Without a doubt, there is no question that I am most definitely, most assuredly, a nerd. A quick glance around my room and one would find it littered with books of every kind imaginable from things like classic fiction, to spiritual growth, to cat behavioral management.
One of my favorite categories of nerdom is physics, and in particular, theoretical physics. Right now I’m rereading one of my favorite books in this field, A Brief History of Time, by world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Needless to say, reading this yields many moments of pure nerd-out nirvana as Hawking explains things so brilliantly and seamlessly.
Due to reading this again, it’s got me thinking about physics even more than my normal level of nerdiness would lead to. As such, God decided he wanted to use that to teach me a spiritual principle through the lens of physics.
One morning, I found myself ruminating on the principle of inertia. In physics, inertia is defined as:
a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force
Or another way to say that is: objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion in the same direction and speed in which they are heading unless acted upon by some external force.
It then made me think about how in every instance, to overcome inertia, it takes applying energy to the object in question. So to pick up a heavy box at rest, it takes applying energy to get it moving. Likewise, when you’re walking your dog and it finds the random poop of some other animal it wants to eat, it takes applying energy to pull on it’s leash to change the direction of the dog from its present course of a poop snack.
Later that day, I heard a great sermon about hearing the voice of God and the pastor listed four important principles for doing that:
Write it down
It struck me how the principle of inertia was playing into the difficulty of doing every single one of these!
With stopping, it takes energy to stop what we’re doing and sit still, even for a minute because an object in motion will tend to stay in motion in the same speed and direction it is heading unless acted upon by some external force. It’s so much easier to have constant activity going on, or to rush into making a decision without praying or asking God about it, or to follow the same ingrained patterns of behavior. However, to hear from God, it requires applying energy to overcome the inertia of all that motion in order to stop.
With looking, it likewise takes energy to look around and pay attention to the details God may be speaking. Does a particular image keep coming to mind for you over and over again? Or how about a particular person? Is that perhaps someone you need to pray for or have an important conversation with? Does a particular verse or concept seem to keep coming up through multiple different sources? For example, if for the third time this week you’ve gotten into a conversation where someone talks about hope, it could be that God wants to speak to you about hope.
With listening, it likewise takes energy to listen because so often we’re not even interested in doing it. We often get so caught up with our own agenda and our own plans that we simply neglect it. However, to sit with God in a posture of listening, perhaps after asking a question or two of him, takes energy to not go rushing off in hurry back to the slavery of “being productive”.
Lastly, when we do hear from God in some way, it takes even more energy to write it down. In fact, the reason we even have The Bible is because people overcame inertia to take the energy to write down their experiences with God. In a similar way, keeping a prayer journal can be incredibly impactful. If God tells you something that really moves you, it may be very fresh on your mind the day it happens. However, two months later, you might have totally forgotten about it so having it written down can be a great reminder of what God has done in your life.
For me personally, all of this really hit home because there was an area of my life where I saw that a lot of inertia had crept in. I used to get up at 7 am every day and spend the first hour, from 7 am – 8 am just listening to God and writing down whatever he would tell me or bring to mind. However, over the past year and half, that has become increasingly more rare to almost non-existent. Now I usually don’t get up and start my day until 8:15 am, absent of all that time I used to spend listening to God. As the principle of inertia states, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and that sure does describe me in the mornings. It takes a lot of energy to get me out of bed and doing something early in the morning.
However, what I am finding is that things of great value often require great expenditures of energy and overcoming significant inertia. Take for instance Jesus choosing to die for all of humanity. Being separated from God the Father, whom he has had perfect unbroken relationship with for all eternity, would be excruciatingly painful and lonely. Not to mention enduring the wrath of God poured out on him for the sin of every person in all of history. That doesn’t sound like a fun day.
Yet, Jesus still overcame all the inertia that would keep him from suffering all this. This leads to another question, how did he do that? In Hebrews 12:2 it says “For the joy set before him he endured the cross”. What joy was that? The joy of having all his children reconciled back into relationship with God as it was intended to be. The joy of having his bride, the church (which is all of us) washed pure of all sin and having eternal, unbroken, beautiful relationship with God again.
In other words, the way to overcome inertia is to recognize that the energy expended to overcome that inertia is worth what one will get by doing it. That’s what Jesus thought about us – that we were worth expending the energy to overcome all the inertia around the suffering he would have to endure.
Given all this, where has inertia crept into your life? Perhaps like me you have struggled to take time to listen to God or do some other important spiritual practice (like prayer, reading scripture, listening to teaching, seeking conversations with wise people, etc) and found your relationship with him suffering. What once used to be so robust feels much more distant, yet you haven’t been willing to expend the energy to overcome the inertia of some of those patterns of behavior since an object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction and speed in which it is heading unless acted upon by some external force. Perhaps you find yourself struggling to stick to a diet or exercise plan (or even make one) because of long standing patterns of behavior. It’s so much easier to just stick to your present course, but would take expending a lot of energy to change the inertia that’s built up in your current habits.. Perhaps there is a dream or idea you’ve been wanting to do for a long time but you keep setting it aside. It’s much easier to keep things as they are in the present state of inertia because it would require so much energy to pursue it. Perhaps there’s a difficult conversation you need to have with someone. Perhaps you need to confront someone about something or tell someone something about yourself that you’ve been hiding for a long time. It’s so much easier to do nothing because it would take a lot of energy to overcome the inertia created by the fear of what could go wrong. Perhaps there is an issue in your life you know you need to seek counseling about. Maybe you crave the approval of others in an unhealthy way, or maybe you always blow up when someone does a specific thing that you know is connected to that wounding from your past, or maybe you have something in your life that you know has become an addiction but you just don’t want to admit it. Tremendous inertia has built up there as it would take a huge expenditure of energy to seek help.
However, maybe it’s time to get some things that have been at rest into motion. Maybe it’s time to change the direction of some of the things in your life that have been heading down the same path for a long time. While it would undoubtedly take a large expenditures of energy to overcome the inertia, as with most important things in life, it seems that those expenditures, however, are worth it.