Friday, September 21, 2012

People of the Second Chance

Those who know me well know of my obsession with the musical Les Misreables. I love the story, the settings, the music- I love it all.  But at the heart of the show for me is an intense spirituality.  When Victor Hugo wrote the novel, he wrote for those who felt repressed and hopeless.  In the story a man named Jean Valjean breaks a window and steals a loaf of bread to help feed his sister's starving children.  He is arrested and spends 19 years working on a chain gang.  When he finally receives his parole, he is given a slip of paper that he must carry for the rest of his life. This identifies him as a felon.  He is treated like an outcast by much of society. No one will hire him, and he is hungry.  Eventually he is offered bread and wine at a church, and they offer to let him spend the night.  During the night, he steals a silver goblet and some silver candlestick holders, and takes off into the night. He is captured by the police who bring him back to see the Bishop at the the church. When the police present the evidence to the Bishop, they say that Valjean claimed the silver had been a gift.  The Bishop backs up his story and Valjean goes free.  Before letting him go, the Bishop tells Valjean that he must use the silver to change his life and help humanity.  In the musical he sings, "I have bought your soul for God."  And Jean Valjean does indeed change his life and live in service to others.  A second chance made all the difference.

On Twitter I have become involved with a group of folks who call themselves the People of the Second Chance (@potsc).  They preach grace and forgiveness, and create an atmosphere of love for those who feel like failures in the eyes of the world- or of God.  These people are lover and encouragers in a big way (you can read more about them on their website).  I feel very connected with them, because for a short period of time in my own life I felt no one could ever forgive me.  This, of course is "stinkin thinkin."  The band Stellar Kart once sang, "There will always be second chances, and you will always be on your first try."  God's grace is bottomless, and God's love is endless. But sometimes, the culture we live in does not give those second chances or that forgiveness.  We tend to be much more in tune with revenge or retribution.  As with Jean Valjean and the Bishop, it takes someone special- someone who understands Jesus and what grace is really all about- to offer unconditional love and grace in this world. Martin Luther King once said that "forgiveness is not an act- it is an attitude."  It can be hard to come by, even in the church. I know at times it has been for me.

And yesterday it just hit me.  I'm Jean Valjean.  For the rest of my life I must carry my piece of paper. There will always be people who see me as evil and unredeemable.  But there have been people- so many people- who have shown me grace. And because of them and a Savior who died that I might live I have been given a second chance. A second chance to be a better husband and father.  A second chance to be in a new kind of ministry online.  A second chance to make a difference in the lives of people I love.  I understand now that we are all people of the second chance. We all need forgiveness, and we all need to give it.  We all need Jesus.  

Sometimes it is easy to forget who we are and whose we are.  Today I know. "Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!"  Let's us go forth and share our second chance with others, always remembering that "to love another person is to see the face of God..."

Because of Jesus,


  1. Every Tuesday night I go to Celebrate Recovery at Church and I KNOW for a fact that we worship a God of second, third, fourth, fifth chances. It continues to amaze me week after week the redemptive work that He alone can do in people's lives, including my own, if we would just let Him.


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