Lin Manuel Miranda. For many reasons Hamilton exploded into American culture lore soon after its Broadway debut in August of 2015. Since then Hamilton has inspired countless men, women, and children to investigate the theater for the first time (or the first time in a long time) and has piqued their curiosity when it comes to American history.
I’m amazed when artists blend music, story, and creativity in such a way that it unlocks your imagination and invites you into a whole new world. Hamilton, based on the 2004 biography by noted author Ron Chernow, does just that. In it Miranda tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the US Founding Fathers and the creator of the American financial system that still exists today. Unless you studied economics or finance in high school or college, Hamilton’s life has remained in relative obscurity when compared to other Founding Fathers. His story is one of great success and failure, triumph and tragedy, from humble beginnings as an orphan in the Caribbean to being named the first US Secretary of the Treasury. The telling of Hamilton’s story, like most others, is complicated, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Though the musical celebrates many of his accomplishments, it also gives us a window into some of his darkest moments. He was in many ways a profane man, and that reality is evident in the musical. But he was also a visionary leader who with wisdom and passion overcame obstacles and strove to improve the lives of the people around him.
Watching Hamilton reminded me of some of the men I’ve encountered in the Bible. They, like Hamilton, struggled with the good and evil that existed in their own hearts and lives. They sought to become the men they were created and called to be with a passion and vision that is astounding, and yet at the same time they wrestled with temptation, evil, and the tendency to turn life into a ego-building enterprise. It reminded me of the famous quote found in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago:
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.
The line between good and evil runs through every human heart. In mine and yours. In Alexander Hamilton and King David. What defines is not that some of us are fighting this battle and others aren’t; in fact, that’s actually what makes us similar, we all will battle until our dying day or Jesus returns. What defines us is our ability to learn from the battle, the humility and perspective gained that our battle is not independent and separate from what God is doing in the world. Rather, we are a part of God’s story of overcoming evil with good in the world. We get to be a part of God’s great ministry of reconciliation. You see, there’s a much bigger story going on around us, a story God is writing, and inviting us to engage in.
I think the thing that resonated with me most from Hamilton (turns out it’s also what resonates with me most in the pages of Scripture) was his desire to be a part of the bigger story happening around him. Throughout the musical there is this refrain woven into the lyrics of several songs throughout his life: “I am not throwing away my shot!” It begins as the answer he gives as a young man for why he won’t settle for a job that he believes is beneath him. It grows into the reason he won’t settle for a lesser dream when building the foundation for the newly formed US economy. Ultimately it becomes the purpose for which he refuses to engage in the very duel that costs him his life — instead of aiming his pistol at another man, he fires his shot into the air. Hamilton came to understand that throwing away your shot was not about avoiding the work that was beneath you, or destroying the people that hinder you, but embracing the opportunities to help those all around you.
Wrapped in the story of a Founding Father and set to the music of urban hip hop, we encounter again wisdom derived from a first century Jewish rabbi. No, I’m not trying to turn Alexander Hamilton into a Christ-figure. I’m only learning to recognize when the echoes of Scripture and the story of God, told countless times in countless ways, reappears again in the pages of history and the world around me. Every time I hear it, see it, or stumble upon it, I’m inspired once again.
That’s why I love getting to be a part of the Broadway Church of Christ — the story appears here all the time. From our humble beginnings in Singer’s Store in 1890 up to our present day location on Broadway, the great story of God continues to find expression through courageous men and women.
As you read through the pages of this issue of By the Way magazine, you’ll learn how the story of Scripture has been told by, in, and through the amazing Broadway Church family. You’ll encounter brave and faithful men and women who for the past 130 years have refused to throw away their shot, who did their best to face and overcome that battle between good and evil, and who forged their way ahead into God’s true future. We’ve gathered up memories and articles that will invite you into the history of God’s amazing work here on the South Plains, the legacy that has been established for us, and the invitation that God is still giving to partner with Him in His great reconciliation ministry. We’re praying this issue will inform, inspire, and capture your imagination as together we live into the anthem of God’s people, not only in history, but even into the future: we will not throw away our shot!

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