My earliest memories of listening to Les Miserables are sitting in the back of Dad’s truck, leaning towards the cassette player as a copy of the Original London Cast rang out from the speakers. What was this beautiful sound that delighted my ears and stirred my soul? Who were these intriguing people singing with such passion and desire? As their names and stories tangled and wove within my mind, I was even more drawn to the music.
I would turn the pages of the Star Tribune on Sunday afternoons while lying on the living room floor. When I would see an ad with Cosette’s hair waving in the wind, I would spring up and beg, “Can we please go see the show?”
The answer was always, “When you’re older.”
So, as I grew, I learned the story of Les Mis: Jean Valjean’s crime, Javert’s pursuit, Fantine’s sickness, Cosette’s misery, Eponine’s heartbreak, Marius’ love. I remember pouring over Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations in seventh grade at the public library. I was composing an art project that I wanted to conclude with a rich quote from Victor Hugo. It was here that I came across this little gem, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we all are loved.” It’s still one of my favorites.
On a hot August evening in 2002, I finally saw the show. From the opening act to the curtain call, my heart was gripped as I watched the stage turning through the years; all the scenes I had imagined as a little girl were finally coming to life. I heard the people sing! I wanted to join in their crusade! The end of the show is so passionate and real; it still brings tears to my eyes and turns my heart towards justice.
The show concludes with this famous line, “Remember, the truth that once was spoken; to love another person is to see the face of God!”
This is a line that has lingered in my mind since the early days of sitting in Dad’s truck, drinking in the words with wonder. What does this mean? It’s a truth I’ve pondered while driving to work, drinking my morning coffee, or lying in bed at night.
Of course, I think it means that when we stare into the eyes of another we have the chance to behold God’s crowning beauty. We are created in the image of God and when we truly stop to peer into another’s soul, we learn more about what God looks like.
I also believe that love can change our perspective. (See 1 Peter 4:8). When we look through the lens of love, we see beyond pain to behold the promise of redemption. We remember the blood of Jesus covers us and offers forgiveness. This is true and available not only for our friends and our enemies, but also for us. God looks at us not with anger, but with compassion. Holding this perspective helps us look at others the same way.
Lately, I’ve come to realize this: When we love another person, they have the opportunity to see the face of God. God’s lavish qualities are so vast, they are sometimes hard to grasp. It is these qualities that are often best understood when they are first reflected in another person.
I know God loves me, but I feel it most vividly when I’m wrapped in a hug.
I know God hears me, I but I see it most l clearly when people show up in my life meeting needs and desires I have never vocalized outside of prayer.
I know God redeems, but I saw it first when Prisoner 24601 became Jean Valjean.
What does “To love another person is to see the face of God!” mean to you?
Here is the finale. The famous line happens in the last minute.