I walked out of Target tonight, and as I got into my car I heard the radio of another car in the parking lot blaring music. Now this is not uncommon, and usually I don’t even pay any attention (unless the bass has me bouncing off the shaking ground). But the person playing the music was a woman in her sixties and the song she was playing was I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables.
Les Miserables is my favorite musical – bar none. I’ve been privileged to have seen the show four times, including once from the third row in London. If it were in town this weekend, I would go see it again. This puts me into a tremendous minority. Most people have no idea what Les Mis is, or what it’s about. Others would just rather go see a Phantom or a 70’s TV icon portray a Biblical character in purple socks. But for me, Les Miserables is the one.
The show did get a bit of an interest boost a few years ago, thanks to the media explosion of Susan Boyle. You know her story; a frumpy, awkward, and unimpressive woman who walked onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent as an unknown and walked off a worldwide phenomenon. The song she sung that night was the one I heard tonight – I Dreamed a Dream. The lyrics follow.
I Dreamed a Dream Click Here to watch the song performed via YouTube
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high, And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
The song introduces us to the character of Fantine – a tragic soul caught in a circumstance that has left her reeling. Her husband abandoned her and their daughter, Cosette. In order to survive, she has to leave the child with unscrupulous landlords who take advantage of Fantine to line their pockets with money needed for “doctors” and “medicine.” Just prior to singing this song, Fantine was fired from her job because she angered her foreman by refusing his unwelcomed advances. Faced with prostitution as the only option to save her child, she is beginning a downward spiral that will leave her empty and eventually take her life. But before this happens, she shares the song – filled with the images that have bolstered her while she struggles to overcome her hardships.
What catches my ear and my heart in this song is the element of the dream. She has held onto her dream for a very long time – so long that she has allowed it to become the driving force in her life. Who knows the cause? Perhaps she was naïve and immature, refusing to see the reality of her situation. Perhaps she was hurting so badly that she had to hold onto something better, even though she knew deep down that it was impossible. I tend to balance my thoughts between those two ideas. I think her dream was born at a time in her life when she felt confident, comforted and safe; a time when her needs were met, her hopes were high, and as Gary Chapman might say it, her love tank was full. That abruptly changed. Her tank began to empty, her hopes diminished, she fought to meet her needs until finally her dream was all she had left. A sad tale, but it has yet to come to its tragic crescendo.
Life is filled with hardships and pain. The Bible tells us to expect it as a part of life here on earth. Sin has brought this into reality, for Fantine and for us as well. It is here that the decision gets made that will not only define our immediate actions, but our destinies as well. It is here where triumph or tragedy will have its reign.
Fantine’s decision is shared in the final lines of the song. After surviving all of this, after clinging to her dream through thick and thin, she stands here now – alone, defeated, confused and afraid. Her response is to give up on her dream and ultimately her life. “I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. So different now from what it seemed; now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
What is your dream? What is it that you hope to have? What has God called you to do, to accomplish, to create? Have you gotten there yet? Why or why not? If not, have you given up on achieving it? I pray you have not, because this is not what God has created and called us to do. The going will get tough. There will be storms that will wreak havoc on our lives. Our resolve will get tested. Our faith will be stretched. Will you go it alone like Fantine? Will you seek out your own solution, for better or for worse? Or will you seek the face and favor of the God who brought you here in the first place with a reason and a purpose that will prepare you for the full realization of every dream He’s given you? It is at these moments in our life, when our dreams are fleeting, our confidence shaken, that we must run to the Word of the Lord. At times like this, we need to have the Word living within our hearts and governing our lives. They hold the key that unlocks the power of God in our life. God’s simple words to Jeremiah speak a powerful truth that we should all hold close to our hearts.
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27
God gave us dreams to gain a vision of what He has in store for us – for what is to come in Him. May we have the strength to realize our dreams in their fullest measure by living our lives in total agreement with the One who authored them.