Thursday, May 2, 2013

I am Jean Valjean...

Last night, I finally finished my second time reading of Victor Hugo's, "Les Miserables". I had read it in high school, had seen the recent Hollywood version and picked it up again (it was free from Kindle books). I have to confess that one of the side benefits of re-reading the original version was that I did not have to listen to Russell Crowe sing. :)

As I read, I realized once again why this book is such a classic. The character development and the tragedy motif built into their lives are captivating. None more so than the main character, Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean is a criminal. He steals some bread to feed his sister's hungry family. In doing so, he relegates the rest of his life to being labelled a criminal. He is angry at the system that made him so. He lashes back but finds redemption in an elderly priest who shows him kindness. After another chance encounter, he vows to live his life for the good of others and leaves behind his name and identity. But he can never escape it not only due to the relentless pursuit of a police inspector named Javert, but also due to his own inner conscience.

The main parts of the book are Jean Valjean remaking himself, under various names, showing unbelievable kindness to those less fortunate and yet still struggling with his own identity. The denouement of the story comes rather early in the book where he attends the trial of supposedly the recaptured criminal Jean Valjean who is really no more than a local simpleton. When he can bear it no longer, he steps in front of the court and confesses to everyone, "I am Jean Valjean!"

There are many more plots and sub-plots to this literary classic but in the end, it is an epic struggle of a man and his identity. In the end, he dies as a man who truly knows who he is and in the arms of people who have come to learn who he truly was.

I wonder how many of us really know who are are? I wonder how few of us would want the world to know our true identities; those things deep down in our heart and minds; those things hidden from the casual eye?

As followers of Christ, we are known. We are known so intimately by God that there is nothing hidden from His sight. And the more we grow into Him, the more we become conformed to the image of His glorious Son Jesus, the more that we are able to bare ourselves and identities to the world.

Jean Valjean's story is a wonderful story of redemption. Ours is as well.

To be able to stand and say to the world, "I am _______"...Only you can fill in the blank.


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