The Staying Power of Love
by Erin Austin
“How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertigibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!
Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”i
If you’ve ever watched The Sound of Music, you probably recognize the lyrics to this song. It’s one of the first songs in the movie, where the Reverend Mother is trying to figure out the best approach to help Maria become the person she is capable of being. The longer I work with children who come from hard places, the more I appreciate this scene in the movie. It’s the Reverend Mother’s job to guide, lead, and help mentor Maria, yet she keeps struggling. It’s not that Maria doesn’t want to grow as a person, but her past has taught her how to live one way. That’s why the Reverend Mother must think outside the box and come at the problem a different way. Ultimately, it leads to Maria’s transformation into the woman God created her to be.
Working at a children’s home is a lot like this. We love our kids. Quite frankly, it’s why we do what we do. There are easier jobs, but this isn’t just a job to us. It’s ministry. It’s being the hands and feet of Christ to kids who are used to being hurt, cast aside, and rejected.
More times than not, my day involves talking to other staff, trying to come up with a game plan for how to tackle a particular problem one of our residents is facing. Sometimes it’s lack of motivation in school, other times it’s not knowing how to resolve conflicts, and then there are times when it’s about teaching healthy boundaries. Yet the process is usually the same: What’s the problem? What’s the motivation? What’s the history? Is there a lie that’s been believed? What can we do to help?
It’s not easy working at a place like Joy Ranch, but it’s also wonderful. While there are times of frustration and heartbreak, there are more times of joy, laughter, and breakthroughs. Hard and good can be synonymous. In the past few weeks, I’ve had two separate residents struggling with feelings about their family of origin talk to me about how seeing the staff at Joy Ranch love them has taught them what healthy love looks like. It’s a hard but necessary part of the healing journey.
It’s reminded me about the staying power of love, particularly God’s love. Yes, there are times when the healthy thing to do is step away from unhealthy relationships, but love done the right way breaks through barriers and reaches people who thought no one cared.
We may have our “How Do You Solve a Problem” discussions, but I’m reminded we serve a big God who first did to us what we’re trying to teach these kids.
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” ~ Psalm 68:5
i Rodgers And Hammerstein – How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria lyrics (allthelyrics.com)