I’ve made no secret about how much I love the musical, les Miserables, and how much I was looking forward to the movie that was released on Christmas day. I finally saw it on Sunday – how great is it when your son, on his 18th birthday, chooses to spend it with his family and asks to go see les Mis! And I saw it a second time today, taking my oldest daughter to see it. I loved it, and I imagine I’ll get the BluRay as soon as it comes out. I don’t want to get into the discussion of the differences between the movie and the two versions of the play, the actors, their singing, the cinematography, or any of the other details. Instead, today as I watched it, I was struck by a thought, that we all have the chance to choose to be a val Jean or a Javert.

One reason I love the play so dearly is the story of grace, redemption, and salvation shown in the life of Jean val Jean. To have focused on that as the central theme from the massive book (yes, I’ve read it), is such an amazing achievement and one of the reasons that the play has lasted so long and touched so many lives. And the contrast with Javert, the police inspector ruled rigidly by laws, unable to accept grace, puzzled by the concept of forgiveness and redemption, is the pivotal relationship in the story.

So today is January 1, a day many of us try to make resolutions about the coming year, when we try to put the prior year, its troubles and failures, behind us. When we try to look forward to a fresh start, to be a better person, to lose the ten pounds I need to lose, to procrastinate less, to listen more, to speak more kindly, to do all the things I should do all the time but fail at. And I realized that I have a choice – to be a Javert, rigid, unforgiving, confused by goodness, fearful of punishment, or to be a val Jean, accepting God’s grace, learning to love, helping those who need my help, giving generously and cheerfully, and understand that I have been redeemed and accept the gift of grace that has been given to me.

Someone very close to me has said a number of times that they are choosing to live a joy-filled life. I love that phrase. I haven’t done a good job of living a joy-filled life. But starting today, I’m sure going to try. I choose to live my life as Jean val Jean, not as Javert. I’m sure I’ll fail at times, but I’m going to try.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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