Posted by: sarahkennedy33 | August 9, 2008

Because We All Need Grace

I had forgotten how much I love it. I forgot the way I am instantly transported to somewhere else, another time, another place when I hear the opening strands of musical notes. I forgot the epic beauty and truth conveyed throughout. I forgot that even though I know what comes next, even though I know the words and lines by heart, I never grow tired of seeing something new in the familiar words. I’m talking about Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables. I saw the stage production of Les Mis for the first time when I was in fifth grade, and from then on, I was hooked. My family has always been very much into the theater, I was taken to see my first musical when I was only two (Annie) and I was told I sat mesmerized through the entire show. I’ve seen probably fifty different musicals throughout my life, but none has captured my heart quite like Les Mis. I became fairly obsessed in junior high, memorizing every line to the soundtrack, declaring it my life goal to see Les Mis in every major city I could (I’m doing alright, so far I’m at Seattle, Sacramento, San Francisco, London, New York and now Los Angeles…not bad for 26 years!). One of my best friends gave me the novel for Christmas this last year, with a note that said it may have to wait until graduation but she wanted me to read it because she knew I would love it. The un-abridged novel is 1500 pages, by far the longest book I have ever tackled, and it’s sat on my shelf now for 8 months, looking big, and intimidating. This week I picked it up one night and am already realizing what a masterful writer Hugo was. It is a story beautifully told, and I am only on page 20 or something. Chuck was looking at it the other day and promptly started calculating how many hours he thought it would take for me to read this book, to which I snapped that this was my way of relaxing and he was not allowed to turn it into a math equation! Tonight I went with Jenn, Becca and Chuck to see Les Miserables in concert (an abridged version of the stage production–they have actors playing all the parts but only minimal props/stage settings (no barricades for those who have seen it…) and a full orchestra.) It was very well done, and it once again reminded me how much I never tire of this remarkable story of grace, redemption, and justice.

This was the first time I’d seen it since beginning seminary, and while I have always caught onto the theological themes that permeate this story, something new struck me tonight. What struck me was the incredible way that Hugo created the dichotomy between law and grace. The character Javert, the policeman who has spent his life stoically and faithfully upholding the letter of the law is painted in stark contrast with the main character Jean Valjean, who has spent his life experiencing undeserved grace. For so many Christians, the message that Javert follows is rooted in their hearts: follow the law! They think the Christian life is a list of dos and don’ts to carefully follow and, in the words of Javert, “those who follow the path of the righteous will have their reward.” But he doesn’t get his reward. Driven mad by his single-minded determiniation to see “justice” done and the law followed he commits suicide. The law led to death, not life. Valjean, on the other hand, begins the show in prison for having committed a ‘crime’ (he stole bread to feed his starving nephew), and is shown grace when he least expected it or deserved it. Valjean ends up living life of helping many, he rescued an orphan, saved more than one person from various situations, and constantly affirmed his belief that “to love another person is to see the face of God.” The grace shown to him at the beginning of the story when he least deserved it led to life, to an abundant life.

We live in a world desperate for grace; starving for someone to show compassion. Tonight, caught up in the beauty of the music, the power of the lyrics, and the emotion of the story unfolding, I was once again reminded of this. As Christians, we are to be God’s dispensers of grace to the world around us. So may we boldly go forth in to this world and share God’s grace, whether that be a cup of cold water, a meal, a hug, a listening ear, or, as was given to Valjean, grace in the form of two silver candlesticks.
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