By guest blogger, BroKen
On our anniversary, I took my wife to see Les Miserables. To describe the experience, I told a friend that it is a wonderful story; we cried. He said, "You cried because you had to go to the opera, right?” No, it was the story. I guess I'm an old softie.
I understand the reason why my friend joked about the opera. Practically every line is sung and personally, I do find those recitatives a bit tedious. But the songs like, I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, Master of the House, are beautiful expressions of the emotions of the characters revealing their hearts, sometimes pleading, sometimes devastated, sometimes raucous, even bawdy.
I had heard about “Lay Miz”, as the abbreviation is pronounced, for about thirty years, but I had never been that interested in it. I knew that it was French and that it was revolutionary and that was enough to turn me off. I knew it involved a repentant thief and a persistent policeman and that seemed a bit contrived and unrealistic. Now, having seen the movie, it still seems a bit contrived and unrealistic. But that is OK. It is a wonderful story. It is wonderful, not because of the characters themselves, but what the characters represent.
Valjean, the thief, is transformed by an extravagant gift of grace, an undeserved blessing of freedom and wealth. Javert, the policeman, is honorable, stalwart, determined and hard-working. He believes that if everyone were like that, like him, the world would be a wonderful place. The genius of the story is in how these two lives intertwine just like the themes of Law and Grace mingle in every human life.
Around these two central characters are a host of others. There is Pantine, whose dreams are cruelly and and unjustly dragged to the gutter. There is the conniving innkeeper and his wife who live happily in the gutter and use it. There are the angry and idealistic youth who are literally willing to die for people in the gutter, even though those people are unwilling to rise up with them when bullets put them down.
The pivotal moment comes when Valjean(Grace) holds the life of Javert(Law) in his hands and lets him go free. The honorable Javert believes that Valjean expects to go free in exchange. Javert will not take part in a bargain to thwart the law. Valjean replys, “You are wrong. You have always been wrong. If I survive tonight, you can pick me up tomorrow at home.”
Tragically, this act of grace is so offensive to Javert and yet so powerful, he can't handle it. His whole life was spent looking down on others and teaching others to look down as well. He could not imagine anything good happening if he humbled himself, stepped back to the gutter, and looked up.
Similarly, every human life pivots at the intersection of Law and Grace; the Cross of Jesus Christ. Don't take offense. Humble yourself and look up.