[jean valjean – assuming responsibility]
When I was in elementary / middle school, I mostly hung out with guys (girls were extremely boring back then) and that meant getting into trouble often. I cannot say I thrived on making trouble, yet it happened. Whenever it would “happen,” I would pretend to be a good girl (that was the only useful thing of being a girl) and the teacher would yell at the guys instead. Not proud to share, but I actually liked skirting responsibility and getting “out of water dry as a duck” (as the local saying goes). I was happy that I wasn’t the one who got yelled at even though the fault was mine.
As I look back, those memories make me ashamed. Thankfully, my friends did not get into too much trouble for my mischief yet the very notion… I was just like the Prince Brat from The Whipping Boy story by Sid Fleischman.
When I got older and it really dawned on me what Jesus did for me on that rugged cross on a hill far away, I changed my ideas about responsibility. I am not saying it is always easy to admit that the mistake was mine, yet it is much easier than getting someone else in trouble.
Jean Valjean was facing a terrible choice.
After he was freed from the galleys and after the visit to the Bishop, right before his conversion, he once again slipped into his galleys’ mode and robbed a boy on the road. It wasn’t like he attacked the boy. He stepped on a forty-sou coin the boy dropped and when the boy asked for his coin, he yelled at the kid. Little Gervais ran away, scared. Jean Valjean realized what he had just done and went to look for Gervais, yet the child was nowhere to be found.
He murmured yet once more, “Little Gervais!” but in a feeble and almost inarticulate voice. It was his last effort; his legs gave way abruptly under him, as though an invisible power had suddenly overwhelmed him with the weight of his evil conscience; he fell exhausted, on a large stone, his fists clenched in his hair and his face on his knees, and he cried, “I am a wretch!”
Fast forward 10 years. Jean Valjean was already known as the M. Madeleine, and Javert came to report that the police has caught Jean Valjean and intend to put him back into prison for robbery that happened a long time ago, this time for life. After hearing such news, Jean spends a day in contemplation, one on one with a “tempest in a skull.” What to do? Should he let the other person get his punishment or should he reveal his true identity?
In the midst of his revery he rose from his chair, moved by some inexplicable impulse of anxiety, and bolted his door. He feared lest something more should enter. He was barricading himself against possibilities.
A moment later he extinguished his light; it embarrassed him.
lt seemed to him as though he might be seen.
Alas! That on which he desired to close the door had already entered; that which he desired to blind was staring him in the face,– his conscience.
His conscience; that is to say, God.
It seems to be so easy to let someone else take the fall… yet when you consider the fact that you will have to live with that knowledge forever – the task becomes daunting because you know that you will be locking yourself in a worst of prisons – the prison of mind from which there is no escape.
To be completely honest… I often ask myself, what would I do if I were there in Gethsemane with Jesus? Would I run away? Would I stay behind? Would I follow Him? I do not know. It is easy to say that I would stay with Him, of course, yet here I am, safe at my home with my mom and my cat who will protect me whatever the cost.
But there is a question that I ask myself which is even more important. I know that it was Jesus’ choice to die (and He was the only one who could die THAT death – the second one, I mean – and rise again to give me life) and I cannot change the past no matter what I do. Yet, what do I do with His sacrifice? Do I admit my faults and accept His forgiveness or I continue to simply let that knowledge of what He did get mouldy in some dark corner of my heart?
And the amazing thing about God – He always forgives when you ask. It is beyond amazing. It’s indescribable.
… Jean Valjean did reveal who he was before the judges and was recaptured and got a life sentence on a ship. However, a few months later after a daring rescue of a sailor who had gotten stuck in a dangerous situation up in the ship’s rigging, he escaped and was thereafter presumed to be dead. This was one more fresh start for Jean Valjean.