Saturday, October 27, 2012

cast out all fear; put out in the deep

I'm pretty damn independent.
I may never make it to the White House, but you can be sure that I'll be First Lady in whatever home I end up living.
I like to be the alpha dog, large and in charge. One of my personal favorite stories that my mother tells from my younger days is the day she turned around from vacuuming and saw me sitting on my younger brother (I was two-ish, he was an infant. I assume I was simply teaching him our family's hierarchy of order. Since then, he's grown taller and much less squish-able, but I flatter myself into thinking that my gesture so long-ago established the law of the pack deep within his impressionable heart).
All that being said, dependency is a bit of a struggle for me.
And when I say "a bit of a struggle" I mean something more along the lines of "a gigantic struggle constantly churning within the depths of my soul. #casual."
Point being, dependency=a struggle. The idea that love leaves us, not liberated from our fellow man, but more and more in his debt, is sort of not my favorite idea.

Enter the hero:
Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread, and then spent 20 years on a chain gang (ah, the inestimable judicial system of 18th century France, amiright?) After Valjean earns his freedom, the Bishop Myriel gives Valjean shelter overnight. In return for the Bishop's generosity, Valjean steals silver candlesticks from him, and is inevitably caught by the police. The Bishop, however, saves Valjean, and asserts that he granted the candlesticks to Valjean as a gift. This completely unearned mercy and love is the final catalyst Valjean needs to reform his life.
Valjean then spreads this love and mercy to others; he shows mercy to Fantine, and promises to care for her daughter Cosette. Throughout the rest of the play is Valjean continues to extend unearned love to the people he encounters, most remarkably towards the borderline-insane, revenge-obsessed police-inspector Javert. Eventually, Valjean saves Javert's life [spoiler alert. whoops.]: the man who has been relentlessly hunting him for years. Let me repeat: Valjean saves the life of the man who would kill him in a second. That is truly love.

By undergoing a season of his life where he had to depend radically on the love of others, Valjean was enabled to radically give the love he had received. That's an essential part of love that balances out the equation. And the constant on both sides of the equation is grace. Without grace, Valjean could not accept love. Without the grace to accept the love of the Bishop, He would have continued on his own, as a fugitive on the run. Without grace, he could have just hungrily sought and clung to the love of others, consuming it greedily, without giving it away.

Valjean's acceptance of the Bishops act of love was an act of dependence. But that dependence led to freedom. And only when we are freed are we able to love freely. Independence, I'm realizing, may begin with dependence. Independence without dependence may lead to blindness.
But love seeks Light, seeks Truth.
Love rejects the dim vision in a mirror and seeks to behold the beloved face-to-face.
 Because, ultimately, love is seeing the face of God.

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