To think that – no matter what I’ve done or haven’t, whether I’m ready or unwilling – at the last my eyes will widen in delight, it relieves me unto tears.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! – Revelation 22:20 (NRSV)
(Warning: mild spoiler alert.)
At the very end of the musical Hamilton, the newly deceased Eliza Hamilton, having been reunited with her son and husband, faces the audience. Her eyes grow wide, she gasps loudly in delight, and the house goes dark. Curtain.
Much has been made of that gasp, especially in the days since those of us who couldn’t afford to see the show in person watched it streaming online. What did she see, or understand? Was it God? Did she break the fourth wall and see the audience sitting there and realize the work she’d done to preserve her husband’s legacy had come to new fruition? Something else? Lin Manuel Miranda’s not telling, and of course that’s part of the point.
There’s a line in the hymn “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” that regularly makes me weep. At the end, after the hymn has taken us through a human lifetime marked by God’s constant presence, it says,
“As the evening gently closes in
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been,
with just one more surprise.”
To think that no matter what I’ve done or haven’t, no matter what I’ve learned or failed to learn or forgotten, no matter what I’ve lived through and no matter what finally kills me, still there will be one last new thing: that whether it comes when I’m old and ready or young and unwilling, at the last my eyes will widen in delight. It relieves me unto tears.
I long for it. Not for death, mind you. For the surprise.
For the promise of the gasp, O God, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.