Words are powerful. A few words strung together can destroy or encourage, bring hope and joy or dash every expectation. As writers we exert power in every paragraph we offer to others. Will our writing amuse, tickle ears, or inspire our readers?
Just after Christmas, Steve and I saw 'Les Miserables.' Having loved the stage production in the late 1980s, I was both excited and apprehensive as I entered the theatre, tissues in hand. I was totally captivated and pleased I only cried a little. But this film didn't stop when I tore my eyes from the screen. It invaded my mind, interrupting my sleep and demanding answers.
It challenged me. Could I, or would I, extend grace the way the Bishop offered grace to Jean Valjean. Could such costly grace be a hallmark of my life! The extent of grace was reflected in the shocked eyes of the women in this scene. Their Bishop gave away the family silver. Gave it to a man in chains. Gave it to a man who had stolen from him in the middle of the night, thrusting into his hands two more silver candle sticks. The Bishop's offering of grace literally removed chains from Jean's legs, saved him from returning to a life of slavery. One act of love and generosity burned so hot in Jean Valjean's heart that he turned to God. He, in turn, extended that love and compassion to many others, often costing him dearly, including his safety and freedom. It bought life and hope to those who could receive grace, but bought death to the one who was bound by law.
Les Miserable is one of the most profound expressions of the gospel that I have seen. Better than any sermon I've heard or delivered.
The film is based on the book of the same name written by Victor Hugo and published to 1862. Hugo was so sure of this book that he sold the publishing rights to the highest bidder! His writing was so powerful it forced the highlighted social issues onto the agenda of the National Assembly of France. But I doubt that he foresaw over 14 million people flocking to see the movie 150 years later. Nor did he expect it to speak into hearts over so many generations.
As I writer, I honour his skill and imagination. I would love to be able to encapsulate the love of God in such a story. Which raises a question. If any of us wrote a similar book today would it be accepted as a Christian fiction, or would it be considered too 'edgy', to risqué for Christians to read? Or would it receive similar reviews to some given to Hugo's masterpiece, when it was first released. Lambasting its artificiality, one reviewer wrote, "neither truth nor greatness". Another, despite giving favourable reviews in newspapers, castigated it in private as "tasteless and inept".
My local radio station summarized the film as 'a convict rescuing a prostitute'. I was stunned, arguing that there wasn't a prostitute in the movie. Instead I saw a deeply devoted young mother who would do anything to keep her daughter alive. I was offended by the description and wondered if the reporter had viewed the same film. Which demonstrates that a great story tells a different tale to each individual , depending on the tint of the coloured glasses worn at the time.
"Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces?"
Les Miserables has the Word of God hidden within its fast moving story, and three weeks later the hammer is still pounding my heart, challenging me to walk every day in deep grace.
Oh, to be able to string words together with such skill and imagination. I'm determined to practice my word building until it brings such positive challenges, renewed hope and deep revelation!
Lord take my heart, my mind and my words and let them be instruments in your hand.
Jo Wanmer apologises for the highlighting! She had an argument with blogger and blogger won! Meanwhile she is working on her new book, praying that God will give her words that will bring life and a deeper experience of the amazing, powerful love of God. Her recent publication 'Though the Bud be Bruised' continues to challenge thinking and bring hope and healing.