Second Chances

God has put this on my heart lately and I wanted to share it with everyone. Les Miserables was a national phenomenon when it came out. I’m not really one for musicals, but my husband really wanted to see it so I went with him since I usually choose the movies. I was quite dismayed when I learned that they didn’t talk at all. Not one bit. I just kept thinking, how am I going to get through 2+ hours of nothing but singing? But I forced myself to go into it with a positive outlook and I loved this movie! Loved it! It was just powerful and beautiful and my husband and I loved it so much we bought the soundtrack the next day. We’re a little obsessed!

The part that struck me the most happened in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. Let me give a little back drop on the story in case you haven’t seen it yet. The main character, Jean Val Jean (It’s a bunch of French names so forgive me if I misspell anything), was sentenced to 20 years of basically slave labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her young baby. Seems pretty harsh, right? I’m not saying stealing is good, but that’s just intense! We zeroed in on Val Jean’s story when he was released on parole with instructions to check in every month to get his papers checked and for the law to keep an eye on him. At first when he was released you saw him constantly trying to pick up work here and there, but when they checked his papers they hurriedly sent him on his way since it was noted that he was a thief. He had little to no money and he slept on doorsteps when possible. Most people shooed him off their doorsteps, too afraid of having a vagabond hovering lurking around.

Eventually he laid himself down to rest on another door step. The man who lived their came upon him and Val Jean resignedly got up to leave but the man invited him in. The man was a priest and he lived at the church he served in. He gave Val Jean a roof over his head, a good dinner and a place to sleep for the night. Val Jean repaid this man’s kindness by waking in the middle of the night and stealing away with the church’s silver. The next day Val Jean was dragged back to the church by the authorities. They told the priest that this man had had the nerve to say that he was given the silver. The priest looked at them and then did what I never would have expected he would do. He told them he had indeed given him the silver and they should let him go. The priest went on to further shock me by giving Val Jean an expensive silver candlestick. He told him he should use the silver to become an honest man and he told him God had a purpose for him.

This was the point that nearly brought me to tears. It was a beautiful example of the love God has for us and what God tells us to do. “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31  I don’t know about you, but I would have told them that I definitely did not give that silver to him and they needed to take his butt back to jail! This priests action humbled me and really shed light on that scripture I just listed. I think some people believe following these verses makes them weak and just makes them feel silly. Why shouldn’t I get back what is rightfully mine? Why should I stomach it when someone does me wrong? God doesn’t tell us to do these things because he wants to punish us or make us seem like weak fools. In my opinion He tells us to do this as a form of humility. Pride is what makes us want to punish someone when they do us wrong. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Psalms 16:5

I think another of the main reasons that God gives us the command to love our enemies and turn the other cheek is that it’s unexpected. You’re expected to ignore your enemy or be unkind to them. You’re expected to lash out when someone strikes you. You defy the world’s expectations when you do otherwise. It’s an act like Jesus would have made, by repaying cruelty with kindness. The priest reached his hand down and gave Val Jean hope. Val Jean had had nothing from the world but hate, distrust, abuse, suffering, and malice. He was beaten down constantly and he had been told that he was a thief and that he was worthless for so long that he began to believe it of himself. Then this priest did what no one before him had ever done: He treated Val Jean with kindness and he didn’t turn his back on him or try to punish him when Val Jean repaid his kindness by stealing from him. He gave him more off of his table. He gave him hope. He told him God had a purpose for his life. He told him he could turn his life around and become an honest man. He told him he was worth something.

How often do we spurn someone because they wronged us? How often do we treat a rude person as rudely as they treated us? How often do we look past any perceived wrongs done to us and try to simply be kind to those around us? Val Jean wasn’t always a thief, but he was treated that way for so long that he started to believe it. All he needed was for someone to give him a chance and to not treat him like he was the dirt upon someones feet. We don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life. By repaying their unkindness with some unkindness of our own, we could be reinforcing their negative outlook of the world. What if we smiled? What if we didn’t react negatively? What if we gave someone hope by being kind to them as opposed to beating them down like everyone else? It certainly doesn’t mean that their outlook on life will change in the blink of an eye, but maybe you can make them pause or maybe they’ll pass on the smile. You just never know what is going on behind closed doors. I hope I don’t sound like I’m pointing fingers. I’m as guilty as anyone and I just write this mainly to help me think about things like this. I feel like this is quite a challenge to myself and I hope to you as well. Again, I hope I didn’t sound too preachy! Woah, sorry this was such a long post! Kudos to you if you made it through. Hope y’all have a blessed day!