Secret or not, I’m a closet musical lover. The first musical I saw? Les Miserables – two times in New York City, on Broadway, in 1995. Just a few months before I got married. I figured I should visit Time Square and see a show on Broadway. It was blown away by the characters, the broken Fantine, the abandoned and enslaved Cosette, the misunderstood but honourable 24601 – oops, I mean Jean Valjean.
A few years ago The Greatest Showman was released. My kids talked about it for months. My daughter and her girlfriends would be with us in the car, and soon enough they’d be belting the songs one after another. They’d been so impacted by the musical, and all I’d ever heard was the music. And I was so moved by the songs – the power and the passion.
Finally I got a chance to watch it with the family. The power and passion found meaning within the storyline. The voices of PT and Charity Barnum, Lettie Lutz and Jenny Lind appeared before my eyes. The songs that I’d heard so many times found their context. The aspirations, the dreams, the injustice, the discrimination, the heartbreak – all of them poured over us as we watched the musical. My kids felt vindicated with my pleasure. “See, dad, we knew you’d like it.”
I did – I love shows that impact me – that move my emotions. That’s where Ali and I differ. She hates movies that could cause her to mourn, or be sad. Her motto – “I don’t care if people are going to die, I just don’t want to cry about it.” Give her a solid action-adventure or espionage movie and she’s good. She’d choose that 10/10 times, hands down. She said it’s because she experiences enough emotions each day in her life, she doesn’t need to be provoked. Me – I rarely cry, I rarely emote when life might expect me to. I push through, set the course to walk through my emotions and, I guess, stuff them.
But movies are a place for me to process all of those pent up emotions. I let the loss, the ecstasy, the pain, the separation to wash over me. That’s basically the only place I actually cry – in a movie. Nowhere else. I cry the most at the plots surrounding broken relationships being restored. Father/son, brothers, spouses…you name it. I am just a mess watching people who lived in misunderstanding find each other again.
God made us, He chose to populate the universe with his children on planet Earth. He desired to be in relationship – He longed to walk with us in life. And yet we stepped away and chose our own path. He knew that was going to happen even as he formed us from the dust. He knew we’d turn away. And yet he did it anyway. It’s because he had a better plan. Jesus, before the world was formed, made the decision when God said he wanted a family that he’d make the way of reconciliations when we decided to turn away. He saw the Father and His children separated and he knew he could be the reconciling factor.
When I learned about God, and His profound unconditional love for me and my separation from Him because of my sin, I wept for what Jesus did for me. I wept. I cried out – I accept your sacrifice of love for me so I can know my heavenly Father. This, friends, was the greatest reconciliation I could have ever known.
Maybe that’s why I love these stories of reconciliation that catch me in my throat – I remember the sacrifice Jesus made to reconcile and I just want these fictional characters to know that same reconciliation between them. Ali has said she’s caught me praying during movies in our early years of marriage. It’s true. But it’s in those moments I’m even more aware of how beautiful my reconciliation with God was, and I think I love Jesus just a little bit more in that moment.
Now, you’ll have to forgive me, my favourite song from The Greatest Showman is just starting:
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
And I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me”