Editors Note: This is an excerpt from 52 Little Lessons from Les Misérables. Bob Welch walks readers through Hugo’s masterpiece, extracting dozens of uniquely spiritual reflections from this enduring portrait of poverty, social injustice, mercy, and redemption.
Have you knocked at that one there? – A woman in Digne who takes pity on Valjean
In Digne as a recently released convict, Jean Valjean is turned away for this job and turned away from that inn. He is even turned away when he asks a jailer if he can stay for a night; the irony is that Valjean, though technically a free man, is a slave to his past — so much so that he is willing to go to jail as a means of survival.
In Hugo’s no-room-in-the-jail scene, Valjean resembles the prodigal son, who became so desperate to survive that “he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating.” Alas, “no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16).
“Everybody has driven me away,” Valjean tells a woman who takes enough pity on him to help.
“Have you knocked at every door?” she asks.
“Yes,” he says.
“Have you knocked at that one there?”
Because of that door — the bishop’s door — what he finds isn’t just a hot meal, a glass of wine, and a warm bed.
What he finds is life. Grace. God. Better yet, God finds him.
And not with the suspicion of Inspector Javert. Not with the unreachable you-must-be-this-tall-to-enjoy-the-ride standards, but with the open arms of a father of grace welcoming home the prodigal son.
In a material world, where we’re honored for what we look like and what we own and how high we score on the SAT, God looks deeper.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at,” says 1 Samuel 16:7. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Like Javert, we can look completely put together. Fully in control. Totally committed to a noble cause. “Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power, attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love,” writes Henri J. M. Nouwen. “These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs… I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
So we stumble in the dark, clinging to blind pride to prove ourselves right. Until, desperate, we knock. Then, as Matthew 7:7-8 says, everything changes.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Excerpted with permission from 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables by Bob Welch, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.
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Knock! He is waiting to open the door for you. Every other door will be a miserable failure of your hopes and expectations. Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about seeking and finding unconditional love from God alone! ~ Devotionals Daily