A Problem Like Maria
“How do you solve a problem like Maria?” This well-known lyrics from The Sound of Music was sung by the nuns in the Nonnberg Abbey about Maria Rainer, their newest postulant. The tune is bouncy and light-hearted but the lyrics verbalize the collective exasperation arising from Maria’s behavior, who seemed to find it impossible to simply do what all the others were doing. By the time the song arrives the entire abbey is fit to be tied by Maria’s antics.
I looked up the full lyrics this morning and I marveled at how well they seem to describe the situation we have had at Evergreen lately with our own Maria. (Seriously, look them up! You’ll see what I mean.) She began attending about eight months ago, and like Maria, we’ve never had another guest like her. We’re all odd in various ways, but our Maria’s oddities are impossible to miss, such as singing extremely loud, repeatedly changing seats throughout the service and ongoing laughter during the sermon.
I was away on vacation last Sunday and apparently our Maria was worse than usual, capped off by a loud and angry outburst in the foyer near the end of the service. Based on the feedback I am receiving, this occasion was not only particularly disturbing, it has also moved many to begin verbalizing their concerns which have been growing for some time. Virtually everyone has a genuine concern for the needs of our troubled sister and wants to help however we can, but there is also great concern for the rest of the church body and the call to care for their needs as well.
How should we do that? It is important to know that we have worked hard to talk with her in the past months, seeking to teach her how to act so that she doesn’t hinder others as they worship. We have seen progress at times as she has clearly changed some behaviors, at least for a time. But some issues have not yet been addressed, and in recent weeks there has been regression in the other areas and that is discouraging.
We do not know whether the nature of her troubles is spiritual, mental, relational, chemical or perhaps some combination. But we do know we need to be far more proactive in our efforts and to establish some boundaries for the health of the church body. The elders happen to be meeting tonight and I would beg you to pray for us as we seek how best to shepherd this special person.