And so we went to see Les Mis on Christmas day. And on the way there I tried to tell our son the essence of this story. Because I believe, when seeing a musical, that you should already know the story, so you can experience the production and fully appreciate the telling of the tale.
Les Miserables has touched my life more than any other work of art. I am continually amazed by the powerful story of redemption, told through the interwoven tunes that repeat and revolve throughout the story, returning to represent characters and relationships and themes. The stirring rhythms, the haunting melodies, the beautiful harmonies, the bitter contrasts, the heart-wrenching confessions. It’s the most inspired music I have ever experienced.
But how do you capture that in less than five minutes? How do you start? What parts do you choose? He had heard the music, he knew some characters’ names. But what is the message here? Why does it move me so?
In truth, much of it speaks for itself. And so I said…
“At the beginning, Jean Valjean has been in prison for almost twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child. It is time for him to be released, but as he leaves, the inspector Javert vows to hunt him down if he ever makes another wrong step. When Valjean goes out into the world, he cannot find work to support himself, as no one wants to hire a criminal. He eventually finds a meal and a place to sleep in a place of worship, but ends up stealing the church’s silver from the priest. When he gets caught and is brought back to the chapel, the priest tells the soldiers that he gave Valjean the silver, and even gives him more.”
“That’s it?” said my son.
“Oh, no, that’s just the beginning. But it’s important that you understand how that one act of forgiveness and pardon changes the life of Jean Valjean and in turn affects the lives of so many others. That’s what keeps coming back through the whole show, as he becomes a business owner and the mayor of a town, and keeps a promise to raise an orphan child, and saves the life of a young student protestor, and even triumphs over Javert.”
And remember this, my brother; see in this some higher plan.
You must use this precious silver to become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness: I have bought your soul for God.
“I get it – so the inspector sees Jean Valjean’s goodness and can’t kill him, right?”
“Well you’ll have to watch and see about that, but just remember that the way one man treated him – the priest’s kindness towards him even though he had been a prisoner – that act of kindness made a world of difference. It saved him. And then he passed it on to others. Watch for that.”
After the movie, I couldn’t wait to ask my son what he thought. His first reply was, “That was totally unnecessary for Javert to kill himself. I don’t know why he couldn’t just see that Jean Valjean had changed and was a different kind of person.”
So I replied, “I guess he just couldn’t reconcile what he had always believed about Valjean with how Valjean treated him and let him go free. The world was changing in many ways, events as well as people, but Javert just couldn’t accept that.”
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!
“I know it’s hard to understand. Today we live in a world where few people are willing to stand up for their beliefs. In fact, it seems many people aren’t even sure what they believe, much less are they willing to fight for it. And even less willing to die for their convictions. But Javert couldn’t see it any other way.
And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles. The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know
That granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so?
Javert couldn’t accept this act of kindness, and he couldn’t live with his doubts or with himself.
You know, all the students who were fighting were willing to die for their beliefs, too:
Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live – will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!
Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!
We just don’t see that often in today’s world. There’s a bit more selfishness and self preservation ingrained in us these days. But isn’t it inspiring to see how believers can change the world?
When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!
Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn, One more day, One day more!