Like many holiday movie-goers, I saw the movie version of the musical, Les Miserables. The music, the scenery and costumes were extraordinary. The actors made the characters come to life and the vocals ranged from good to fabulous.
It is a happy coincidence for me that this latest musical version of the story has come out now. Several months ago I put Victor Hugo’s classic on my reading list for 2013. Every year I make it a point of reading or re-reading a classic novel. Some of my readings are of books read back when I was in High School or College (like last year’s choice- Moby Dick) as a required reading. Others are read for the first time. I find that reading some of these at my age offers far more reflections and insights than when read as a much younger man.
As I began reading the rather substantial volume of Victor Hugo (and this is my first time read of Les Miserables) I am delighted with the description of the Bishop of Digne. He is mostly referred to as Monseigneur Bienvenu. He is the character who offers Jean Valjean his first chance to rise above his own personal misery.
Victor Hugo writes pages and pages of description of the kindly and gracious old priest. I find his descriptions and glimpses into this man’s character to be fascinating and I’ve found myself in deep reflection after reading the first hundred or so pages.
The following quote is the basis for a few simple ideas I will expand upon to close out this post.
Sometimes, in the midst of his reading, no matter what the book might be which he had in his hand, he would suddenly fall into a profound meditation, whence he only emerged to write a few lines on the pages of the volume itself. These lines have often no connection whatever with the book which contains them. We now have under our eyes a note written by him on the margin of a quarto entitled Correspondence of Lord Germain with Generals Clinton, Cornwallis, and the Admirals on the American station. Versailles, Poincot, book-seller; and Paris, Pissot, bookseller, Quai des Augustins.
Here is the note:— “Oh, you who are! “Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty; Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names.”
I can’t help but think of how God speaks at times through mediums other than the Bible itself. Bienvenu is observed to write reflections in the margins of otherwise secular readings, his own thoughts on God, the world and how God reveals Himself to us.
The next time you pick up a USA Today or your local paper or paperback novel, think of what you see of God in your personal world or the world of the characters and news you hear daily. Is God there? In the margins somewhere? I think Bienvenu is on to something.
Even though I would suggest that sometimes we get too much immersed in secular news and events and we could very well just unplug it all and disengage from all such input in order to hear the voice of God. But the other thing we might consider, is to look to hear the voice of God in all that is around us and to ask the question: “What can we observe of God in all this?”
I’m not for one moment, suggesting that we can set aside our Bibles and just read our newspapers or a textbook or history book and find all we need to know of God. I am simply suggesting that God’s purposes for our lives might be revealed in a variety of mediums if we are open to hearing His voice and comprehending His agenda through unexpected sources. The outcome might just be worth the effort of scribbling in life’s margins a bit.