Christian Themes in The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music made its debut in 1965. For over 50 years, it has entertained us with the heart-warming story of novice nun Maria and how she changes not just her own life but the lives of the Von Trapp family as well.
Originally, a musical stage play by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based on a true story, the movie depicts life in the late 1930s in Austria shortly before the Anschluss. The songs drive the plot and help convey a number of emotions, beliefs and desires. The story also has many themes including patriotism, loyalty, love and family.
One aspect explored in the film (and original stage play) is the concept of Christian faith. At the beginning of the story, Maria is studying to be a nun at a convent in Salzburg. There a number of references to Maria's faith made throughout the story. We will look at three of these:
- The Will of God.
- God closing a door and opening a window.
- Facing the mountains in your life and climbing over them.
The Will of God
The first theme of Christianity explored in the story is the will of God. God's will or in other terms His plan for our lives is something all Christian strive to find. Before we try to find what his will for us is, we have to understand what His will is. One verse that perfectly sums up this is found in Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
In The Sound of Music, the question of God's will for Maria's life comes up when the other nuns tell the Mother Abbess that Maria is not suited to Abbey life (through the song "Maria"). Maria is summoned to discuss her situation with Mother Abbess and when asked a question by Mother Abbess, Maria responds accordingly...
To find out what is the will of God and to do it wholeheartedly.— Maria
The above response is something all Christians should contemplate at some point. Finding out what God's will for your life is a hard task. We may already have an idea of what we think it is, just like Maria who believed that she meant to live out her life in the Abbey as a nun serving God. However, when her concept of what God's will for her life is challenged she immediately tries to resist any suggestions that it could be wrong. She goes into denial mode and tries to get Mother Abbess to change her mind. Mother Abbess is steadfast in her resolve and when she explains the reasons why she needs to leave the Abbey for a short time, Maria reluctantly agrees.
The same thing can happen to us when faced with the possibility that what we thought was God's will for our life may not be what God really wants for us. We have to pray and seek God to find out what it is, even when he closes the door.
Closing the Door
Confronted with the fact that the life she thought was meant to have is now being tested, Maria accepts the position of governess for the Von Trapp family. Having a previously known future, she now faces an unknown one. What she had accepted as her life has completely been turned upside as she realises a door has now been closed.
The best example of doors closing or staying closed in the Bible can be found in Acts 16:6-8
Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.
In this passage, Paul had thought that he was supposed to preach in Bithynia but it wasn't meant to be. God had closed that door and just like Paul if we aren't meant to go somewhere or do something God will prevent us from going forward in that direction.
When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.— Maria
Opening a Window
When God closes a door, He will give us another option by opening a window we didn't know existed. Paul found this shortly after the way to Bithyna was closed off to him...
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. - Acts 16:9-10
The window of opportunity to preach in Macedonia soon turned into a door and Paul was able to spread the gospel there. In Maria's case, the opportunity to become a governess and to assess whether or not a life in the Abbey was meant for also turned into a door to a whole new life that she never thought possible.
The same goes for us and when we see that window opening, we have to determine whether or not to take the opportunity presented to us. If we don't take it and decide to try to open the door that has been closed or maybe something else, we could miss out on finding the right door and not living the life God wants us to live.
Climb Every Mountain
When faced with something totally unexpected, Maria chooses to run away and go back to the Abbey. She is afraid of what she is feeling and of an unknown future. The Abbey represents to her a known future and is a safe place where she doesn't have to feel and deal with life's problems.
Realising that there is a problem, Mother Abbess summons Maria. Maria eventually explains what has happened and Mother Abbess advises that staying in the Abbey will not solve the situation. Maria has a mountain that she has to overcome in order to be the person God wants her to be.
These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.— Mother Abbess
Facing problems is all part and parcel of being human. As Mother Abbess tells Maria via song (Climb Every Mountain) that we have to go forward and climb those mountains that arise and find the shallow water crossings that will make the path to our dreams more easily accessible. Maria has to confront her feelings in order to live the life she was born to live.
For Christians, when the time comes to confront our problems, we have someone to rely upon...
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9
Maria had to find the strength and courage to go back to the Von Trapp family home and deal with her problems. She soon realised that the mountain she thought was there was only a small hill.
The Sound of Music is a story of how a young woman finds a life she never dreamed about. Maria always thought that it was going to be a life in the Abbey and not the life of wife and mother. It shows that when you go searching for God's will in your life, some doors may close but a window will open somewhere else and no matter what mountains you face in the pursuit of your dreams, you may end up with being the person God wants you to be and living the life you were meant to.