Sunday, January 13, 2013

Les Miserables

I was transfixed by Les Miserables. I couldn't even eat my snacks, I almost felt like munching would have been disrespectful. I still haven't figured out why. I know some who hated the film. I guess I didn't hate it because it was more than a film to me,

It did something to me.

I am not a huge fan of musicals.To be honest, I didn't even know Les Miserables was a musical until ten minutes before the show and Kristie's friend told me.

Something happened. I still haven't sorted it out. Grace? Redemption? The hurt of thinking you are following God's will by demanding the rules and then grace forcing the issue to a breaking point? The people in the movie I seem to know and am so close to being the same?

All I can lift out of the pile of gold right now is Jean Valjean's repeated question, "Who am I?"

Who am I?

How did Jean Valjean have the courage to go places others didn't go, to give time and even his life? What made him brave to rescue Marius, without Cosette knowing? How did he have the strength to free Javert, the one person who could ruin him?

Who am I?

The answer lies somewhere in answering this. It is the same place for you and me. For our children. How does anyone have the courage to do ridiculous things like adopt a prostitute's child? Like disregarding personal danger to rescue another? Like loving the unlovely?

"Who am I?" is the major question adolescents must answer, according to Erik Erikson. Identity development being one of his stages of growth and development, an answer that lets you move on in life. "Who am I?" is as relevant in real life as in Les Miserables.
"He gave me hope when hope was gone,
He gave me strength to  journey on."

Who was Jean Valjean? A sinner, even though the sin that got him in trouble was stealing bread to feed poor relatives. But, he knew when he took the candlesticks of a gracious priest, he knew then that his heart was dark.

But, Jean Valjean was rescued by grace. That grace changed him. He began to pour grace on others, to love. While remaining a sinner, he was changed, changed by grace and giving grace. There is confusion even today for the sinner who is saved by grace, because the struggle of who I really am continues.

Who was Jean Valjean? What did he know about himself, in spite of his constant confusion, that gave him the courage to do great things in lives?

He knew he was a sinner. But, he knew he was rescued and given a new life by grace.
He simply wanted to give that grace to someone else because of what was given him.
He risked the good life, and life itself, to love others in need.
He had courage to do right when others didn't because he knew what had been done for him.

May our children know their darkness. And, that God gives grace putting sin far away through Jesus. That God will rescue them and change them. The greatness of that grace.
May that reality be theirs and give them the courage to love because of what is done for them, as Jean Valjean did.

Who am I? A sinner, saved by grace, like Jean Valjean.
Now what?

"We love, because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leaping Faith

Courage and faith are inextricably linked. They are tangled together.

What are we trusting for our courage?
Courage is faith in action. 
Faith fuels courage.

Courage needs a leap of faith.
Leaping faith becomes courage.

When was the last time you needed courage? I bet it was a time when you didn't know how things would turn out. Or, you knew your next step could hurt you or make life harder in some way.

There was risk. There always is, or there would be no need for courage. If all of the details are planned so that the results turn out just the way you want, there is no reason for courage. No reason for faith.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we have control of our lives and our children's lives, that we can put all of the details together like an algebraic equation and get the right answer every time. We might pull this off occasionally, or think we did. But, in a messy world with people the way they are (including us!) and powers we cannot see, a contained system that works the way we plan isn't real. We need courage. We need faith.

To help our children face the world, to enter into relationships and experiences that are rich and real and growing, they will need faith. They will need to trust. Trying out for a team, starting a new school year, asking a friend over, standing against evil...the list goes on and on. Each of these can be frightening and each is risky. Each requires faith to step or leap to the next spot.

Faith, belief, trust...they need an object, something in which they believe. A key role in parenting is to show and teach children how to trust and in what to trust. Courage to try, courage to risk, flow from a strong faith.

We can teach our children to have faith in a lot of things:

We could teach our children to put their faith in money or plans or bad advice, intentionally or without thinking. Fleeting objects of faith at best.

They can learn to trust us--catch them when they jump in your arms! Then when we tell them what they should do that is hard, they know they can count on us, at least as far as humanly possible.

The can have faith in an idea that touches lives, like democracy, and sacrifice time and life with courage.

They can believe that a risky action is worth the consequences for something they value, like an adventure trip or protecting their family.

They can have faith in the living God, who loves them, is powerful, and who rescues them and fits all things together for good for those who love Him. The ultimate object of faith.

What little steps of faith are you teaching them, so they can have bigger ones? Which objects of faith are they learning from us so they can have the faith to be courageous for important things?