That number, 24601, is the number the prison gives to identify the man known as Jean Valjean, the protagonist in the book and musical, LES MISERABLES. 24601. The number is not only given for identification, but also is thrown in the face of a man who carries a name, a family, a history…so that the penal system can remind him that he is “less than a man”…he is only a number.
That is what is what the world does best…it reduces humanity. The world takes the fullness of life and reminds all of us that we are only a statistic, just a number in a vast sea of like numbers.
Depending on which circle one walks in, they are either one voice-type in a choir, a checking account number, an address, a blonde, a catholic, a poor person, a wacko. The world will constantly reduce us to the least common denominator. The world will do what is easiest, most efficient and most degrading.
I flew to my hometown, Richland Washington, some years ago carrying on a heavy medium-sized wooden box in a black bag. It fit under the seat in front of me on the plane. In it were the ashes of my father. Those ashes are all that is left of his body, after the world had its way…that, and a series of forms, two bags of odds and ends, and a few clothes. This is what the world thinks of him. This is what the world thinks of you and me. We may bask in our greatness and popularity, or sulk in our inability to gain what we think we are worth…but either way, the world doesn’t care. Don’t kid yourself, the world, as God Himself has said, is a prostitute who may flatter and tempt…but in the end you’re nothing more to her than a loaf of bread…if even that.
That’s what the world does. But the world doesn’t define “life”. God defines “life”. And what God does is just the opposite, instead of reducing humanity, God elevates, enhances, and fills humanity.
The scriptures remind us that God has elevated us, crowned us, claims us as children and heirs to the universe. “Life” is not defined by the things that are left when our breath takes flight. “Life” IS that breath, the very breath that was given us the day we first cried. “Life” as God sees it, is something that not only never ends, but is MORE real after we rid ourselves of these bodies and this world. God does not see my father or mother as “ashes in a box”, but as individual, golden, perennial diamonds. He knows them as Marge & Tom, the children for whom He would do anything, reach any depth, and fly across the universe to rescue.
We who Believe and Follow are the bearers of THIS torch: that the world will flatter us, tempt us, beat us and try to kill us…but God is “not of this world” and this Age will be cleaned to make way for the next; an Age with homes for each of His children. An Age ruled by the King who put on our skin so that we might trust Him, believe Him and follow Him…from the manger to the cross and through the tomb back to the Garden.
The only things from this Age that we will see in the next are each other. Don’t let the world reduce you and define you…and more importantly, don’t be a part of the world’s conspiracy by reducing another person (whom you will likely see again in the Age-to-Come) to something less than they are.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
VICTOR HUGO, author of LES MISERABLES