“I travel so I’m better than you.” “How could you stay put while there’s so much of the world to see?”
“I’m tired of where I am, I want something new.”
“Everyone else is having an adventure— but I’m still here."
Perhaps some these quotes seem a bit extreme, but in subtler, quieter tones, don’t we hear this from people all around us? I’m captivated by a rising culture that is so obsessed with leaving, transitioning, and “going” that it fails to give justice to the courageous, committed, “stay-ers.” I’m intrigued. You’ve got my attention. Because somehow I’ve been grouped with this realm of pack-up-and-leave-ers. Indeed, people often assume I have a strong nomadic philosophy. I know this because of how often I am asked to speak about traveling, why it’s important, and how we all need to do it. But frankly, I don’t have an extreme conviction about what it means to travel. Don't get me wrong, I think it’s important and necessary to be aware and celebratory of the cultures our world is blessed with, and yes, I encourage everyone to have experiences outside of the comfort they’ve been raised in—I’m a travel bug myself, I advocate for new adventures, and I adore my purple suitcase. But when it comes down to the core of what I do and the fabric of my being— my desire to travel, leave, or “go” is not what fuels me. I've been traveling without a consistent home base for two years—when weeks are lonely, flights are long, and performances are draining, my travel-bug instincts are not enough to keep me going.
My fuel, and my reason, is simply—and only—my desire to obey.
I have no traveler’s theology. I have only a theology of obedience.
"But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." - 2 Timothy 4:5
Currently, the Lord has opened the doors for me to have a challenging but fruitful ministry as a nomadic speaker. He has called me to this, this way, for now. That’s why I do it. He said to. “Sometimes God says, ‘Go.’ Sometimes God says, ‘Stay.’ Both require courage, and both require for our pride to get out of the way.” This quote from a teaching I did at a college last year has stayed with me, and remains a part of my DNA. I am currently in constant transition. I currently do not have a conventional day-job. I am monthly, weekly, and daily told to “Go.” So I obey. However, the moment God says, “Stay,” I’ll be happy to obey Him then too. I am not a traveler. I am a servant of the King.
In John Acuff’s book Quitter, Acuff recognizes our current culture’s tension and comments, “At some point we stopped being stayers and formed a long line of leavers. We started seeing motion as a sign of success and transition as sign of progress.” He points out how obsessed we are with those who quit their day jobs and venture off to the unknown, and later urges readers to be “done with other people’s definition of success.” Acuff is quick to unveil what I think is hard for a lot of us to be honest about— perhaps we have success all wrong. Perhaps one’s success cannot be compared to another’s. Perhaps success is different for everyone.
Surely, being exactly where God has directed us is, in fact, success.
The woman obeying her call to spend her days at home to raise her kids to be loving, Godly children—she is a success. The man obeying his call to work the night shifts as a prison guard to be available for the inmates and his co-workers as a man of compassion & wise counsel—he is a success. The girl who is nomadically living out of a suitcase to tell the story of Christ through poetry— if she is being obedient, she is a success. If we compare our callings one to another, are we not telling God that His desire for our own lives might be insufficient? We must allow God’s direction to be our standard, and not the ever-changing opinions of our peers, culture, and world.
Above all else, we need a theology of obedience—the humility & courage to put our agendas and our desires second, and do whatever it takes to "fully carry out the ministry God has given you."Sometimes we need to pack up our suitcases, leave comfort behind, and uproot. Sometimes we need to unpack, grow where we’re planted, and invest in a specific community.
Sometimes, it’s “Go.” Sometimes, it’s “Stay.”
But if I’ve read the Gospel correctly, then for each of us, the call is always, “Obey.”