I watched the 2012 movie adaptation of the musical “Les Miserables” the other night. It was my first time watching the musical in any form–although I’d previously seen dramatized versions of Victor Hugo’s novel– and it wasn’t bad, even though I had to look up the plot online to follow it completely. I hadn’t realized it would be essentially an opera. I must confess that I’m often a fan of Weber’s music and I’ve heard some of these songs before, like “I Dreamed A Dream”, which may be the signature piece of this musical and obviously popular today.
This song stayed with me this time and I found myself humming it all day and I don’t think it’s just because it’s a catchy tune. The lyrics themselves give me pause and I think I understand now that it’s because it’s a song that comes right out of Scripture. How often was Israel–and by extension the Church and thus all of humanity–compared to a prostitute, who was loved by God but became faithless and turned to false gods only to experience the despair of realizing that it was a path to self-destruction? This is almost exactly what Fantine sings.
This is a song of a soul at the moment before conversion. The moment at which she finds herself at the lowest point, bereft of all earthly comfort, when all illusions have been stripped away. It is a moment of decision: does she despair of it all or fling herself in one last act of desperation at the feet of God? It is moment in which she must decide whether to grasp the grace of the Holy Spirit offered to her to lift her up from the depths or to let it slip past and descend irrevocably.
When I was young I had a vision of how my life would be. In my youthful hubris I had mapped out the path before me, a path to the stars. And yet through my own fault I stumbled right out of the gate and it all came crashing down. Soon enough I found myself living a life that looked like it would go nowhere. All my friends were ascending the heights without me. It was a dark time and at points, while not quite at the despair of Fantine, my outlook was pretty bleak. I couldn’t imagine happiness or fulfilment or success.
But the grace of the Spirit reached out and touched me and as I walked in faith, despite the many obstacles and my own failings, I have come to a place, if not completely free of worry or want, at least full of love and joy and contentment. I never reached the heights I’d dreamed of, but I have a wife and children and family I love dearly and, for now, I’m doing a job that brings me the satisfaction of serving the Lord and bringing to the Gospel to others.
And so now I dream a new dream and it’s a dream come true. But this haunting song reminds me of how it was possible to imagine that all my dreams were dashed irrevocably.
Earlier I’d erroneously identified Les Mis as an Andrew Lloyd Weber production. Many people have corrected me. Thanks. ↩
- les-miserables-fantine-poster: Les Miserables Wikia | CC BY SA 2.0