Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I am a huge movie buff. I love to go to the theater, snuggle down in my seat and let the screen take me far away from daily life.

Often, at the end of a movie, I find myself blinking as reality slowly intrudes on the fantasy I had been inhabiting for the last 90 minutes or so.

So, for me to say I saw the most powerful movie of my life today is saying something. I've often said I enjoyed a movie or it was in my top ten, but to say it was the best, well, it has to be pretty spectacular.

It was.

Today, I went to see Les Miserables at the movie theater. There are some movies that you can see on DVD and it doesn't make a difference, and then there are movies like Les Miserables that you just have to see on the big screen.

Les Miserables is actually a book written by Victor Hugo in 1862. Since they are still making movies from the story, obviously it is about as classic as you can get.

Personally, I think the reason this story still enthralls people is the wonderful thread of redemption that runs throughout.

Back in the day, when I was young and cocky, I tried to read the book in French. Yeah, that didn't go so well. lol I did, however, read the unabridged version in English and it was still a slog because, in book form, it is incredibly long, and Hugo had an annoying habit of naming his characters similar names - I had to keep a running list to keep everyone straight.

In the 1980's it was made into a Broadway musical, and this is the version with which most people are familiar.

The movie is based off the musical and is a bit more doable for most people who don't have a few months to plow through the novel, and the music itself is wonderful.

The story is of Jean Valjean. We first meet him when he is a prisoner. Being a prisoner then was much different than now. He is set free after 19 years, but is on parole. What this really means is wherever he goes he has to carry a paper that declares him a dangerous criminal. He can't get work or food or a place to stay. They weren't much on rehabilitation back then.

By the way, his crime was stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child.

He comes upon a church and the kindly priest offers him a place to stay, feeds him and is nothing but kindness. Valjean repays him by stealing the silver and running off in the middle of the night. He is caught, but instead of turning him over to surely spend the rest of his life in prison, the kindly priest says he gave the silver to Valjean and then hands him two costly silver candlesticks. He tells Valjean he's offered him grace so he can serve God.

Over the years, Valjean becomes a wealthy factory owner under an assumed name and ends up taking in the child of one of his former workers, Fontaine who has become a prostitute after falling on hard times.

Through the years, we see Valjean make choice after choice of doing the right thing, all while being hunted by Javert, an officer in the French army. Valjean helps person after person, and refuses to exact revenge when his archenemy Javert falls into his hands. Valjean could have easily killed Javert and ended his life of being on the run. But he chose to extend the same grace that was given to him years ago.

The story is powerful - full of redemption and the triumph of the human spirit.

However, the thing that struck me most is the grace extended by the priest at the beginning of the story. Myriel had every right to turn in Valjean who had repaid his kindness and hospitality with thievery, but he doesn't.

Instead, against common sense and being in the right, he extends grace. That original extension of grace affected far more than Valjean - it effected the many people he helped throughout his life.

As all truly great stories do, it made me think - what small acts of grace can change the lives around me? Am I willing to give up my righteous indignation at perceived wrongs to extend grace to those around me, even those who may have truly wronged me? Am I willing to be thought a chump or a doormat?

What kind of difference would it make if I extended grace even when I had every right not to?

It may have just been a movie, made from just a story, but Les Miserables left me thinking. It left me looking at things just a bit differently. The last line of the movie pretty much summed it up for me, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

~ Blessings, Bronte

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