By Lori Florida
“He did not study God; he was dazzled by Him.” ~Victor Hugo
I’ve started reading Les Miserables about fourteen times. I’ve never finished. My most recent abandoned page was 353. That’s 1,100 pages from the end. Seeing the movie and being inspired by a story line I haven’t become acquainted with by reading the original book leaves me feeling like an imposter to the inspiration I’ve found. So I open the book again, always starting over at page one so I can feel the flow of the story and soak again in the description of my favorite character, the kind and good Monseigneur Bienvenu.
If you are a Les Mis fan you know why he earned the nickname “Father Welcome.” Some would say he was generous to a fault. Others, like the convict Jean Valjean, would call him the embodiment of mercy. The convict stole from him, but when caught received a second chance that changed the course of his life. Monseigneur Bienvenu sent Jean on his way with a gift of more silver than he had stolen and the charge, “Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.”
Whether in fiction or real life, I am intrigued by people of unusual mercy and grace: people who are able to see beyond their current situation to possible miracles and who are able to expect the outlandish work of God.
I want to know how they got this way. Where did their spirit pick up such hope?
The answer for Monseigneur Bienvenu is in chapter thirteen of book one, titled “What He Believed.” He believed that he served a magnificent God. He was so in awe of his creator that he could imagine no greater life’s work than to be an agent of consolation to the sadness he saw around him. Life became crystal clear to him during his solitary habit of walking in the garden:
“He was out there alone with himself, composed, tranquil, adoring,
comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies,
moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts that fall from the Unknown…
perhaps he could not have told what was happening in his own mind;
he felt something floating away from him and something descending upon him;
mysterious exchanges of the soul with the universe.
He contemplated the grandeur, and the presence of God;
the eternity of the future, that strange mystery;
the eternity of the past, a stranger mystery;
all the infinities hidden deep in every direction;
and, without trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, he saw it.
He did not study God; he was dazzled by Him.
God’s Word tells us more about this mysterious exchange. The heavens whisper mysteries of God to our souls that only they can explain. Creation is a conduit to our spirits of the wonder of God. The complexities and beauty of the world suggest a purpose bigger than survival. The longer you look deeply into what God made, the more you will hear yourself form the word “why,” and the bigger God will become.
The natural outworking of a big view of God is brave, large-hearted followers. It’s a formula as sure as gravity, a law of nature. Soak yourself in the bigness of God, be truly dazzled by him, and you will become someone you weren’t before–someone whose love will change the course of life. Someone like Monseigneur Bienvenu, the priest they called Father Welcome.
Scripture for Reflection
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (ESV)
Reach for More
Wherever you are, whatever the weather today, take a walk. Step out into what God made and soak it up. Turn off distractions–no headphones, stop counting your steps, forget the grocery list. Listen, look, and wonder. Tune into the mysteries of the universe and feel amazed. When your heart is full and you turn toward home, snap a picture and share it with the hashtag #tgtreachformore to encourage all of us to do the same.
Lori Florida’s life is all about her people. She’s convinced that being Mrs. to one and Mommy to eight will be her most significant way to serve Jesus. She wants to use her life to cheer on and coach the women coming behind her. Lori blogs at loriflorida.com.
Photograph © Teddy Kelley, used with permission