Come with me
Where chains will never bind you
All your grief at last at last behind you
Lord in heaven, look down on him in mercy!
Forgive me all my trustpasses
and take me to your glory
Take my hand, and lead me to salvation
Take my love, for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God!”
Of all the musicals on ever earth, Les Miserables is my favorite. From the opening chord of the orchestra to the ending ensemble lines of “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?Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!” I am in another realm, a place where right trumps wrong and grace and mercy triumph over vengeance.
For those who don’t know the story, Les Mis takes place in the 19th century in pre-revolutionary France. A prisoner by the name of Jean Valjean, but better known by his number 24601, is granted parole after 19 years of imprisonment. He was initially given 5 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for a starving child (his sister’s child) but because of many attempts to escape ended up being there for 19. Seen as a pariah because of his prison past, he struggles to find work or food. He is ultimately taken in by a man of the cloth, the Bishop of Digne, and given food and lodging. He returns this kindness by stealing the silverware in the middle of the night, is caught by police and taken to be accused by the clergy. Instead of accusations, he is vindicated as the Bishop claims they were given to Valjean as a gift and wonders aloud to Jean Valjean’s captors why he left the silver candlesticks in ‘his haste’ . This act of grace is given with a challenge by the clergyman to ‘Become an honest man‘. He journeys through his life doing just that, though continuously haunted by his past in the form of a police inspector named Javert.
The contrast of the two men is clear as one is consumed with the need for justice and retribution and the other attempts to live out his life in grace but secrecy. Like all good stories there is the protagonist, a conflict, and a critical climax that I will not spoil for those who have not yet seen the show.
This year Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, winner of four Oscars, takes Les Mis to the big screen. I had the pleasure of seeing it last night – and though I will always prefer the live performance, I loved the show. Anne Hathaway as Fantine brings on tears as she struggles to survive on the streets of Paris; Eponine’s poignant “A Little Fall of Rain” catches in your throat; and you want to get up and wave a flag during “Red – the blood of angry men, Black – the dark of ages past”. All and all, it’s a great show — the next best thing to seeing it live.
With great theology and irresistible truths it feels like a holy experience.
More and more I am grateful for the compelling lessons I learn of God and Grace, Mercy and Justice from the world around me, whether it be award-winning musicals or encounters on a crowded, dirty street.These glimpses of the character of God move me from wanting to know ‘of’ God, to wanting a relationship with God himself, walking in faith that the words “Come with me, Where chains will never bind you. All your grief at last at last behind you” will at some point be sung to me.