Have you watched The BBC’s adaptation of Les Miserables, Hugo’s inspirational story of Grace & Guts, without the singing & dancing. I love the live musical stage show and musical adaptations of the classic novel, a story of Grace appreciated by agnostics, atheists & believers alike.
The scene where Valjean is caught red handed with silverware stolen from the priest, who kindly sheltered him, is striking & transformational. Justice for Valjean is prison, Mercy would see the Priest drop charges, but Grace (getting what he doesn’t deserve) is what he gets from the beneficent pastor as he tells Valjean to take the candlesticks too. These gobsmacking seeds of grace sown in a criminal’s soul directs & defines the remainder of Valjean’s life. Arrested by Grace, he stops grasping and is freed to love unconditionally.
Like the candlesticks, which Valjean treasures throughout life, many symbols remind us of God’s amazing Grace, found in the forgiveness and eternal life God gifts us through Jesus Christ. The empty ‘Cross’, Baptism’s water and Communions bread & wine are visible signs of God’s invisible Grace at work in & through us.
The realisation that we can stop pretending to be something that we’re not and face up to the real me because God loves me the way I am, allows us to honestly look in the mirror and see ourselves, warts & all. We realise the ugliness of our life without God’s Love overflowing it. We confess that we’ve stolen from God, gone off with it all to live without Him, ungrateful & unwilling to turn back. It can be ill health, loss of an ability or a loved one, or another crisis which catches us short and exposes how far from God’s purpose we are. Like the prodigal son, Valjean is forced to look starkly at his ‘just deserts’, caught red-handed in the act of stealing and abusing the Father’s generosity.
The gorilla died at a Zoo & was replaced by a man dressed up as a gorilla till they got a new one; thanks to an immaculate gorilla suit no one was the wiser. He got tired of sleeping & sitting, so started walking around, jumped up & down & tried a few gorilla noises. Onlookers loved it, clapping & throwing him peanuts. The man adored peanuts so he bounced up a tree; the growing crowd threw more peanuts. Playing to the excited crowd, he grabbed a vine & swung from one side of the cage to the other; more peanuts! So he swung higher & higher & higher till suddenly, “Whap!” the vine broke & he went sailing into the ferocious lions’ cage next door. He panicked, a humungous lion not 20 feet away, looked very hungry! Scared spitless the gorilla jumped up & down, screaming, “Help! Help! Get me out of here! I’m not really a gorilla! I’m a man in a gorilla suit! Heeeelp!” The lion pounced & pinned petrified gorilla to the ground, & whispered, “Will you SHUT UP or you’ll get us BOTH fired!”
Has your cover been blown yet? Be assured, once the make up & pretending is stripped away, God still thoroughly loves us! He loves you the way you are and too much to leave you the way you are. Les Miserables points us to an extravagantly generous God who will not treat us ‘Miserable’. He longs to open up a new world of love and opportunity, if we’ll let him ‘find us’ and ‘set us free’.