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Miserable no more

In Victor Hugo’s famous novel, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is desperate to start a new life after being in prison for nineteen years, but no one will give him a chance. All doors are closed to him. Angry words are spoken to him. Guns are pointed at him. But when all options have been exhausted, and he resigns himself to a cold night on a park bench, a concerned stranger asks him, “Have you really knocked at every door?” “Yes,” he says. “Have you knocked at that one?” she says pointing to the small door at the bishop’s house. “No.” “Then do.”

And he does, and is met with love, and is given grace, and his life begins anew. And Hugo powerfully makes the point that grace can do what the law cannot. The law has its place and function, and an important one at that: to give definition to what is right and wrong, and to give what’s deserved to those who deliberately defy its demands. But after the law has assigned its criminal identity, 24601, it cannot return the number to zero, nor bring any relief to the guilty heart. But grace can. Perhaps that is why Hugo gave his character the name Jean, meaning grace of God, and doubled it for emphasis.

How good is God’s grace, and how good that door to which every guilty soul may come and knock with hope. “I am the door”, said Jesus. “Whoever comes to me, I will surely not turn away.” Reader, have you knocked at that one? No? Then do.

DM 21st Sep 2014


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