If you’ve seen the movie The Natural, do you recall the scene where Red says to Roy Hobbs, “You can’t spell it, but it eats pretty good don’t it?” And so it is with Les Miserables. A few years ago during the winter when I had time to read and less good weather for golf, I, for some reason, decided to read the aforementioned. The book is long; Bubba long. Golfers understand. It’s not a book for readers who prefer magazines or text messages or tweets. And I admit, it had been a while since I had read something with such weight and I’m not talking about the content, I’m talking mass. But, it didn’t take long before I realized I had picked a good one. I’ve told people, whenever the subject presented itself, that this book is the finest, grandest, novel I’ve ever read. And so a few weeks before Christmas some of the posse was gathered around the dinner table and the idea was birthed, why don’t we go see the latest incarnation of Les Miserables on Christmas day. Ok, since you asked, I’ll tell you why I think it’s such a great story. Because, woven into the fabric of the story, like a colored thread on a Duck Dynasty camo outfit, is the theme of grace. Sounds a lot like another big book, a collection of smaller books really, that’s been around much longer.
The food we ate on Christmas morning and evening was delicious, but the real feast was served up by Victor Hugo. A large portion is offered early when Jean Valjean, the main character, is given a meal and a place to sleep. During the night, while his host sleeps, Valjean steals a bag full of silver cups and such. The local authorities return Valjean and the silver in the morning and instead of charges being pressed, the owner of the silver confirms that the silver was indeed given to Valjean, plus, Valjean had forgotten to take two large candleholders. Good being showered upon the undeserving. Grace.
I’ve met Grace, I mean, her name was Grace. She was a small, or maybe I should use every woman’s favorite adjective, petite, seventy something woman who on occasion would bring a car in for service at the tire shop where I was on the payroll. She had a sparkle in her eye, a quick wit, she was engaging, joyful, she was different. Maybe it was the first time she came in, maybe it was a later time, it’s been too long to remember clearly, but I do remember the car’s odor and I do remember Grace’s daughter. You see, Grace’s daughter was both physically and mentally impaired. Her arms and legs were drawn into her body, her head leaned to one side, she couldn’t speak, and, well, the back area of the station wagon had quite a supply of adult diapers which should allow your imagination to develop an idea of the odor. I’m not sure the daughter could respond to, or reciprocate the love Grace showed her. But, the care that was shown was not dependent upon the daughter’s reciprocation. It was dependent upon Grace’s love for the daughter.
In the theater, we met Fantine , Cosette, Javert and others. Please don’t expect a synopsis because the movie is two and half hours and the book is around fifteen hundred pages. But, as Max Lucado might say, if tear duct cells cry when they get tired, they were crying. If decongestant tablets have nightmares, this theater was their worst. If facial tissue salespeople rejoice, they were rejoicing. A great song or book or movie or grace or blog posting always leaves you wanting more, sorry about the blog posting. Eight of our family watched and eight were moved. The music was great, but the story, ahh, the story is majestic.
If you’ve got one more minute I’ve got one more scene. This takes place next to a lake in the Mideast and it’s recorded in the Bible in the gospel of John chapter twenty one. Victor Hugo knew the place I bet. Peter decided after blowing this disciple thing with Jesus that he and a few of the boys would go back to what they knew best, fishing. Epic fail. Failure at following Jesus, failure at fishing, failure at life. Peter would be number one on the youtube disciple fail compilation. Why would God want anything to do with someone like Peter. The night Jesus needed him most, he cursed at the mention of his name and denied he even knew him. What a hypocrite right? Church is full of them, right?
But a voice calls out from the shore and asks what every bad fisherman dreads being asked, “Did you catch anything?” “No, genius,” would have been my answer. But Peter sensed something different with this voice. “Cast the net on the right side”, the voice offered. And they did, and they caught one hundred and fifty three fish. Ahh, do you smell it, no, not the fish, grace. Peter made his way to the shore and finds the one the Bible declares to be the creator of the universe. And what did Jesus do? Jesus made Peter and the others dinner. No cancelling of the disciple membership, no guilt trip, no lecture, just Jesus deciding that Peter and the other disciples needed to see how God’s love operates. Grace still reaches for the miserable wretches like Peter, like Grace’s daughter, and like me. Time to find me a candleholder.