Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The World I Know is Lost in Shadows

I cannot begin to count the times since the release of the 1998 movie Les Miserables that I have seen a pastor show the clip of the priest telling the police who are about to carry Jean Valjean back to jail for having robbed said priest that Valjean is innocent because the silver he is carrying with him was a gift from the priest. The moment reaches it's dramatic peak when, after the police leave, the priest informs Valjean that he must live a good life now because he (the priest) has purchased his soul for God.

It's a great scene and very moving. Jean Valjean is a wonderful character and his struggle to be a good man is beautiful (he's got a few lines in the musical that always choke me up). However, from the moment that I got over my lovesick obsession with Eponine it was not Valjean, Cosette or Marius that fascinated me. It was Javert, the unbending, seemingly cruel police officer that hunts Valjean throughout the years. (Though I also love Fantine. I might talk about her another day.)

Javert could be called the villain. After all, you kind of hate him. The first time you see him he's releasing Valjean from a 19 year prison sentence while reminding him that he will always be a thief. He doesn't even refer to Valjean by name, instead demeaning him with his number- 24601. Even after Valjean makes good and starts a new life as a benevolent, law abiding owner of a brick shop and mayor of a town, when Javert finds him he ignores all of these things and only sees the thief who broke parole. Back to jail he must go! When he comes to arrest Valjean, he callously ignores Valjean's pleas to let him take care of Fantine's orphaned child, forcing Valjean to attack him and run to find and care for Cosette.

But here's the thing about Javert and his haunting songs in the musical. He absolutely, 100% believes he is the hero of this piece. He's doing exactly what he believes is the right thing and what God would want him to do. He believes he is the hand of the Lord and that justice is a swift and deadly sword because "those that stumble and those that fall must pay the price." In one song he even prays, "Lord, let me find him that I may see him safe behind walls." It's not a personal vendetta for him, he just believes with all his heart that Valjean is a dangerous criminal and he, Javert, must stop him and bring him to justice.

I pity Javert. He tries so hard to be a righteous man that he is blinded to the suffering of the innocent and that things around him are more complex than black and white, right and wrong. He's so trapped in this unbending world of his own creation that when he and Valjean have their final confrontation and Valjean spares his life, Javert cannot cope. In the musical he sings his final, heartrending song:

All my thoughts fly apart, can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven? Shall his crimes be reprieved?
And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone, but still it trembles.
The world I know is lost in shadows.
Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know?
That by granting me my life today, that man has killed me even so.....
There is nowhere I can turn, there is no way to go on.

In the light that Javert could be wrong, that Valjean could be a good man and that his sins could be forgiven was more than Javert could handle and he kills himself. It's mind boggling. In the light of mercy, grace and forgiveness, Javert chooses to take his life rather than face a new world.

I know this is getting long but here is the moral of my story. It can be hard, so hard, to love and forgive people who are unbending and judgmental. You just want to smack them or yell at them, or maybe never speak to them again. But these people are likely not trying to hurt you. They are convinced of their truth and they are clinging to it like a life preserver. I've been white-knuckled in my past as well. All you can do is be like Valjean and in spite of all the torture Javert put him through, still show mercy and forgiveness, just as it was shown to you, just as you want it to be shown to others. I'm hoping our stubborn loved ones won't pull a Javert and jump off a bridge, but maybe we can shatter their graceless worlds with mercy and love?

Friday, February 24, 2012

I've Been a Fool and I've Been Blind- Shake it Out Pt 2

Earlier I mentioned my particular affinity for Florence + the Machine's song "Shake it Out" because the lyrics are perfectly suited to where I have found myself in my life of late. One bit says:

I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around....
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground

Since I maintain friendships with both extremely conservative, right-wing Christians and extremely liberal, left-wing whatevers, I'm pretty constantly reminded both of where I've been and where I could go. Right now I think I do a pretty good tight-rope act between the two extremes and, to be fair, I have realized that more of my friends and hanging out in shades of gray than having chosen a black or white side, which has been a great realization. The only sad part is that none of us were able to really admit our "non-Christian" anti-conformity to one another out of fear. Which makes me really sad, because even though I never wanted to be seen as a person who would judge or stand against another human, even if I didn't agree with them, I'm sure that I gave that impression many, many times. My love was conditional and while my willingness to try to embrace and understand people that were different than me never really died, I just couldn't understand those people enough to do anything other than make them feel bad about their "sins" and like they might not be good enough for me.

I see it so clearly now, but in my younger years I was a fool and I've been blind. And I've realized I can't really leave the past behind, it's always in my mind. When my current friends who were not raised in the Christian world ask me in completely baffled tones why a Christian would do X, Y or Z the first thing that comes into my mind is that was me. And even though there are somethings that I regret, I don't really want to forget or leave that Sara behind because I need to remember her so I don't regress. It would be so easy to slip behind that facade and not keep pushing and seeking, trying to understand God, trying to see things from every perspective, trying to become "all things to all men" in the effort to show the true Love that I believe is God.

So I'm not going to be able to leave my past behind. And, really, this is just growing up. In 10 more years maybe I'll look at myself now and think, "Wow, what a blind fool I was!" There's no way to tell. So I'll just keep trying to live and learn and love. But, I can bury that damn horse in the ground because those mistakes are not me and they do not own me. I won't live in regret and beat my dead horse self up. I will be the best I can be and I hope that is enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Saras Talking Quietly Amongst Themselves

Hello any followers. Sorry Sara and Sara have not been posting of late. The other Sara leads a busy life fraught with adventure, learning, working and such; whilst this Sara just started a new job and after a week of illogical and ridiculous stress it is only now that I have emerged from a fog of training and uncertainty to remember our beloved blog.

I've been suggesting some of my favorite reads to Sara and I can't wait to see what amazing notions she has. I've gotten some glimpses from emails we've exchanged. So, in lieu of any original thought let me suggest you check out our friend Matt Rogers' blog where he is currently discussing what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. Really well thought out and I'm very impressed by his willingness to take his journey public, especially in light of the intense reactivity that accompanies this issue in our country right now. He's being very brave.

I will only say this as my thought for today. I am so immensely, incredibly, unbelievably thankful and blessed to have the life I have. To be so loved by my friends, to be able to share my innermost thoughts and receive understanding and affirmation is amazing. I came home today to my apartment, adorable spouse, food in my fridge to make our dinner (and an awesome rocky road cheesecake my man bought me for Valentine's) and I just looked around and thought, "Sara, you are one lucky sucker." Life can be confusing and people can suck. Things (sorry for the language Mom) can be really fucked up and there are some really fucked up humans out there. Those things can make me angry and upset, and that's okay. It's right to grieve over horrors and abuse. But I want to make sure I never forget to realize how much I have to say thank you for and to see the many beautiful things and people around me. That's all.