I lived in the northwest Mississippi portion of the Memphis area for six years. I did not like it. There are certain aspects of my life there that I remember fondly, but those people and experiences would have been just as delightful, if not moreso, anywhere else in the world.
One of the things I disliked the most was the traffic. At one point we lived two miles from the interstate. The drive would take us ten to fifteen minutes. For two miles. Yuk! I always laughed when my grandmother talked about how much she hated the traffic in certain parts of the small city near my hometown. Compared to Memphis traffic, that much smaller town traffic was nothing!
I have been away from Memphis for a few years now. For the past two years I have lived in a farming town of about 300 people, and that includes the people who are technically from our town but live out on the farms. The town itself fits into what amounts to about a six-block square. Never mind traffic lights – we only have a handful of stop signs, and those are only situated on streets that connect to the two-lane highway that runs through town! The closest city is a fifteen mile drive, and that is where we go for grocery shopping and such. To even call that much of a city brings a chuckle, though. When the whole county only boasts a population of about 20,000, the "big" cities of the county seem like small towns when compared to cities like Memphis.
Recently I was driving in our neighboring town. I had just picked up one of my daughters from art class, and we were making our way to Wal-Mart for a quick grocery shopping trip. It was just after five o’clock, and traffic was at its "heaviest." Had I encountered that amount of traffic in our northwest Mississippi town, it would have seemed to be a light traffic day. Living in the country, though, has made me less tolerant. On this particular day, I felt my shoulders begin to tense, and I just could not wait to get in and out of Wal-Mart and back to my nice, small, quiet farming town. I remembered Grandma’s traffic complaints, and suddenly all I could do was laugh at myself. I finally understood!
The more accustomed we grow to peace, the less tolerant we become of anything that threatens that peace. It could be something as simple as traffic and city life. We do not realize just how much stress we carry in the middle of city chaos until we have a chance to get away and live in the peace of the country.
It could also be something much more eternal. God, through His Son Jesus Christ, provides His children the only true peace, but many of us neglect to live in it. We stress and strive, offering panicked prayers up to God in times of crisis. As He grows us, though, He moves us further down the path of true peace. We mature as believers and become more accustomed to that path, sometimes without consciously realizing it. Then something reminds us of where we used to live. It could be a discussion that reminds us of a past circumstances. Perhaps we see someone who behaves just as we used to. Maybe we encounter a life situation that we have experienced before but with much less peace. Whatever the case, it suddenly dawns on us just how much we like where we are. We hunger for the peace. We thrive on the peace. We cling to the peace with all that we have, having no desire to part with it.
I might move from my precious small town one day. God might return me to city life. I do not relish the thought, but I will go if He tells me to do so. I am determined, however, to never give up ground on my progress toward spiritual peace. I want only to go further. The peace of my surroundings will come and go with any little circumstance. The peace in my heart will only grow, from now throughout eternity. To that peace I stubbornly and determinedly cling.