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Christian Union Embarks On Second Massive Evangelism Initiative  By Anne Kerhoulas Last spring, Christian Union launched CU Rise,...
January 30, 2023

CU Alumna and Hamilton Cast Member Finds Identity in Christ

By Ashley LaLonde

Growing up in the heart of New York City, I often struggled to connect with other believers. Though my parents were both faithful Christians, and we attended church nearly every Sunday, almost all my close friends were people of other faiths or no faith at all. I often felt like the oddball. I loved Jesus and knew I had a relationship with him, but I would frequently downplay it with others just to fit in. 

ashley lalonde

I would act like going to church was a chore and emphasize my faith as simply part of my family’s tradition. This led me to develop very distinct inner and outer lives: on the inside, I knew I believed, but on the outside, I was whoever or whatever I thought others wanted me to be, constantly shapeshifting. Living a fragmented life was absolutely exhausting, and it kept me from authentic connection with myself, God, and the people around me.

I struggled to find coherence in my own identity. Thankfully, I saw my time at Harvard as a new chance to find myself, understand my purpose, and rediscover my faith. I found Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA, now called CU Gloria) through Harvard’s campus life website before starting my freshman fall. All of the welcome events made it easy for me to quickly get plugged into a women’s Bible study. 

I believe the Holy Spirit led me to CU Gloria, knowing that finding a community of truth-seeking believers was exactly what I needed to move forward with my faith. I’m thankful that even when our faith is weak, God’s faithfulness is constant because faithfulness is His character (If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. - 2 Tim 2:13). God’s faithfulness is what kept me close to Him, even when I was embarrassed to be called a Christian.

Through CU Gloria’s Bible courses and discipleship programs, I started reading my Bible more regularly and had weekly mentorship meetings with ministry fellows. I appreciated how my mentors would always listen and love first, without judgment. The way they prompted questions allowed me to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit for myself, which created a solid foundation for future growth. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and changes hearts, and sometimes all students need is a safe space to hear that voice and be heard.

As I became more honest with myself, God, and the people around me, I felt my childhood shame melt away. I saw how God was piecing together my fragmented self into a new, beautifully unified identity based on my inherent worth as a child of God. I felt free, knowing that my worth had nothing to do with the approval of others and everything to do with how loved I am by the Creator of the universe. 

This newfound freedom in Christ started to manifest in every area of my life. I finally felt excited to share God’s love with friends and strangers alike. I found myself at parties and social events eager to share my testimony and hear other people’s stories. God started making divine appointments, placing people in my path who needed to hear words of encouragement or a space to be heard. I could see how my own story was weaving together for my good and for His glory. 

Growing up around people of all different backgrounds meant I was comfortable and excited to hear other perspectives. I didn’t feel threatened when someone disagreed with me or with the story of Jesus. I was hungry to take it all in and truly listen well, knowing that at the end of the day, I can’t be anyone’s savior, but I can be someone’s friend. 

As I discovered the beauty of God as the ultimate storyteller—the one who writes all our life stories, I began to understand my spiritual calling as a storyteller. I get to share the greatest story of love, redemption, and restoration with the world through the story of Jesus. As humans made in the image of God, we get to take an active part in this story and even co-create with our Creator. Creation and storytelling are two of the ways we exist in the likeness of God. I live this out through art and human connection.

I’ve always loved performing—it’s something I discovered at church as a child. I loved sharing stories and expressing beauty through song and performance. Now, I’m thankful to have the privilege to perform as my full-time job. What a gift from God. I’m currently on the national tour of Hamilton, the hit broadway musical about American history. It’s an honor to tell a story that’s touched so many people’s lives and hearts. But what I love most about my job is the moments beyond the stage, the moments of raw connection between castmates, the deep life talks. I’ve seen the beauty of God in so many different faces and stories. I truly believe God designed humans with a keenness for stories of every kind. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables—because we remember and connect more with stories. Narratives have cosmic power.

I used to believe the narrative that I had to hide parts of myself to gain approval, but now I believe in the narrative of grace, the story of God’s redemptive love for humanity. I also believe in sharing this story because of how it’s changed my life and continually frees me from shame and fear. I know the power of my own story. And I know that God is much closer and more faithful than we can imagine.

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