[I]’m not sure how to start this blog post.  Do I confess that I love musicals?  (I am part of an entertainment family) Or do I confess I am a crier?  (The tears flow much more from joy than sadness) Or do I just say, How about them Lakers? (This has absolutely nothing to do with this post, except it makes me sound manly.) With my first two confessions, is it a wonder I spent Christmas evening in a theater with other musical theater-loving criers watching Les Miserables? This may not be so odd when I explain that if there was a poster child for Joy Squared, it might be Jean Valjean, the lead character in Victor Hugo’s epic novel.

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For those who aren’t familiar with Jean Valjean, he was hardened after 20 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. He was full of hate until he was shown the true meaning of grace.  In short, he flipped his life around and began sharing the same mercy he was shown. The mission statement for Joy Squared is “Joy Squared helps facilitate involvement to come alongside hurting people, bringing transforming joy to both those that are helped and those who help.” Valjean does this very thing; beginning with a woman he helps by taking her off the street and “rescuing” her daughter from a shady couple who have been keeping her, all the way to helping a young rebel find his love which turns out the be the very girl Valjean rescued as a child.  Valjean’s selfless acts keep coming blackjack back to him throughout his life and we are able to see how others are affected and how joy and grace are spread.

I don’t remember which came first for me, the book or the musical.  I wept at both.  Even in my youth, I was struck by the simple kindness of Valjean.  As I have grown older, I am also struck by how Valjean never forgets the original kindness and gives God the glory for the change in him.  There are some amazing prayerful soliloquies in the play and book.  Valjean prays, bargains, questions, and ultimately has a better understanding of who God is, and the part he can play in God’s plan.

Though these prayers it is refreshing to see that Valjean struggles with right and wrong through his life. (Even though he is using his life to bless others, he is still a convict who broke his parole and running from the law.) It shows me that we humans, no matter how good, still live in a fallen world and we are going to struggle.  Helping isn’t always easy.  It is always fun. But the affect we can have on others, especially beyond our limited vision, can be amazing. Valjean shows us what it means to live beyond ourselves, and care for others, regardless of the outcome. (Joy Squared has a lot of experience with this.)

I think the best way to sum up both Valjean and Joy Squared comes at the end of the musical version, and taken straight from the book.  As Valjean is going to his reward at the end of his life, he mutters, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” The joy we get and share by helping must be the same joy God feels.  It is part of His image in which we were created. We are closest to Him when we stop thinking of ourselves.

As we near 2013, my prayer that joy is multiplied in the new year beyond what we can imagine, and that more people know the blessing of serving others.

P.S.  If you don’t like reading or musicals, there is a non-musical version of Les Miserables with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean that is worth watching.