Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Working Hard at Playing

We ran away this past weekend.  We loaded up the van with the kids, a couple of suitcases, several hours of audio books, a bag full of snacks and hit the road.  My brother and sister-in-law gratefully added to their menagerie with our recently shaved, still-a-bean-bag dog and our molting and trembling song-less canary ... is that appealing or what?  The fish had to fend for themselves and fight over the oh, so tantalizing flaky weekend feeder stick.  Gratefully there were no floaters when we got home.

We enjoyed time with Gramps & Grammy, eating a few meals on their back deck, re-discovering the treasure trove of toys in the basement, recounting all of our scholastic adventures and ... soaking up the songs and story of Les Mis.

In his typical fashion of generosity and astonishment, Brett gifted me for Mother's Day and our anniversary (and Father's Day, too) with tickets to see our favorite show.  And in my typical fashion, I was momentarily speechless and then started babbling about how excited I was!

As soon as I overcame my shock at holding those precious tickets in my hand, I began anticipating this trip by listening to the music.  Again and again.  Norah quickly fell in love with the music, as well.  On more than one occasion, I would hear the opening "Work Song" from the girls' bedroom ... "Ba dum, Ba dum, Don't look them in the eye, Ba dum, Ba dum, You're here until you die" ... not exactly a cheery tune.  Follow that with "I Dreamed a Dream" and your heart will break!  In light of the music becoming a part of our daily routine, it was inevitable that we would visit about the actual story.

The powerful story of despair, mercy, redemption, hope, forgiveness and transformed lives.

In retelling the redemptive story of Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Cosette and Marius you can't help but hear the resonance of God's own story of redemption and mercy.  Nestled among the scenes and songs are beautiful snapshots of God and His love:

When the bishop extends mercy to the criminal, Jean Valjean, in the midst of his blatant thievery, we see a glimpse of how God offers us forgiveness, "while we were still sinners."  (Romans 5:8)

This same bishop sings of buying Valjean's soul "for God".  In exchange for two silver candlesticks, Valjean is challenged to change his life and bring light to the dark world.  In the same way, Jesus, "gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good."  (Titus 2:14)

As Fantine's health fails and the reformed Jean Valjean offers to care for her daughter as his very own, we see an example of how God has adopted us each His children, "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."  (Romans 8:16-17)

Cosette grows up sheltered by Jean Valjean without a need in the world.  It isn't until she comes face to face with the horrors of war and poverty that she responds with gratitude.  In the same way, we are often blind to the goodness of God and can grow complacent in our relationship with Him.  It isn't until we encounter hardships that we turn to Him.  But when we turn to Him, we are promised, "that times of refreshing will come from the Lord."  (Acts 3:18-19)

Finally, when Javert eventually corners Jean Valjean, he fully expects for the reformed criminal to kill him.  To his surprise, Jean Valjean releases him ... extending the mercy he received from the bishop to Javert, his enemy.  Javert's surprise quickly turns to misery as he cannot accept this forgiveness ... he cannot make mercy fit into his ideology of justice and in despair takes his own life.  In the same way, for some God's forgiveness is too simple, too easy.  But God's promise is clear, "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

I told you it was powerful!

I truly believe that Victor Hugo wrote the story with the purpose of pointing to God's redemptive grace and mercy.  Through the prayers of Valjean in the song, "Bring Him Home", in the goose-bump inducing song, "Who Am I", and in the beautiful lyrics of, "Come to Me", you can't miss Hugo's faith in God.  A God of light, hope and grace.

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