Elizabeth couldn’t take it anymore. She opened the front door and escaped to the porch steps for some fresh air. Tears threatened to escape. Her heart was drowning in sadness and despair. “How can people be so cruel?” Elizabeth wondered. “Why is there so much bad stuff going on in the world today?”
Natural disasters were ripping through homes and lives; leaving families displaced and drowning in desolation. The atrocities of war in countries far from her were mounting in intensity and horridness and a battle of a whole different kind was in full force in her own country. At home and around the world, children and families were starving, and not just for food. Women were continuously abused and men were always finding a reason to keep killing each other. And on top of all that were all the personal trials she knew her friends and family had to endure. She thought of her friends that carried the everlasting pain of losing a child or those who suffered the anguish of infertility. There were so many who were sick and dying…
One friend in particular had recently received a horrible blow when his wife convinced herself that John didn’t love her anymore and so she had a baby with another man who she now lives with instead of the husband she vowed to love, honor, and cherish for the rest of their lives. Elizabeth and her family had grown close with these friends, John’s wife had become like a sister to her. Emily and Thomas looked at her like an aunt and were always excited to see her and Henry had just started saying her name. But she would probably never hear it now nor would Elizabeth and her family ever get to meet her baby. As much as it pained her to lose this friend and see her for who she really was, Elizabeth’s heart ached more for John. He knew he was not perfect and neither had their marriage been either but even though he had been shocked by betrayal and broken by his wife’s infidelity, he had been willing to fight for their love and their marriage, even if it meant being a father to a child that was not his. But his wife wouldn’t accept it and now he had to find a way to mourn his marriage and somehow go on with his life.
Elizabeth shook her head in dismay and confusion. She knew that the world was not all bad and that while people were capable of inflicting great pain onto others they were also capable of incredible acts of love. Still, today her heart was heavy and she was being dragged down by it all.
Just then, Emily bounded out the door and Elizabeth quickly wiped away the tears that had trickled down her face and tried to regain her composure. She took a deep breath and mustered up a weak smile. She watched her sprightly girl skip and jump around in the front yard for a while before she ran over and joined her mama on the porch steps and wrapped her dangly arms around her. Elizabeth tried to act normal but Emily was too perceptive and asked what was wrong. Elizabeth looked down at her beautiful daughter and into her big brown eyes. She was a girl full of life whose smile and freckles could light up any dark room and melt a heart of stone. Elizabeth wanted to protect her and keep her innocent and blissful forever. As her mother, she hoped no one would ever hurt her, physically or emotionally. But realistically, she knew no matter how hard she tried, she’d never be able to protect her from everything, even if she kept her locked up in a tall tower the rest of her life Emily would know suffering as it was an inescapable part of this world and eventually Emily too would be tempted to take a bite into the apple from the tree.
Elizabeth ran her fingers through Emily’s hair pensively and then sighed. “Oh I’m ok, honey. I’m just feeling a little sad because of the bad choices some people make that end up hurting others.” Emily’s eyes fell so Elizabeth quickly added, “But I’ll try not to stay sad too long and just pray for them instead.” This seemed to satisfy Emily enough and she got back up and started dancing around the yard again. Then she came back over and randomly started singing the words on their garden plaque from the Prayer of St. Francis.
The despair in Elizabeth’s heart released its tight grip as she listened to her daughter sing the words full of wisdom. St. Francis knew the answer to all the woes of the world was simply peace, not the world’s peace but the Peace of Christ. Feeling sad and angry were normal and natural emotions when confronted with trials and injustices. Nevertheless falling into despair and letting worry consume her would not bring Elizabeth or anyone around her any peace. This reminded her of the closing prayer in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
Emily stopped singing and sat still for a little bit and then looked at her mama inquisitively. “Mama, what is peace, anyway?” Elizabeth thought for a little bit before answering clumsily, “Well, it’s hmmm, it’s when there is no fighting or arguing…no, it’s more like…like if someone is in the eye of a hurricane.” Emily still looked puzzled. So Elizabeth thought a bit more. “Emily, peace is a gift from God that we receive when we give him our whole trust, when we surrender everything to him, even the hard things in our lives, and just trust.” Elizabeth saw the wheels turning in her little head. Her little girl was after all at the “age of reason” and had begun the transition from pure innocence to a fuller knowledge and responsibility of her life and of those around her.
Elizabeth sensed Emily’s inner discomfort at the thought of life being difficult, even with God’s gift of peace. “Emily, life is beautiful. The world God made for us is beautiful and we, people, are his greatest masterpiece. But he also gave us another little gift called “free will” which lets us decide if we will do something good or bad. He wants us to make good choices but knows we will sometimes make the wrong ones. And this is what makes life hard sometimes.” Emily understood and Elizabeth continued a bit further to drive back the conversation to peace.
“I like to think of it kind of like running a race, like when we were running together at that road race the other day, remember?” Emily nodded. “Well it wasn’t always easy; we got tired and our legs ached but we had to keep going if we wanted to get back to the finish line and be done. The other people running with us helped keep us going and those who were watching and clapping for us were like the saints in heaven who had already run the race and finished and now were helping us get there. And, even though we don’t see Jesus like we see each other, he is right here with us, running this race of life right along with us, even when it hurts and we have to just keep on going, he is here. And this gives us peace to keep going even when it’s not fun or easy.”
Emily seemed satisfied with this answer now. She rested her head on her mama’s arm and they sat there quietly for a moment digesting their conversation and feeling Christ’s peace seep into their souls. The sound of crying and screaming from inside the house broke the silence. Elizabeth planted a gentle kiss on Emily’s head, took a deep breath and then stepped back into the warzone inside to see what mischief Henry and Thomas had gotten themselves into now. Emily whizzed by her and returned to her book on the couch. Elizabeth smiled, knowing God had thrown her a lifeline and message of peace to her in that moment with her daughter. “The moment was over but the blessing was eternal.”