When last we met: we shared a (musical) lesson illustrated by The Sound of Music. Here’s another bit of tuneful instruction from the 1965 Academy Award-winning movie.
In The Sound of Music, the rambunctious dreamer Maria, a novice at an otherwise peaceful Austrian abbey, has a habit (pardon the pun) of being a nuisance to the patient but nonetheless perturbed nuns. Early in the movie, one the Sisters breaks out in song, “Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?”
Best answer: You DON’T! First, if you haven’t heard already, people are NOT problems. People often have problems, but people themselves are not the problem.
Second, whenever you do encounter a “Maria” — someone who’s different from you, someone who doesn’t fit the mold, or someone who doesn’t meet your personal set of expectations — you should choose to focus on the person, not on their problems (or what you perceive to be problematic). Instead, you should apply the LOVE strategy we discussed last session.
God’s supernatural Love promotes acceptance and unity. In fact, the nuns depicted in The Sound of Music were brought together by their genuine love of the Lord: all of the Sisters are unique individuals; they come from different backgrounds, and they possess different gifts and talents. And yet, their love and devotion to Jesus Christ binds them together into an orderly and efficient community of teachers and servants.
Initially the nuns fail to understand Maria’s idiosyncrasies, but they do understand God’s Love. So, although at first they aren’t sure what to make of their novice, they simply choose to look beyond her antics, to love her, and to accept her into the convent. It’s not hard, either, especially since the Sisters can “see” Maria’s pure heart and her desire to please God. Remember, “…Keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)
Here’s what you should do whenever you encounter a fellow dreamer or creative person — someone who’s a bit quirky, highly eccentric, or just plain weird (but still loving):
- Accept that person with the Love of the Lord, idiosyncrasies and all. After all, no matter how “unusual” others may be, if they themselves are loving, they will accept YOU. Also, it doesn’t hurt to realize that NO ONE IS PERFECT; we all have our flaws and foibles.
- Learn to celebrate people for who they are (as individuals) and for what they can contribute (their unique gifts, talents, and experiences).
- Support and encourage them, because it’s not easy being a dreamer or creator.
- Don’t compare yourself with such people. Comparisons only succeed in emphasizing our differences.
- Don’t compete. They have their special gifts, talents, and callings. You have yours. “…The body has many different parts … If the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? …But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. …In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. …This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-25 NLT)
- When the Green Two-Headed Monster of Jealousy and Envy rears its ugly head, vanquish it with the supernatural love of God. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)
- Never try to “fix” anyone. Some people may “function” in strange ways, but that doesn’t mean they’re broke. And as the saying goes, If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing. Besides, evaluating and fixing people is God’s jurisdiction. (Oh yeah, don’t try to play God, either.) Jesus Christ warned, “Don’t criticize people, and you will not be criticized. For you will be judged by the way you criticize others…. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and fail to notice the plank in your own?” (Matthew 7:2-3 PHILLIPS)
- If there’s any fixing or changing needed, step aside and allow the Lord to
do His job. He’s the best at what He does! And He does it perfectly, from the inside out. God is able to change the human heart, which works to transform our thinking — through the daily renewal of our minds (See Romans 12:1-3) — which in turn transforms our attitudes and behavioral patterns. But why does God want to change us? Because of His love for us, He wants us to become everything He created us to be; He wants us to reach our full potential; and He wants us to use our gifts and talents so that we can realize our hopes and dreams.
The theological term for this lifelong improvement process — of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ — is sanctification. We facilitate the process by surrendering our will to allow God to perform His will. Can’t remember the word sanctification? Then just proudly say, “I’m God’s work-in-progress.”
Do you know a “Maria”? Take a look in the mirror. In reality, we are all like the problematic novice in The Sound of Music. Not to worry. As long as there are people like Maria, God’s love will abound. Regardless of our dreams, goals, or purpose in life, the road that leads to our divine destiny is still God’s Love. It’s not a free-way (as in “Do whatever you want!”) but it is THE High Way. When we function in God’s love, and depend on His love, we’ll be at peace and experience more joy. We’ll also be more creative and feel far more motivated. And we’ll be able to draw on the strength necessary to pursue and overtake our dreams; “…For the Joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)
But as always, our Heavenly Father expects us to love others just as He has loved us. He wants us to reflect, demonstrate, and share the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, especially for those who seem quirky; to the creators struggling with their endeavors; and to the dreamers still chasing their dreams. Or, as in the case of Maria, those who are still searching for their purpose and calling in life. These people certainly need lots of love. Actually, we all do!
So, how do we solve a problem named Maria? We don’t! Instead we apply the LOVE STRATEGY.