Les Mis 3a: On my own

Our Les Mis series also involved our Monday service for September, which was led by Jill Robertson.   Fran Noble sang “On My own”

Jill’s reflection is below:  

I am sure that “On my own” is the saddest song in Les Mis.  There could hardly be a dry eye in the house, or the cinema or the church, when we hear those heart-rending words.  Poor Eponine – she had a pure heart and a love for Marius that was never going to be returned. She wasn’t angry or bitter, just incredibly sad, but knowing that she had to find ways of coping with her disappointment.

How much can you empathise with Eponine?  Isn’t it easy to feel just a little bit sorry for ourselves sometimes, especially if we compare ourselves with other people we know whose ‘luck’ has been so much better than our own.

This is part of all our lives isn’t it – and rightly so. We need to acknowledge that we are not always perfectly happy with our lot. False cheeriness is easy to see through – the false smiles, the conversation that is shallow.  Disappointment with our lot in life is naturally upsetting. Undeserved discrimination is hurtful. Getting ill much more than others in our family is hard to accept. Being widowed or divorced or never married is a grief that can go on and on.  Not being well off financially can be a source of great pain, especially if others of family or friends seem to be so much better placed. “It’s not fair” is a saying that can be on the lips of adults as well as children. We need to get it out of our systems from time to time, then it has a chance to blow away and not have a hold over us. A safe person to explode with can be very therapeutic!

When we are young – perhaps about Eponine’s age – we can be full of hopes and expectations for our life.  We will have an interesting career, get married to a perfect partner, have children, be satisfied with our working life, we will have some great holidays and see interesting parts of the world. At least, that was certainly on my list when I was young.  I didn’t actually expect to move to the other side of the world to follow the man I loved, but that was all part of the deal when we knew we wanted to be married.

If I was to stop for a while now, I am sure you could bring to mind many of the things that you had on your wish list when you were young.  Perhaps some of them have come true, and perhaps some have not.  After a while we have think about giving thanks for the things we achieved and letting go of those dreams that are never going to come true. Or we have to adjust our dreams to cope with the reality of the present circumstances.

Poor Eponine didn’t live very much longer after singing this song in Les Mis, as she died at the Barricades. However, in the musical version of the story, she does die in Marius’ arms so has some small reward for her love for him.

But how about us, how do we go on living knowing that we are “on our own”, the world is not always fair, and ultimately we are all on our own?

One way of coming to terms with things we wish were different is to change the way we look at it.  When I was a marriage counsellor, I used to get people to think about the things they wished were different in their lives, and then think about what they loved about what they disliked.

For one person, it was that they were on their own after a definite divorce, so she reflected on the fact that she could now eat an apple in bed without her husband complaining!  A man I was talking with was taken ill and could no longer play golf, so he changed his mindset to say ‘Think of all the money I will save on lost golf balls!’  In my own life at about that time I was sick of having to drive John to work and pick him up every day and longed for us to have a second car.  So, I had to find what I loved about what I disliked and realised that every day John and I had private time to talk with each other about life, the universe and everything, especially about our children as they were not in the car with us!

The fact that you are here this morning says that you know the most important thing about coping with anything that life throws in our path.  We are people who know the reality of God. We have faith that can be the strongest companion of our whole life.

We know that when we become followers of Jesus Christ, his spirit becomes part of our life, part of our inner being, and we will truly never be alone again. He gave us the gift of what we call holy communion, so that we can remember that he is with us always in that intangible, deep way, that feeds our spirit.

In the reading from Philippians we heard of another way of changing our mindset.  Paul says Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Here we have an example of what in more modern times has been called “the power of positive thinking”.  In the face of the depressing news we hear on our radios and TVs every day, it is good to realise that in fact there is an awful lot of good things happening in the world too. We can do well to stop and pray for all those people doing work around the world that is for the benefit of the people, not to drag them down.

We ourselves belong to a Christian community that promises to nurture and support us through thick and thin. We have friends through our church family who will support us in prayer, support us emotionally, spiritually and physically. My goodness, we should never feel “on our own” unless it is because we choose to be that way.

As well as people – or God with skin on – as I loved hearing it described one day, we also have the words of scripture and the words of lovely hymns and songs that can bring us comfort when we are feeling just a bit sorry for ourselves. Let me share a few of my favourites with you, and I hope it stimulates you to think of the ones that comfort you.  Remember too, that the word comfort means “to give strength”, not just something to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

From songs:

Do not be afraid, I am with you,
I have called you by your name, you are mine.

Don’t be afraid my love is stronger than your fear
and I have promised to be always near.

And from the bible:

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.

Matthew 28:20

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
    he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

And of course the most compelling assurance of God’s companionship with us is that he left us the meal in which we commemorate his last evening with his disciples. He knew that they would need a reminder of his presence in their lives, especially when they were feeling alone, so he deliberately gave them a very practical way of remembering him.

The grace of his presence is our gift as we receive the elements of bread and wine in communion, and now it is our privilege to do just that together.

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