Les Misérables is one of the most compelling stories about grace ever written. I've had the opportunity to see the terrific musical in New York, London, Denver and Arvada. The 2012 Les Mis movie starring Hugh Jackman is absolutely incredible. And yet, I have to confess that I have not yet read Victor Hugo's classic book... I think am intimidated by the book and its 1,264 pages in length. (or 60 hours of listening on the Audible version.) Have you read the book? If so, please share in the comments below along with any success strategies to making it through the book! Even without reading the book, I do know that Les Miserables is an incredible story about grace. Below are 7 glimpses of grace in Les Mis, with quotes from the musical/movie and some questions for reflection for you.
1. "But remember this, my brother, see in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man." In this early scene Bishop Myriel grants Jean Valjean (JV) his freedom after JV stole silver from the bishop and got caught by the police. This act of grace changes the trajectory of JV's life. No longer will he live as a thief, but will instead become an agent of grace for others in his life. Q: When in your life have you received grace?
2. "Who am I? Can I condemn this man to slavery? Pretend I do not feel his agony. This innocent who bears my face who goes to judgement in my place... And so, Honor, you see it's true, That man bears no more guilt than you. Who am I? 24601!" This is a pivotal moment in Jean Valjean's life. Will he take this opportunity to live free because the police apprehended a man that looks like him and could go to jail in his place? Or, will he extend grace to this man, just as JV received grace from the bishop many years ago? JV extends grace and in the process builds his character. Q: What are some character building opportunities in your life today?
3. "My Cosette... Shall live in my protection. Take her now... Your child will want for nothing. Good M'sieur, you come from God in heaven... And none will ever harm Cosette as long as I am living." Fantine's death is tragic. Jean Valjean realizes he was to blame for allowing her to be fired from his factory, so he takes responsibility of the situation and gracefully vows to take care of Fantine's soon to be orphaned daughter, Cosette. Q: Is there a situation in your life now where you can gracefully take responsibility for it?
4. "Suddenly the world seems a different place. Somehow full of grace, full of light. How was I to know that so much hope was held inside me? How was I to know at last that happiness can come so fast?" Wow, there is so much goodness in the song 'Suddenly' (which is only in the 2012 movie). Jean Valjean has just rescued Fantine's daughter Cosette from the terrible inn keeper and his wife (who are quite the opposite picture of grace...) JV's world has suddenly changed. He has adopted a daughter after saving her from a dangerous life. He is now a father. The world for JV is suddenly filled with grace, life, hope and happiness. So good. Q: Can you family consider adopting a child?
5. "He is young, he is only a boy. You can take, you can give. Let him be, let him live. If I die, let me die. Let him live. Bring him home." Here Jean Valjean sings a beautiful prayer of self-sacrifice on behalf of Marius, Cosette's new love, who is fighting French troops at the barricade. JV is literally willing to sacrifice himself unto death if Marius can live. This is a rare love. This is grace. Q: Where in your life can you make sacrifices for others?
6. "And remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God." This is one of the best lines of Les Mis. Jean Valjean is dying, but fortunately Cosette and Marius have found him just before death. JV takes Fatine's hand as he passes into the light as these words are spoken. Yes, I cry pretty much every time I hear this song. This scene is done particularly well in the Hugh Jackman movie. Q: How can you grow your love for others in your life?
7. "Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?" In this closing song with the entire cast I envision a call to grace. A call to get beyond the barricades in our own minds and lives. A call to get beyond our scarcity mentality. A call to move toward the abundance mentality. A call to grace. Q: What are some barricades in your life that you need to leave behind?
If you haven't seen the musical or movie, I do highly recommend doing both. The movie is of course accessible to you to watch now. And, maybe you're like me in that you haven't read the book yet, but want to. I encourage you to embark on reading the book as well! Lastly, if you want to just listen to the musical's soundtrack, I highly recommend both the London Cast and Broadway Cast editions.
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