This is the final post in my mini-series on the thread of redemption found in some of my favorite musicals. You can click here to read how it all started and here and here to read the other posts in this series. I’ve saved the best for last. Well maybe not but more than the other two the theme of redemption is easy to see in this musical.
I first saw Les Miserables on Broadway when I was in High School. Growing up in NYC, and being a lover of musicals, I saw my fair share of shows on Broadway. But watching Les Mis captured my heart and soul in ways I have never been able to fully articulate. It remains my all-time favorite stage musical. I have seen it more times than I can count and know the lines of every single song yet I STILL weep whenever I watch (I wept writing this post). The music is that powerful and the story that moving.
You Are NOT Just A Number
In the opening number Javert refers to Valjean simply by his prisoner number, 24601. Valjean responds by giving his full name but throughout the movie Javert sees him only as a number. He never sees the person behind the number. Valjean rightly states, a little later in the musical, that they gave him “a number and murdered Valjean”.
It’s easy to relegate someone to just a number. What size clothes does she wear? How much money does he make? We give someone a number and then judge them based on that number. But when we do, we miss out on everything about who someone truly is. The essence of a person is lost when they become nothing more than a number.
To the mom who can’t lose the weight she gained bringing life into this world, you are NOT the number on that scale. To the dad working too many long hours, missing the best parts of his children’s lives, you are MORE THAN the size of your bank account.
Society does a hell of a job trying to convince us to measure our worth by things external to us. My challenge is that you stand up to that notion and realize that your worth cannot be found in a smaller dress size, a bigger bank account or a larger house. You are of intrinsic worth and value and nothing can or should take that away from you. You are NOT just a number
One Simple Act of Kindness
A beat down, worn out Valjean is shown kindness by a priest, who invites him into his home, feeds him a hot meal and offers him a warm place to sleep. To repay his kindness, Valjean steals from the priest. When he is caught, however, the priest tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean. He then tells Valjean he must “use this silver to become an honest man”. Something of the hardness in Valjean breaks at the kindness of this old man and he decides to change his life.
Years later, after assuming a new identity, Valjean learns that another man is set to go to prison after being mistaken for him. He remembers the priest, remembers that “his soul belongs to God” and he reveals the truth of who he really is, despite knowing it will send him back to prison.
The kindness of the priest rescued Valjean from the life of bitterness and misery he was heading down. His life was redeemed by this one simple act of kindness and the ripple effect of his life’s transformation is seen in many of the main characters. Fantine dying in a hospital instead of on the streets. Cosette growing up knowing she is loved and not unwanted. Marius not perishing with the rest of his friends. Valjean’s redeemed life, redeems the lives of so many others in the story.
Kindness and Redemption
Kindness begets kindness. Redemption begets redemption. We can never repay the supreme act of kindness shown to us by Christ on the cross. He does not ask us to repay Him. Instead, He asks that we love our neighbors as ourselves, give a cup of water to one who is thirsty and even share our bread with our enemy. His kindness to us should beget in us kindness to others, including kindness to ourselves. May we, like Valjean, be so humbled by Another’s act of kindness, our only response is to do the same for others.
From my heart to yours,
I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts on redemption. I’d love to hear where, in your life, have you found unexpected stories of redemption?
Linking this post with Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart series.