Did any of you see the musical or the movie, “Les Miserable”? I watched the movie with Liam Neason as lead actor a number of years ago. It’s a movie set back in the year 1815. It was without singing so we didn’t learn until later that the original play was a musical. I was so impacted by the story and characters, I’ve never forgotten it. The characters are “types” -type of grace, the law, the hopeless sinner… Absolutely eye opening. They recently redid it as a movie in theaters. It was much talked about because it was going to basically ONLY have singing and was staring actors that we didn’t know COULD sing! Russell Crowe played the role of “Jean Valjean”, type of “Sinner saved by grace” and Anne Hathaway played “Fantine”, a type of the lost soul. If you don’t really enjoy musicals, I wouldn’t recommend this version as I said, it was almost entirely singing. But let me say this, I’ve never personally been more riveted by a piece of acting then I was with one of the scenes with Fantine, played by Anne. I could barely breathe and felt like I had been cut thru to the heart. I sat and cried in the theater. Not only was it visually impacting but could be felt with every fiber of your being.

“Fantine” is a woman who hides the terrible secret of a past compromised relationship, bearing a child out of wedlock years earlier. Fearing for the reputation of her daughter as well as her own fate, she puts the child into the care of a less then reputable couple who promises to keep this secret as long as the money demanded is regularly paid. Fantine devotes her life to working and providing funds to care for her child, depending on occasional letters to give her tiny updates as to the well being of her much loved daughter. Uneducated and unable to read, Fantine has to pay someone to read the letters to her, thus adding to her financial hardship. It is such a letter that falls into the hands of her coworkers, exposing her well kept secret. She is brought into the office of the owner of the factory where she works. He, too, lives with a well kept secret of past imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread as a starving child. He has an entirely new life as a wealthy but kind factory owner as well as town mayor. The people love him. But under pressure from society and the workers who demand Fantine be let go, he makes a decision in haste and dismisses her, tho she begs for mercy. She is tossed out without means to provide for herself or her child. She enters the world of desperation.
Is it just me or is anyone else wondering, where is the father of this child?! WHO is the father of this child? He has gone off seemingly without a smudge. Could be a number of different scenarios but in the end, it’s this committed mother who carries the weight and burden of responsibility.
Fantine assesses her values and finds little. In an attempt to make ends meet until she can come up with a better plan, she cuts and sells her beautiful long hair. It’s just one more step in her demoralization and loss of feminine grace and beauty. With that, she begins to free fall. My heart breaks, my heart aches for her….
Forced by concern for her daughter, Fantine makes a decision that plunges her forward to her end. All she has left of value is, herself. And so, she crosses the line and the sale begins. As time goes on, her worth decreases and she goes deeper into the belly of Hell where no reputable woman would go.
It is here that the scene that cut me thru to the heart takes place. Fantine, played by Anne, lays in a bed of squalor, looking gaunt and white as a sheet. She turns, looks into the heart of the camara and sings a song of pain, sorrow and hopelessness that reaches thru the lens and down into the core of our being. Pain….such haunting pain. Terrible…..
In the movie version with Liam Neason, Fantine is played by Uma Thurman. She also does a tremendous job. Both versions depict Fantine’s desperation but each a bit differently. There is a scene with Uma that brought me to the title of this piece. It, too, cut deep down inside of me but instead of the pain of sorrow, it caused a flood of extreme anger to rush to the surface. Let me tell you about the scene.
Fantine, in her digression, stands outside of a bar in the dead of Winter. She is extremely sick, scantly clad in a filthy, ragged dress trying desperately to get some color to her lips. As a couple of men walk by she does her best to expose herself in the hopes of appearing desirable and of some monetary value. The men stop and rebuke her harshly, shaming her into pleading for pardon and forgiveness as she admits to being the disgusting object of their disdain. Barely hanging on by a thread Fantine suffers the shock of having icy, cold snow shoved down the front of her torn dress. With the meager strength she has left she tries to defend herself, is arrested and brought into the town jail. She is filthy and covered in sweat, bleeding from her mouth as she is very ill with a horrendous hacking cough. The mayor, also the former boss is brought in. She attempts to tell him that he is the cause for her being in this bed of Hell and then spits at him. She is grabbed by the jailer and passes out as she is so extremely weak. The mayor is horrified as he is confronted by this truth of what he’s done. He rises to her aide, defending her and demanding help be administered immediately, much to the shock of the jailer. The mayor ends up taking her to his home. And thus the beauty of grace and unconditional love begins.
Covering all expenses, the mayor hires a housekeeper and aide to nurse Fantine back to health. She is made clean, fed, clothed in a soft nightgown under warm blankets. The Mayor checks on her frequently, speaking to her words of love and value. His touch is one of care and respect, one that a loving father would administer to his much loved daughter. She doesn’t understand how this could be. Why?? He knows what she’s done and who she is. Then, why this kindness and care? The mayor speaks to her of her value and worth in the eyes of God. Day by day, Fantine gains not only physical strength but her heart begins to heal in this gracious atmosphere. The mayor carries her out to the garden to enjoy sitting outside and eating lunch together. He fixes her hair with such a gentle, tender touch. It becomes clear that the mayor does indeed love Fantine and she, him. In this love he covers her, restoring her dignity. He looks into her face, into her eyes. He is not looking to take things OFF of her to expose her but to honor her by covering her. And in time, she sees that she IS safe, valued for WHO she is, NOT what she looks like or what she can perform. Her hair has grown back a bit and color is returning to her checks, tho she is still quite ill.
At one point, the mayor confides that he has a surprise for her. He tells her that he has sent ahead to get her daughter out of the care of the couple she’d hired and is having her come to live with them there. Fantine has a coughing spell in her shock and amazement! She’s over the top with joy at the thought of seeing her daughter. We see as well that she is still very, very ill. In this tender time, the mayor once again speaks to her of her worth and value to God as beautiful before Him. She can hardly believe this dream that is coming to pass. Could it be that the nightmare is coming to an end?

Isn’t this the dream of all little girls? The dream of being loved and valued for who we are? The dream of being someone’s special princess and prize? Who, among us, when making Christmas cookies, running through fields catching butterflies, picking flowers to put in our hair and snuggling under our furry blankets with our teddy bears ever imagines her life ahead as a living nightmare about to come to pass? Who expects to be used and abused or fighting for their lives? We weren’t created to be defaced objects with a human price on our heads. We grow up believing that our “Knight in shining armor” will rescue us from any prison towers we may be taken captive in but that so quickly becomes a childhood fairy tale when days and weeks become years. The walls become impenetrable and dreams fade away as we face the fact that no one is coming. Heroes only come for the valued.

But….. I’m here to tell you, dreams can live again!

I was recently listening to a song entitled, “So Good” by Christ For The Nations. It speaks of the beauty of God and how good and kind He is. The bridge of the song says, “You love all of who I am with all of who you are.” I immediately thought of Fantine and ALL the “Fantines” of this world. He loves us with a covering love. He is the “Gentleman God”. He created us with all of our feminine beauty and grace. He made us women. Then He looked at us and declared, “It (She) is VERY good!”
Isaiah 61:10 is a declaration of joy. “I delight greatly in The Lord;my soul rejoices in my God. For He has CLOTHED me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
What a beautiful picture and truth. We ARE a prize! We ARE loved and valued just exactly for who we are! God does, indeed, love ALL of who we are with ALL of who He is! That includes our bodies, hopes, dreams, and feminine beauty! HE created us thus HE alone has the authority to declare and set our worth. Nothing and no one can change that. We are not objects of shame but we are treasures. Jesus has paid the price in full for us, not to abuse or use us but to redeem us…to make us His very own! He cleanses us, feeds us, and restores us bit by bit. He covers us with grace and mercy, looking straight into our eyes He speaks words of love, value and worth to us. “I choose YOU!” In that place, we begin to heal.
Could this be true? Is it possible? I say to you today, “Wake up, little girl! You are free to dance and dream again!!

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