How to Steady Yourself in the Age of Compulsive Mobility

How to Steady Yourself in the Age of Compulsive Mobility

We love to be on the move. Movement, activity, journey — Western society is a society on the go. Anthony Esolen calls it the "compulsion of perpetual mobility" in his recent Touchstone article, "God's Place and Ours: On Mutability and the Lost Virtue of Steadfastness." Pilgrimage has deep roots in the soul of Western humanity, he explains. But the problem now is that it's a pilgrimage detached from an end. A journey without a destination.

Esolen writes,

We praise ourselves for our mobility, meaning that we can move, without noticing that without any sense of ultimate meaning, without any Person to whom we grant ultimate allegiance even in the smallest acts of our everyday lives, we must move. We are under compulsion of perpetual mobility precisely because, without God, to settle means to acknowledge defeat, and to rest means to die within. (27)

So we love journey for the thrill, not where it's taking us. We are here and there and back to here, so wrapped up in what's happening that we've made tomorrow colorless. We've bleached our future with an indulgence in present busyness. I mean, let's face it: we would prefer to thumb through our Twitter feed than give two solid minutes to imagining the new Jerusalem. And that ain't right.

It's movement without a destination that Esolen says has eroded the virtue of steadfastness. Because we've forgotten where we're going we can't be steadfast where we are. We'd rather just change than devote ourselves to "this place, this work, this spouse, this land."

But this so contrary to the church's character we find in Scripture. Read Hebrews. These saints who have gone before us, whose faith we're called to model, sought a homeland. They desired a better country. They looked to the city that is to come. The picture of their faith brings us back to reality. It points us to God. He is a God who can be trusted. A God who cannot lie. A God who does not change. A God who is the designer and builder of a new creation — a new creation we hope in simply because this God is its designer and builder.

The verdict is settled on this one: looking towards our future home affects how we live now. It exudes a staying power. Knowing that we have a better possession and an abiding one launches us into radical ministry here. The incomparable glory that is to come gives us perseverance in our sufferings here. And this is what boggles the world's mind. You want to take my property? Fine. You want to take my life? Death is gain. The blaze of this steadfastness is fueled by the air of a better country, that is, a heavenly one.

So "be steadfast, immovable," Paul tells us. Stick to it. Abound in your work. Gaze upon what is to come, and hold fast today.

But don't do it as an attempt to recover a slipping virtue. There's a better motive: namely, God.

It's that God is the same, and God is enough. The joy of his Revelation 22:4-presence is a joy that has broken into our lives now. Jesus has suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, now. Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus, now. Indeed, we have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, now.

The main continuity between this world and the next — the continuity that makes us steadfast — is joy in God. Though one day sin will be gone, and all things made new, God will never be more our God than he is right now in Jesus. He is our Father, our Dad. We call him that now and we will call him that then. And he is enough, so much enough for us. He is. The fullness of his name will satisfy our hearts with a pleasure that mutes the tyranny of compulsive mobility. And therefore, we've calmed and quieted our souls. We've been weaned from all the movement. We know how to stay because we know where we're going. The God there is the God here.

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .