10 January 2013

Me, Javert, and the Intolerable Compliment

     I am prone to sudden accidental bursts of insight. Common grace is real, guys. I had one yesterday when I read this post by Ann Voskamp after watching Les Miserables with some friends (and then again with my sister…no judging).  For the record it was a great film, but please view it before letting your kids see it. Sacha Baran Coen makes an appearance in the film, and I tend to think most of the roles he plays are a little foul. This one is no exception and there were some scenes with him I could have lived the rest of my life without seeing.
     I’m going off of the assumption that you’ve all seen any of the film adaptations already or read the book. If you haven’t yet and you hate spoilers stop reading now. I mean it. Spoiler alert. *ALERT!* If you haven’t yet and you don’t care about spoilers, you may keep reading. If you have, you may be slightly bored by my going over the plot just a teeny bit. I promise to be swift.
     Les Miserables begins with the prisoner Jean Valjean imprisoned for theft and for trying to run away twice. He has just now been released, but his record will follow him for the rest of his life. The overseeing officer during his time of imprisonment, and his number one demotivater is Inspector Javert. Even when Valjean effectively turns his life around, Javert, intent on the law continues to hound him waiting for him to fail again. “Once a thief always a thief” he says and sings. Twice throughout the story Valjean saves Javert from loss of his position and loss of his life, yet Javert continues to believe Valjean will always be a thief and a dangerous man. Anyway, other great and important things happen and you should read it if you haven’t, but there comes a scene where Javert finally lets Valjean go free, after which he thinks everything he has lived for is gone, and he commits suicide.
     So, I know a lot of people smarter than me have written about Javert and how he is like the law without the gospel, and he doesn’t believe people can change and so on and so forth. I think there are plenty of things to be gleaned from this character, but one thing I took away after reading the Voskamp post was that Javert cannot bear the weight of love. And I, sometimes, can be a lot like Javert.
     I didn’t realize quite how prone to this I am until I started dating someone. I recently told a friend how amazing it was that dating someone really brings your issues to the forefront of your mind. Boyfriend often tells me he loves me and this is very thrilling to hear. But sometimes there is a little nagging voice in the back of my head telling me, “He wouldn’t love you if he knew quite how sinful/annoying/weird/insert-your-own-negative-descriptive-word-here you are.” He has recently called me on this behavior quite a bit and I’m making an attempt at improving, but it made me think a lot more about my relationship with God and how I handle the weight of His love as well.
     Sometimes I will be having my quiet time in the morning and right in the middle of a prayer I will suddenly think of a sharp word I said to a parent or even things from years back that I still feel embarrassed about. They are sins that I should (and most of the time already have) repented of, but they still seem to stand in front of me blocking my way to God. At these moments I use my two standby verses. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9 and “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) I often have to read them both multiple times, until my heart believes it.
     I even know intellectually that it is Satan tempting me to dwell on myself and my sins instead of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” but I continue to be like Javert and choose death and the law over life and the gospel. Because really that is what I am doing. When I am tempted to see love as conditional in people or in God, I think I have to earn the love I am given. I can never do that. Especially not with God. Even the tiniest sin (like there are tiny sins right?) is a flailing against the order and commandments of God and it is a declaration that I know more than God. If I was trying to gain God’s love by doing good things or refraining from doing bad things, I could go ahead and jump off the same bridge Javert jumped from because I’d be going to hell anyway.
     The only way to handle the type of love offered from others or from God is just to relax and be grateful. I’m learning to listen when Boyfriend tells me he loves me, and I’m learning to believe that God sacrificed His son because He loves me. I’m learning that in the mess of me, I have been loved into loveliness.

Not what my hands have done, can save my guilty soul
Not what my toiling flesh has borne, can make my spirit whole
Not what I feel or do, can give me peace with God
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears, can bear this awful load

Thy grace alone, O God, to me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone O Son of God, can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save Thine, no other blood will do,
No strength save that which is divine, can bear me safely through.


bekahcubed said...

Wow. Just wow. That is quite an insight. I was reflecting just yesterday (thanks to a conversation my fiance) that sin in my life is an evidence that I don't really believe the gospel. This post reminds me that continued guilt and shame is an evidence of the same.

BerlinerinPoet said...

Thanks for taking the time to read Bekah. Yeah, it's definitely a fine line to tread. We don't want to necessarily think, "Oh you know...just a tiny sin..no big deal." But we also shouldn't continually dwell on sins Christ has already paid for.

Patrycja Photography said...

Very cool blog. Interesting posts. ;)
Nice atmosphere guests with you here on the blog. ;]
Yours. Have a nice day. !

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