I am not a big-city person.
I jokingly tell my kids whenever we visit a big city that I am grateful for all the people who keep the gorgeous museums and grand cathedrals up and running so that we can just drop by for a visit and then go home. Other people I know are just the opposite, finding themselves very much at home in urban settings, not rural ones.
In college I remember laughing when a friend told me that she was so afraid of bears that she could not go hiking in the woods. I shouldn’t have laughed; I had an opposite but equally irrational fear of muggers, and I’m sure it kept me from exploring some beautiful areas in different cities.
For each of us, there will be settings and surrounding in which we feel more naturally at home and more peaceful, and we would do well to listen to these feelings. If stress and tension are constant undercurrents in our daily lives, we need to seek out and frequent peaceful places.
Even when my husband and I lived in densely populated graduate-student housing in Berkeley, California, I could get my daily dose of nature by taking a run up a nearby hill and taking in the sweeping view of San Francisco Bay. There were just a few more trees on that hill than if I had run on the city streets below, and the vegetation quieted the city noise, if only slightly. Even though I had not really trekked into the wilderness, when I returned to our apartment, I found that I could better handle the inner-city feel of our housing complex. I also discovered an amazing urban space called a public park! I know it’s laughable, but now that we again live in a semi-rural place, I miss those spacious, beautifully manicured parks.
Try taking a “peace inventory.” In what places are you most at peace? Are you a city or a country mouse? If you could go anywhere in the world to enjoy a little peace, where would you go, and why? Then ask yourself where you could find such a place close by that would give you that same sense of peace. Make it a point to visit there from time to time. Ask Jesus to help you find and frequent places that bring you peace.
Peace in Your Emotions
My husband and I had another clash of expectations last night. Who knew that after twenty-five years of marriage, we still wouldn’t be able to live in perfect harmony at all times! In today’s technological age, shouldn’t there be a mind-reading app that we could buy from iHeaven.com?
I keep thinking that after all these years, we should be able to move past certain predictable clashes. But the problem seems to lie in our vastly different emotive personalities. Even with our shared faith and compatible core values and goals, conflicts can still arise because of the different ways in which we emotionally experience, process, and express the daily events of our lives.
Thankfully, for my husband and me, the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage comes to our rescue as many times as our fallen human natures clash. The roller-coaster ride from conflict to resolution is not exactly peaceful, however, so in my quest to shorten and level out the dips and loops of conflict, I have learned two things.
The first is that emotions themselves are morally neutral. Although negative emotions may feel “wrong,” it is only the action one takes on any emotion that can be either moral or immoral. I may get angry with my husband, but it is in how I decide to express that anger to him that matters. As well-formed Catholics, we should feel anger at injustice but use that anger as fuel for doing good, like volunteering with the pro-life movement. Jesus used his anger for good when he cleared the temple of the money changers (Luke 19:46).
The second is that being unemotional is not the same as being peaceful, even though being unemotional can look or even temporarily feel like it. However, the goal is not to deny, submerge, or kill our emotions. God created us with emotions, and so obviously we are not to throw them away. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that we should be moved to the good not only by our wills but also by our hearts (1775)—just as Jesus was moved in the temple. Ask Jesus, who is our peace, to help you to embrace the gift of emotions. He can show you how to temper and use all your emotions for good so that you may experience more peace.
This is a selection from Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges by Heidi Bratton. Published by The Word Among Us Press (2015).