Rachel adores The Sound of Music. Personally, I knew all of the songs from as far back as I can remember (I am pretty sure my parents had me watch it when I was seven), but I really didn’t remember the storyline. I mean, I remembered a nun, a bunch of cute kids, some Nazis, and a LOT of singing. But that’s really it. Well, on our recent trip backpacking across Europe, we spent a few days visiting Austria – where the movie was set and largely filmed – and I decided I needed to take the time to watch it with full attention.
I have to tell you, after finally watching it as a grown-up, I was blown away. I absolutely loved it! I mean, you probably love it too. It’s a masterpiece in every way, with stunning landscapes and cinematography, and a soundtrack you can sing for the rest of your life.
Even more, though, I think I loved it so much because I was drawn to Julie Andrews as Maria. She portrayed a person with an approach to life that is just so winsome, so infectious. She is cute and fun and playful, with her doe-eyed earnestness contrasted by just the right amount of mischievousness. Plus, she sings like an angel, gets along with everyone, and loves adventure. Finally, in my mind she demonstrates so much childlike faith in how she approached the world and interacted with others. In so many ways, she epitomizes that term. Watch the movie again with this concept in mind, and you’ll totally see what I mean.
I have always felt like there is something powerful to this notion of childlike faith – something weighty, something transformative. And I’ve thought about it – and tried to live it out – every single day, for decades. Because I’ve needed to have faith every single day, for all of these years, many of them fraught with difficulties and challenges made me fearful, made me want to give up. I don’t know how I would have made it this far without it.
Most of the time, I am successful in approaching life with childlike faith, because I’ve always said that I want my life to be a grand experiment – where I intentionally believe that things are going to go my way – not because of positive thinking, but because of the promises in God’s Word. His Word is my anchor – the truth I can stand on – and that billions have stood on for millennia.
I’m not going to lie, though – some days are rough, and I lose focus and energy, and forget His promises, and regress to doubts and anxiety about my present and my future. Things aren’t ever perfect, but I really thought that one day, they would be. I really believed that one day, my relationships and work and health and confidence would all just line up perfectly and be amazing, and stay that way.
But over time I’ve come to the realization that that just never happens. It’s not going to. And if it did, we wouldn’t really need childlike faith, or God for that matter. We’d just be incredibly amped up about how fantastic life always was, and have a grand old time living it up. What I’ve learned is that we need to choose childlike faith every day, when it’s easy and when it’s hard.
The Untersburg Mountain – with its infamous lopsided peak – towers proudly over the city of Salzburg and surrounding areas, and is the mountain which Maria loves and frolicks upon at the beginning of The Sound of Music while singing “The Hills Are Alive.” It is an epic scene indelibly etched in our minds’ eye as well in as our hearts, and – I found out – it is an epic hike to the summit. And while in Austria, we knew we had to do it, because really, how awesome would it be to climb to the top of Maria’s mountain!?!? So awesome.
While we were eager to tackle it, we were both a bit worn out from the previous hikes of our trip. And by the time we got about halfway to the top of the Untersburg, we were pretty thrashed. We were exposed on the rock and had no shade from the beating sun, we were out of water, and we had already finished our lunch and most of our snacks. We actually thought about turning around and heading back down the trail. But we had one singular hope that kept us going – there was a popular cable car ascent to the top, and we figured that if we could just summit, we could ride it down instead of descending by foot. And so we pressed on.
Eventually, we found a supply of water coming out of a pipe in the mountain that we had read was safe to drink. It was cool, and refreshing, and tasted better than any water I had known before. And so I filled up our bottles and also my body, and we soldiered on. From this point, it was pretty treacherous all the way to the top, as we had to climb a steep set of wet and slippery rocks next to a sheer drop into the valley below. Mountaineers before us had installed a braided metal cord into the rocks so we had something to grasp as we maneuvered upwards, and while that helped on one side, there was nothing but a long fall to certain death on the other side.
Rachel begged me to hold the cord with two hands, just to be safe. I could tell that she was really scared, and that it was taking all the courage she could muster to not look down and not look back. Along the hike, we saw numerous memorials mounted into the cliff face, honoring the spot where other climbers had fallen and lost their lives. We soberly recognized it could happen to us as well, and so we went very slowly, held onto the metal cord, and offered encouragement to each other until we both successfully reached the top of the trail.
It was such a great feeling to finally arrive there. We were safe and on solid ground, and we had made it! However, we realized immediately that there was a second trail we now needed to take uphill for another 45 minutes to actually get to the cable car station. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but we were wiped out. It struck me that life is like this sometimes – you think you’ve arrived and then it’s like surprise, just kidding, you still have a long ways to go!
We wanted to rage in that moment, but it wouldn’t have done any good. And we were still in a time crunch – we had to get up to the cable car before its ascent/descent schedule had ended for the day. So we couldn’t even sit down and rest. We had to put our head down, and keep moving, telling ourselves that we had gotten this far and just needed to go a little further before we could relax on the cable car ride down to the valley below.
When we got to the station, though, we were in for another surprise. We found out that the cable car we had seen going up and down the mountain was actually for a group of about 30 workers who were doing construction. The foreman who greeted us stated in no uncertain terms that it was closed to all visitors and tourists. And that if we just turned around and started down the trail, we’d be at the bottom in a couple of hours. Crap. Thanks, man.
I remember feeling my heart drop into my stomach. In my head, I thought, if it was a do or die situation, I could get both of us down this mountain. But I knew that I was pretty worn out, and Rachel was starting to feel sick. And so I decided to ask the foreman if there was any way that we could ride down with him and the rest of his team at the end of their day. He replied that he personally couldn’t allow it, but that he would call his boss down below in the valley and ask him to make an exception. And then he asked us to have a seat on a bench outside the station, and give him a few minutes.
When Rachel and I looked at each other at that moment, I could see disappointment and concern in her eyes. I am sure I betrayed the same, but I also immediately remembered those words: childlike faith. I wanted to believe that this was going to work out for us. Because God loves us. Because He is the author of all good things. Because He delights in us, and He supplies our every need. And so I was going to believe. I consciously made that choice in that moment. And both of us just sat on that bench, quietly praying and believing that God would make a way.
This mindset has become a part of me, and isn’t something that I arrive at after a battle between idealism and realism in my mind. It used to be like that, but it got easier when I kept seeing that there was no better option for me than to trust Him, no matter the situation. Yes, sometimes things don’t work out the way I want or expect them to. But they do work out according to the plans of a loving Creator who knows more than I do about what’s best for my life. And that’s good enough for me.
After about five minutes, the foreman returned. And he smiled at us. His boss had said that we could go down with the workers in the cable car. Relief and gratefulness washed over us like a flood. And shortly thereafter, we found ourselves packed like sardines into a cable car with 30 other construction workers who all looked at us oddly and laughed and joked among themselves in German. I don’t even care if they were making fun of us, and if they thought of us as stupid American tourists who foolishly would have been stuck on the top of the Alps if it weren’t for them. My heart and intentions were in the right place. We hiked to the top, didn’t know about the cable car closure despite our research, and God lent us a hand so we wouldn’t be miserable, get injured, or hate life on the hike down. I love that about Him. He understood our situation, saw our hearts, and rescued us. Thanks, God!
Childlike faith is a simple concept, but one that all of us unnecessarily complicate. Perhaps this is because life, as we live it, naturally becomes increasingly complicated. But maybe we consciously can fight against that trend by choosing to believe for the best, regardless of how things look or what our emotions are saying to us. Maybe we’ll be disappointed, but maybe – just maybe – we won’t.
Regardless of the outcome, the choice deepens our relationship with Him, helps us experience peace instead of chaos, allows us to pointedly reject fear and worry, and keeps our heart open and hopeful instead of closed-off and hopeless. And the best thing about it is that the choice is, and always will be, available for everyone.