To Be Known

If I had a say in the Academy, my vote for Best Actor would be Hugh Jackman. The Wolverine? I know, right.

When I was fifteen my best friend Jennifer invited me to go with her family to see a big, giant stage production of a musical in LA. I’d never heard of it before.

We sat in the third row of one of the balconies of the Schubert Theater and her father leaned over and handed each of us one of those $20 programs.

“Les Miserables.”

My life had been changed. We watched and wondered and our hearts rose with Eponine’s and crashed with the death of Val Jean. I cried when Gavroche died on the barricade and I stood with applause at the end.

Since that day I have seen the stage production of Les Miz four more times, and after each one I would compare it to the first. I was young and very much affected by this story.  And I always cried when Gavroche died. Each time I cried.

There is something about this story that is true and right.

When the latest iteration of Les Miz came out in the theaters last Christmas I was far across the sea. It wouldn’t arrive in Europe until now, after I’d already been home.

Last Sunday my parents came over to feed the kids some pizza while Chad and I escaped to the movies. Finally.

I knew every word of every song, of course, and knew every scene. It made me feel fifteen again, just for a few minutes, and I relearned some of the beauty of the story’s masterpiece as I wept again.

Of course we all cry when Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream.” How could we not? But something at the end of that film, and it is in large part due to Hugh Jackman’s acting I believe, struck me as brilliant.

When Val Jean confesses to Marius that he has been a thief, that he has been a fraud his entire life and has lived under a different name and that he must go away to ensure his daughter’s respect, Marius simply softly says {sings},

“You’re Jean Val Jean.”

He simply speaks his name.

The look on Val Jean’s face is one of utter relief, of ache and of gratefulness. It has been over 20 years since someone has truly known him. And now someone was speaking his true name without reproach or hatred but with love.  The expression is insignificant but communicates perhaps the biggest need we have as humans.

We all have an ache to be known for who we really are, I think.

We long to be seen and for our souls to be known. We move heaven and earth for others to love us, but what we really want is for others to know us first and then to love us as a result.

What if someone knew us for who we really were? Would they still love us? What if someone saw all of our past (and our future) laid out before them and still chose to be with us? What if someone really understood our fears and hurts and pain and still wanted to walk through life with us?

What if?

To be known.

What is amazing is that someone has known us and still loved us. And perhaps has loved us as a result of knowing even the horrible cracks in our surfaces. He knows us because he has created us.

Let us seek to be a people who know one another and who allow others to know us as well.



  1. Ro elliott says

    Oh…my favorite ..favorite…I have never seen the stage production….but I love both movies.. A friend and I are going to attempt to read the novel. I am not a great reader…so we see how it goes. And yes…may we truly see one another….

  2. Robin in New Jersey says

    I saw Les Miserables 2 weeks ago and I can not stop thinking about it. I watched the 25th anniversary show on PBS last week. I plan to see the movie again and I might even attempt to read the book. For some reason, this post has me in tears right now. You are a beautiful writer, Sarah.

  3. says

    Great moment in the film to build on. It makes me want to see it again! I read the unabridged book this summer and wrote all my favorite quotes on my blog (link below). My particularly favorite part of the book was learning more about the bishop than the 5 minutes he’s given in the film/musical.

    “There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity. ’Love one another.’ To him everything was contained in those words, his whole doctrine, and he asked no more.”

    PS We went to Biola together, no? Congrats on such a beautiful blog ministry. Blessings!

    • Sarah Markley says

      i went to biola from 92-96 and then again from 96-99 for grad work. were you there then?! how cool is that?

      i’ll check out your blog post too! i love that quote from the bishop. i know — he’s given a special place. almost a christ figure for sure.

  4. says

    The only play I have seen on Broadway–Les Miz. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I want to go alone in the afternoon on a Wednesday and have the place to myself :) I love this post Sarah. Some of us read it in tears because what you write is true. I thank you for the challenge at the end because we can’t expect others to let us really know them unless we are ourselves are willing to be vulnerable.

  5. says

    Agreed! I posted some similar thoughts last week, though not related to Les Miz. I had actually never seen it until the movie, but I knew bits and pieces of the story. Definitely lots of truth and beauty in it!

  6. says

    “but what we really want is for others to know us first and then to love us as a result.”
    Beautiful Sarah. Simply beautiful. I just came from an extremely difficult day where I work with people who desperately need Him so much- They seek to fill the emptiness with everything else but Him. Days like this I just stand in my room and cry. My heart is so heavy for them. This encouraged me tonight very much. I am ready to face the next days, praying that I can love as Christ. Thank you again!

  7. says

    Loved your post, Sarah. Encouraging words leading us individually to” be known” to each other, and our Lord Jesus. Thank you for sharing.

  8. says

    wow…so true & so well spoken…
    to be known
    to be loved
    is that not what we all need more than breath itself?
    Yahweh said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love!”
    what can be better than being loved by our God & by our friends?
    your mom & i were SO gald to free you two to see Les Mis once more!
    i agree with you…hugh jackman rocked as Jean Val Jean!
    love, dad

  9. says

    “You’re Jean Val Jean.”
    He simply speaks his name.

    I started crying at that moment, not in the movie, for I’d already been crying long by that point, but in your blog post. This morning. Now. Powerful words and to my weary soul, a reminder of my own search to be known. Thank you.

  10. says

    so beautifully written! i agree with every point. and don’t know who can get though that movie without thinking about spiritual soul matters and crying. Javert longs to be known too and he makes sure Jean Val Jean always remembers him & fears him. when he is shown grace his pride wont let him change. he can’t live any longer not being the person he has always been. it is so sad. two men who long to be loved and known. one takes it and one rejects it.

  11. says

    I agree that Les Mis is such a powerful story of God’s redemption. After my oldest daughter (and fellow musical theatre fan) saw it in theatres a couple of weeks ago (we’d seen the musical version before but not in person), I went right home and downloaded the novel onto my Kindle (it’s a free book). I’m still in the very beginning phases of the book that gives background on the Bishop that helps him and let me tell you, that character is amazing by himself. I love this story of redemption, faith and good.


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