by Genevieve Schmitt
Each summer for the last two decades that I’ve called Livingston, Montana, home, I’d gaze out my living room window at Highway 89 South off in the distance and think, “The ‘world’ is passing by my house”—many countries, ethnicities, and languages represented through the hundreds of thousands of humans zooming by on their way towards Yellowstone National Park.
My mind wanders then to the conversations likely happening inside these vehicles to things like having enough food and fuel for the journey, to wondering if there will be a place to lay their head for the night. Campers question if they should have made a reservation, while others envision what it’s like to be eaten by a bear. The chatter pauses with the occasional ooh and aah as eyes pop at the breathtaking Absaroka Mountains and Yellowstone River that parallels the drive through Paradise Valley. Over the last several years, however, I sense something different going on
inside many vehicles.
How do I know this? Since 2019, I’ve witnessed an increase in aggressive driving. Motorists taking life-threatening chances when passing another vehicle. People pulling out onto the highway dangerously close to those heading in their direction. Drivers honking horns at each other. Loads more trash on the side of the highway. Theft of my street sign off Highway 89, not once, but twice. (It’s one of the cute animal names.) Tourists breaking Yellowstone’s rules regarding buffalo and boardwalks. Tons more police, fire, and ambulance sirens blaring up and down 89. This tells me all is not well. There is little to no peace in these cars. I feel it. The unrest in my spirit is as loud as a barking dog left alone all day in the house next door.
Peaceful spot in Paradise Valley. Photo by ©Genevieve Schmitt
Vacationers are rushing to check another item off their bucket list. Kids are aggravated when they don’t get their way. Dads’ and moms’ fuses are shorter than ever as the stress of the world’s chaos drips into the hearts of nearly every person on the planet. Many cling to the idea that this get-away-from-it-all excursion to Yellowstone will calm the nerves while opening the door to some semblance of peace. Sadly, it doesn’t. Why is that?
Because peace is a state of the soul, the intangible tranquility that is evident no matter the circumstances. If the forces of our beautiful mountains and rivers were the entryway to true peace, then we’d have calm drivers, respect for keeping our highways clean, fewer accidents, and less tourists making silly—and downright stupid—decisions. True peace partners with patience, love, joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. True peace shows up when a person is squeezed. So, if the driver in front is going slow, the peaceful person adjusts without a stir. Peaceful people rarely step out of their love walk when presented with unsettling surroundings.
If you seek true peace and earnestly pursue to hold on to it, I encourage you to extend that peace to those who have it not. Whether at the grocery, gas, or gift shop, let that peace shine. Smile. Be the one to catch another’s eye when temptation tells you to shift your gaze away. Break the awkwardness with a warm hello. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. It will do both you and the receiver good. Your eyes will be brighter. Your face will light up. Take the time to look up at the sky a lot this summer. Envision God, the creator of all living things, watching down upon you, sending his loving light. Let God’s love and light fill you up each day.
It sounds trite, but if everyone operated from a true peaceful state, we’d live in bliss. But human hearts are flawed, and when left unattended, lacking a true and real anchor, souls are tossed to and fro by the latest social and religious ideologies. Confusion sets in. Lives end up shattered because of an absence of sound Godly wisdom.
What anchors your soul? Is its foundation built on solid rock or shifting sands? Can you honestly say you maintain a state of peace amidst all circumstances? Most cannot. I encourage you this summer season to explore the source of true peace, God. Not the world’s definition of God, but the One who made you. The One who tugs at your soul every now and then. He is pursuing you. God is the source of peace that is true and stands the test of time and circumstances. Please reach out if you need encouragement or prayer at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love you.
Genevieve Schmitt is an award-winning journalist who started her career in television news, then transitioned to the entertainment, and then motorcycling industries. She can be found at GenevieveSchmitt.com.