Goodness, I have been wanting to get to this post for weeks!
Oh, and Happy New Year! Already, I'm behind!
I'll tell you, the whole thing started with me thinking abut death. Don't go away yet! It's not all that bad.
Some months ago, we were attending a church that had some carving of saints waaay up high, embedded in the front wall. I would find myself trying to identify them. One was holding something that I finally recognized as a skull! I looked it up later only to find it was St. Francis.
The reason he is depicted with the skull is because he wanted to remember his mortality. Why, you may ask, would he want to do that?
Well, for the same reason a person who has survived some life threatening thing; in short, to live this life on earth with the fervor of knowing how impermanent it is. With more appreciation. With the proper perspective.
I have a dear cousin who in turn has some dear offspring, one who is far more intelligent than people have a right to be (that is to say, sometimes I struggle to keep up in understanding his writings), but he has this post on his blog, in which he talks about just this subject. Maybe from a slightly different angle, but I truly appreciate his take. He wasn't talking about death, but about how to latch on to what God is doing every day in our own lives.
One contributing factor to my thought process is that I have crossed the great and magic line in life some people
like to refer to as one's fifties. It really isn't much different that
being in your forties, except I am moving slightly slower. Not too bad. But
it does kind of bring that far horizon creeping into view. And that gets one to thinking differently. Not feeling like there is all the time in the world for putting off the really important stuff. And making the not-so-important-stuff, well, not so important.
I guess I'm kind of slow, because it takes me a little while sometimes, for lessons to really sink in and percolate and finally reach my conscious mind and heart. That part happens all of a sudden though! I can't tell you how many epiphanies I have had that I had NO IDEA were about to happen. Some are wonderful, powerful spiritual insights. Others are quite jarring, awful, and grim. There have been times when I have woken from a fog of sorts, and realized something that was quite life-changing. These moments are such clear memories. All are gifts. Do you know the old saying, "Don't pray for patience?" Well, I might also add, don't pray for wisdom or knowledge unless you really want to see. Sometimes truth can be a hard thing to come to terms with. (I think that made the "old saying" list as well). But a simple person like myself really needs to be shown, or I may never figure anything out! So show me He does. He also gives grace to bear the weight of it, but sometimes it is still heavy. Oh, I know, all this theoretical talk. Maybe I will tell a few of the stories later. My point, though, is that we are not long here on this earth. Our lives can seem so complicated, but every once in a while, something happens and we feel God reaching through to touch us, and suddenly, there is a clarity that wasn't there before.
This picture is the cast we saw last night.
The first time I saw it, was about 1996. I was in a marriage that was growing increasingly abusive, and little did I know, would come to and end in 1998. But we were given two tickets and so we saw it at the Walnut Street Theater. I had never known the story and was so taken with the theme of God's mercy. The main character, Jean Valjean overcomes incredible suffering and injustice, receives the gift of mercy and lives his life embracing his redemption. I was suffering in my marriage, the kids were suffering, and I couldn't see any way to make it better. The atmosphere in the house was getting so tense that we were all walking on eggshells, afraid of what might next set him off. I won't go into all the details. But while I was at the show, tears ran from beginning to end. I identified with some of the characters and situations, yes, but also just being in the proximity of all the beauty and powerful, gorgeous voices, transported me to places I had not been in many years. It was like a window into real life while trapped in a dark cell.
Aferterward, I willed the music to stay in my head, but it was the first and only time I'd heard it, so it quickly faded. Over the years I would watch for the public television fund drives, often they would show the Les Miserables concerts. I also read the book. Difficult and long, but so worth the effort and again, the connection to that experience. And to hope.
Hope in the midst of chaos and suffering. In the midst of events that seemed to make no sense. Hope that God would see and deliver.
Those of you that know us and even a small part of our story know that He has been good and faithful to help us. How He has taken even the darkest parts of our history and brought good, Not everything, not yet. But every time I see this show, it reminds me to hope and that when life seems convoluted, and I can't see a way forward, God is still at work.
Did I know all this before? Yes, but to have it portrayed with strength, beauty and incredible passion, is another holy moment for me, as my cousin spoke of so well.
And now I am able to remember the songs, am blessed to have access and listen whenever I want. But it's seeing it live that always brings the first experience back. It is good to remember, sometimes, how it was to be broken and in dire need of God to reach in my life and deliver. And to pray for that deliverance to be completed in all my family.