“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Those are the closing lyrics to the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” They are good questions, really. Who tells the story of your life — you, or someone else? Who is writing the narrative that you are living — you, or someone or something else? Are you writing your own script into being, or are you living out a script imposed upon you, either by circumstance or design?
In the Christian Scriptures, God calls God’s people into being — authoring the story of their lives into existence. Along the way, however, there are seemingly endless circumstances when that story gets interrupted, and chapters upon chapters are written in ways that seem to be counter to what God has in mind.
One of the most telling of these circumstances is the time that the Hebrew people are enslaved for generations in Egypt. As the story goes, God had called Abraham and Sarah to follow, and God promised them land, offspring, and blessing. Time passes, and it all seems rather slow in coming to fulfillment. By the time the familial size seems to be well on its way toward what God had promised, the people are enslaved under an oppressive regime in Egypt, but they were not in their own land, and it seemed impossible that they would become a blessing to the entire creation, shackled and oppressed.
The narrative of the Hebrew people, it seemed, had been hijacked. Their story, it appeared, had been taken over by a ruler who certainly did not hope for their good, and seemed to want only harm for them.
The words “land, offspring, blessing” seemed to have vanished from the doorposts of their lives. It seemed that “slaves, persecution, subjugation, and cruelty” had been written in their place.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? For this era, it seemed, that yes, the people lived, but a whole lot of them died, and their story, well, that was told by Egypt.
In our own lives, we often find ourselves at times and places where there are things inscribed on the doorposts of our lives that are not God’s narrative for us. Some of the things that get written into our hearts are actual words, words that cut deeply. “Not enough.” “Lazy.” “Fat.” “Crazy.” “Loner.” “Failure.” “Weirdo.”
Others are circumstances or experiences that play over in our hearts, on our minds, and in our lives, systemically writing a narrative for us over which it seems we have no control. It is dangerous to “drive while black” in this country. There is a glass ceiling in this country that limits the success of women. Even though there is now marriage equality in this country, to be LGBTQ in some places still means that you can be fired or evicted. Systemic stories inscribed on the doorposts of millions of lives.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? What is written on the doorposts of your lives?
But you see, friends in Christ, for God’s people of old, even when it seemed that someone else had taken over the script, someone else had hijacked the narrative, God was still writing the story of God’s people into being.
God heard the cries of God’s people, and God authored a new and defining chapter into the narrative. We call it the Passover (Exodus 12), and for generation upon generation, God’s people have now celebrated that with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of God’s people, God changed the script. God authored a new chapter into being. Slave became free. Oppressed became liberated. Persecuted became promised ones.
As people of faith, we believe that in Jesus Christ, God definitely writes your story and invites you to live into that story for all of your days — a story of love and acceptance, a story of grace and mercy, a story of forgiveness and new life, a story of hope in the midst of a world of fear. All of these things, God has written on the doorposts of your lives in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of these things, God has written into your narrative.
But God doesn’t stop there. God invites you to be a part of authoring love and acceptance, grace and mercy, forgiveness and new life into the stories of others — and for the whole creation. God invites you to be a part of bringing God’s creative and redeeming word to all the world, so that others too can see that through Jesus, God has inscribed a new story on the doorposts of their lives.
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? They really are good questions. As people of faith, we respond with confidence and certainty. Who lives? You do! Who dies? Jesus does! Who tells your story? God does.
May you, each and every day, live into the blessing that God has written on the doorposts of your lives.
Oct. 5, 2016
Image: A residential doorway in the old section of Pune. Photographer: Akshay of Trivial Matters. Originally published in Trivial Matters November 1, 2005.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.