If you’ve been remotely in my presence this summer you have most assuredly heard about me getting to see “Amazing Grace” on Broadway. Most likely I told you that it’s my new favorite musical of all time, described the unbelievable set design and staging and costumes, played you songs from the show (it has the most beautiful, powerful music ever heard this side of Heaven), showed you the clip of the cast singing on Jimmy Fallon, and on and on. There is no cast recording out yet, but I’ve searched youtube attempting to find as many full songs as I possibly can so I can still listen to the music (I’ve found six so far and I listen to them daily). One song in particular I’ve listened to before going to sleep almost every single night of the summer since I saw the show! It helped me go to sleep countless nights this summer as I slept alone in the house or alone in my room at Kate’s house (I hate sleeping by myself in case you didn’t know, but it’s a little easier with Josh Young singing to me as I go to sleep)! I may or may not check the Amazing Grace facebook page and instagram daily to see what others think of it and voraciously look for when they will release a cast album. I neither confirm nor deny that I pray daily for the people going to see the show, for the cast, and that a cast album will be released soon! I can’t help it! It’s AMAZING!!! And if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t judge me! Just wait until it’s your turn to be standing on your feet at the end of the show with tears streaming down your face joining your voice with the incredible voices on stage in that age old hymn! You’ll understand!
(Slightly excited about my tickets to see the show I've been waaaaaaaiting for!)
Quick recap (in case you didn’t see me this summer): Amazing Grace tells the story of John Newton who was a sea captain and slave trader and follows this horrible, crazy, lost man (and his childhood sweetheart who never stops asking God to change his heart) through his young adult life until God grabs a hold of this young man’s heart through some horrifically hard circumstances and his life is completely changed. He ends up becoming the hymn writer who wrote the words to the most popular song of all time, Amazing Grace. Along with that, it’s also the story of the brave men and women who began the fight for the abolition of the slave trade in England and the story of many of the beautiful Africans who were a part of it. It’s the story of humanity's utter depravity and God's matchless forgiveness and grace. It's the story of people...the sinful, the unmerciful, the beautiful, the brave, the lovely and depraved. It shows humanity at its most ugly, sinful core and God's ability to turn the ugliest sin into wild beauty! The whole story is epic, redemptive, glorious and best of all, completely TRUE!
Mr. John Newton (Josh Young) himself! This man has the most
unbelievable voice I've ever heard and the emotion and passion he
puts into sharing this story is utterly astounding! P.S. I look like I've
been crying because...I have!
I’ve been trying to figure out why this show grabbed me and wrapped itself so tightly around my heart and mind (aside from the glorious music and exquisite costumes and beautiful voices and impressive staging) and I think I’ve figured it out. I think it’s because it was a new, clear, almost tangible way of seeing and hearing God bestowing His grace and choosing to use someone who was wholly undeserving. Someone who was mean and horrid and despicable and disrespectful… someone like every sinner… someone like me. It’s so easy to view myself higher than that because I’ve never sold human beings or mocked authority and God, but when I view myself as higher than the sinner that I am, it lessens the grandness and power of God’s grace because really, how much grace could it really have taken to save me? My song would surely be called, “A Little Grace” or even “A Spoonful Of Grace” (cue music: “Just a spoonful of grace makes the sin go down…”) but surely no need for “Amazing Grace.” But I don’t want to dilute God’s Amazing Grace with my delusions that it didn’t take the much grace to save me. The truth is that is takes every bit as much grace to save me as it took to save that slave trader. In our own lives if there has been no slave trading, no murder, no adultery, no abuse (all those sins we use as a barrier to say, “well I’ve never done THAT, so how sinful could I really be?”), Jesus would still have gone to the cross and that grace would still come at the same bloody cost because sin is sin. Period. It’s only by God’s Amazing Grace to slave traders and kindergarten teachers alike that we are saved.
The other reason that this story grabbed a hold of my heart is not just because of God choosing to save John Newton, but because of John Newton’s response. In the show his immediate response is in song and I don’t know that John Newton could or would actually sing, but the words to that song are certainly what he must have felt because they are what every sinner has felt at one time or another when confronted with his own sin and the overwhelming face of our great savior. “And I never can repay what the Lord forgave that day. He came for me…came to set me free.” When he finally confronts his overwhelming sin and looks to the grace of his overwhelming savior he lives his life in overwhelming humility. That is the right response…a response I don’t always live out. After seeing the show I got John Newton’s autobiography, “Out Of the Depths” and basically devoured it. Something that struck me is the humbleness in which he lived his life after meeting Jesus. Just listen to some of his words:
“It was well worth standing a while in the fire for such an opportunity of experiencing and exhibiting the power and faithfulness of His promises.”
“I am not what I ought to be, I am
not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I
am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
“If God may be glorified by my efforts and His children in
any measure be comforted or instructed by what I have to declare of His
goodness, I shall me satisfied.”
“His sovereignty is connected with infinite wisdom and
goodness. Consequently, if it were possible for me to alter any part of his
plan, I could only spoil it. Such a short-sighted creature as I, so blind to
the possible consequences of my own wishes, was not only unworthy, but also
unable to choose well for myself. It was therefore my great mercy and privilege
that the Lord condescended to choose for me.”
“Although my memory's fading, I
remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great
Sometimes I forget how truly astounding it is that God would choose to love me, to save me, but this summer I remembered through the humility and obedience of a slave trader turned hymn writer who died over 200 years ago, but whose words live on:
“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now i see.”
(See it's not just me...others are super excited about it too! Just look:)
*Last thing...I promise! Did you know that the man who wrote the script AND the music AND the lyrcis had no background in musical theater or composition...He was a police officer who read John Newton's autobiography and decided the story had to be shared and he has spent the last twenty years writing the script and the music and the lyrics and trying to get it to Broadway! What?!?! Talk about AMAZING!!!