This Entropic Motel
I may be the worst sleeper on earth. I vividly remember how my relatively late 10:15 p.m. childhood bedtime was still far too early for little night owl Danny. I would spend hours in my room playing with Legos, listening to books on cassette tape, and sometimes tucking my long-suffering dog, Mozart (lovingly referred to as ‘Mutt-zart’), into my bed and dabbing his wet, runny nose with tissues because I, ever the nurturer, thought it meant he had a wee touch of the flu. Turns out dogs just have wet noses. Go figure.
In adulthood, I’m maybe a worse sleeper than ever before. Without a forced bedtime, I unintentionally stay up all hours of the night. Case in point: I started writing this post at 4:15 a.m. because I got the idea while laying in bed with insomnia. If I didn’t put concentrated effort into my adult sleep schedule, it would easily slide hours later every day until I kept a vampyric schedule, sleeping in the coffin of my dark room all day and waking all night. (The irony is not lost on me that I was tired last week because I was up late reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I guess you are what read.) I wish I wasn’t this way.
Can you relate? (Please don’t use this as an opportunity to tell me that you fall asleep at 7:00 p.m. when your head hits the pillow because it might tempt me to smother you with my crisp, unused pillow.) I know this is a first world problem, but I use it as a small example to represent the larger pattern of earthly life that’s rife with things that don’t work like they should.
Even in our comfortable American context, it’s impossible to keep anything perfect. The house keeps getting messier, my beard grows unevenly, no matter how early I leave I’m always late, and none of our technology works as well as it is supposed to. Seriously, try to get everything on your car working for a month straight.
It turns out that these frustrations are actually scientifically noted. There’s a fun little law that scientists call “entropy” that talks about how things get worse, not better. It’s derived from the second law of thermodynamics, which I won’t even pretend to understand, but the simple takeaway is that things naturally get less ordered over time. Food rots, we get older and more decrepit, plants grow through and break up our carefully poured concrete, and everything is a marching spiral back into the greedily sucking maw of advancing chaos. I’ve written about a variant of this idea before, but my point here is a little different.
When God cursed the earth, He had numerous purposes. One of them was so that we would get frustrated and turn to Him. The discouraging impermanence, the brittle happiness, the desires that we can never seem to quite fulfill—all these things lift our heads from ourselves to look for a better place.
As C.S. Lewis famously put it, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Entropy glorifies God by dissatisfying us until we seek something better; it drives us to seek the reality we know is supposed to be. It reveals God as the only perfection, the only ideal, the truest reality, and the only One who can fill our longing for permanence and perfection. He is what is supposed to be.
So don’t search for perfection in this world because you’ll never find it. It’s why creation groans in anticipation of Christ’s return and the end of its decay (Romans 8:21,22). While there are pleasures here and God “refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns,” He “will not encourage us to mistake them for home” (The Problem of Pain, 110). At best, this world is a nap in a pleasant cottage; at worst it’s lonely insomnia in a seedy, dirty, side-of-the-road motel. Either way, relax. Check-out time is coming.
These are the realizations that drove the great saints of old. Great names like Abraham, Noah, and Moses—all of them chased God because they sought something better. They acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth, and their actions in faith made “clear that they [were] seeking a homeland” (Hebrews 11:13). Even though they “had the opportunity to return” to their earthly home, their minds were set on “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (11:16).
Like them, we’re supposed to ache for something better. When people seek God’s kingdom as their homeland rather than this world, God is “not ashamed to be called their God” and they become people “of whom the world is not worthy” (11:38). And, most beautifully, for people who give up this world, God “has prepared for them a city” (11:16).
When perfection and order elude you once again, when things don’t go how you wanted them to go, when your house is a mess and your rapidly aging face is drooping in unfortunate new ways, when your kids are screaming and the dog is pooping on the new carpet, try to grasp at this perspective.
Glorify Him in acknowledging He is better than all of this. When you get frustrated with this world, take solace in the hope that it’s because God loves you too much to let you settle for something less than himself. Set your eyes on His city, aim for the better homeland, and find what you’ve been looking for all along.
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Danny Nathan grew up at Grace participating in the music and worship ministry. He’s currently a worship leader, leading people into worship in a variety of venues, including our modern worship service and student ministry gatherings. Danny is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in English. In June 2016, Danny married his high school sweetheart Alli.