How the Theology of Entropy Gave Me a New Way of Looking at Housework

I’ve been telling people lately that cleaning is not my spiritual gift.  Most people laugh, either in pity or sympathy, but one person helpfully pointed out that cleaning isn’t a spiritual gift listed in scripture.  That person didn’t know me very well.  That’s one of the hard parts about moving.

But I digress.

I’ve blogged a lot about my battle with housework and learning to be tidy to the glory of God.  I keep blogging about it, because I keep struggling with it.  I’m making baby steps (or the Lord is making baby steps in me) and things are better now than they were before the mackerdoodle was born.  Usually.

But even on the good days, I find myself resenting the continual return of disorder in my home.  Tuesday my house looked fine.  We had a friend join us for lunch and while he certainly didn’t ask me if Martha Stewart had staged my home, he also didn’t check to see if his tetanus shot was current.  Less than 24 hours later, there were dirty dishes, the floor needed to be mopped (again), and the hot spots could be seen from space.  That just ticks me RIGHT OFF!  I like to accomplish a task and move on.  I can’t do that with housework.  I get the kitchen clean, go to clean the toilet and come back to find crumbs on the kitchen counter and dishes in the sink.  It’s sisyphean.

As I was mopping the floor (again) this week I began to contemplate entropy – the scientific concept that things move from order to disorder – as my mental response to an article about theistic evolution.  It was completely unrelated to the chore I was completing at the time, but as I thought through the abstract concepts of entropy, I realized my home was an example of entropy in action.  If left to itself it proceeds from order to disorder and can only be returned to order with an expenditure of energy.  At that realization, the abstract ideas bouncing around in my brain began to have  a concrete application.

The puritans considered entropy a result of the fall of man.  A large part of their theology said that God’s command to subdue the earth was a command to restore order from chaos; to continually expend the energy required to fight the effects of sin on creation.  For this reason they considered tradesmen to have a high calling from the Lord, because when a cooper repaired a barrel or a plumber repaired plumbing or a blacksmith repaired a broken plow, those men were redeeming creation from the fall.  This was also applied to the calling of women in their homes.  Men fight entropy outside of their homes, and women do it inside.

That puts housework into a completely different category for me.  The reason the Lord commands us to be busy at home, is because it is one of the ways we fight the effect of sin.  Housework is more than an inconvenience, it’s a direct assault on the powers of this world.  It’s not mopping, it’s spiritual warfare!

So sometimes I’m too tired to mop and that won’t change when I see it as exercising dominion, but the days I feel like all I do is put things away, it helps to think of that in spiritual terms.  It also helps me to see teaching my children to pick up after themselves as a part of training them in righteousness.

Anyway, if I happen to mention that I’m about to engage the enemy and exercise dominion in the toy room, I’m not talking about disciplining my kids, it’s just time to tidy up – probably because guests are coming.


About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

5 responses to “How the Theology of Entropy Gave Me a New Way of Looking at Housework

  • suzanne

    Love it! This was a great post to read. I struggle with this daily. I have a *really* hard time with cleaning and cleaning and cleaning…only to have it get dirty all over again the next day (or multiple times the same day) and then have to start the process over. (I’m particularly bugged by the kitchen because the process repeats itself so darn quickly!) So, thanks for posting it. It will help to think back on this a lot this upcoming school year when I’m back to being a full time SAHM. (Entropy, by the way, is one of the many reasons I couldn’t be an atheist. Look around and you’ll see proof of entropy everywhere, so I don’t know how anyone can believe that this wonderfully beautiful, creative, intricate world just poofed together out of chaos.)

  • Corinna

    Well said. I have been exercising dominion for a full two days now and yes, company is coming! 😉 I found it particularly helpful to be reminded that there are other women fighting this battle every day in their homes too.

  • Becky

    I LOVE that – engage the enemy. Laughed outloud again. The Martha Stewart/Tetanus thing still makes me snort a bit. AND thanks for the good perspective!

  • Angela

    Hey, let me recommend a YA series I think you would like that deals with the idea of entropy. It’s the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, starting with So You Want to Be a Wizard. It’s fascinating to me how closely her universe mirrors the truth of the gospel while completely missing the point. The author is about the farthest a person can be from a fundamental Christian, and yet her themes of sacrifice and redemption are so indicative of biblical truth. 🙂 Anyway, I think you’d like them.

  • Kacie

    Thanks for sharing this post Coralie! I’ve been noodling on it for several days, as I too struggle with house cleaning. It helped to know that others out there struggle with the never ending nature of cleaning house, and I enjoyed your biblical perspective on the topic. I’m happy to say I exercised some serious dominion over the encroaching entropy in my kitchen today, and I was able to do so with far less grumbling and frustration than normal. 🙂

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