Jimmy Sharkey is in Year 2 of the Send SFL Residency Program at Family Church.
I’m going to be honest with you: Les Misérables is one of my favorite movies. While there are many reasons I love it, the primary reason is because it is honest about life. If you know anything about the movie or the book from which the movie is adapted, this is flat-out depressing.
At the most basic level Les Misérables is the story of how a group of people—namely a felon, a prostitute, a soldier, a number of revolutionaries, and two despicable innkeepers—are connected. As the movie hastens on we quickly realize that the one thing that binds all of the characters is that they all have a tremendous amount of brokenness in their lives and communities. A felon seeks to leave his past behind but it chases after him, seeking to imprison him yet again. A girl chooses prostitution because it is her only option to support her child, not knowing that the girl’s guardians are extorting her mother by lying about an illness. A group of revolutionaries seek to overthrow their government, only to realize that their cause ends in chaos and death. And lastly a soldier who, when confronted with grace, kills himself because the world he knows to be true comes tumbling down.
We are able to sympathize with every character in the movie, but particularly that of the girl, Fantine. At her breaking point she sings, “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living, so different now from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.” We, like her and every other character, once had dreams that were crushed. Life simply has not turned out like we thought it should. Maybe like the felon, John Valjean, we cannot escape our past; no matter how much we have changed, we will always be known for what we have done and not who we have become. Maybe like Fantine, we are in a situation that was seemingly forced upon us. Or maybe like the revolutionaries, we have looked and seen a broken world and decided to enter the fight.
The causes of our brokenness in our world run deep. The surface level causes are as different and numerous as there are people in this world. But the root of all the brokenness is sin. Sin can be defined as a departure from God’s design. We do this in any number of ways: we disbelieve that God is who He has revealed Himself to be; we pursue creation as we should only pursue the Creator; or we seek to put ourselves in place of God. The effect of sin in our lives is brokenness and it permeates the whole of creation. Romans 8 makes it clear that the effects of sin are so cosmic that even the whole of creation is groaning out for a future restoration.
The good news is that brokenness is an indicator that something is wrong. This is actually a good gift of God to His creation. Knowing that brokenness is not acceptable, we seek means by which we can change our circumstances. This is typically where we commit a tragic misstep and believe that we are the answer. We look out into the world and think that there exists something out there that will fill the gaps enough to make this world bearable. So we pursue such things as relationships, material excess, and pleasure as the answer. The problem is that these are the very same things that got us to the point of brokenness from which we are seeking redemption. We hop from activity to activity, relationship to relationship, newest fad to newest fad. This is an exercise in futility that gives birth to only more brokenness, for the void that we seek to fill is insatiable.
The question remains, “How do I escape brokenness if nothing I find on this earth could save me from my brokenness?” Thankfully we are not left to our own devices to aimlessly find our way out of brokenness. C.S. Lewis points to the answer in Mere Christianity, writing, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” He is pointing to Jesus, God in the flesh, who came to Earth to do what we could not do for ourselves. He came to reconcile us back to God, effectively fixing everything. He has promised to make all things new. Much like Samwise in The Lord of the Rings asking Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” we ask if what Jesus has promised and accomplished be true. To which God, from His throne, says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).