the idol & the God-shaped hole

Some of us have heard it. “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us that only God can fill.”

Have you ever asked yourself: “Am I missing something? What need, want, desire, desperation, obsession, is being triggered, revealed?” 

We are unsettled by what is not even real. An idol isn’t real; it’s a false image and imagination, a manipulated perspective. An idol promises what it can never deliver—happiness and wholeness, fulfillment and completion. When we can control the idol, we receive a semblance of what’s promised, but only temporarily. When we can’t control the idol, it may drive us mad if it remains out of our reach. If it isn’t real, it can’t deliver. It can’t make good on its promises.

The answer? Learning to live without the idol and to live within the lack and incompletion, to live out our broken human reality which the idol promises to fix but cannot. Distract us for a moment, perhaps, but just a moment. Even our idea of God is an idol if we believe it will make it all go away and make everything okay. It won’t. Nothing will. 

What if the so-called “God-shaped hole” is God-given. An inherent part of being and living as a human. Not meant to be fixed or filled but lived and met within. Something that moves us to keep searching. Yes, many of us arrive in the wrong places in our search, expecting wholeness where it cannot be found. Even in religion. Dare I say even in God. Perhaps we stop looking for a destination and embrace the search itself. We allow God into the emptiness instead of expecting him to remove it from us or us from it. As the mostly empty space of the universe is mysterious dark matter, what if our lack and emptiness is what holds it all together in some mysterious way also. What if it contains God, is a part of God himself? What if it’s not an aberration but the way it’s meant to be?

What if the emptiness of the so-called God-shaped hole is not an indication of being without or apart from God, but instead intended, God-given. An inherent part of being and living as a human. What if this is true and gives us permission to stop fighting the lack and incompletion we will inevitably feel for the rest of our lives. What if instead of trying to escape it we embrace and live within it. What if there is a depth of God’s love and goodness we can find nowhere else except here in our fragile, broken humanity. What if we forsake the false idols that promise freedom masked as false fulfillment. The false idols and their offerings aren’t real, merely empty promises. The true God isn’t an idol and won’t promise what can never be. He doesn’t promise full deliverance or freedom on earth, nor worldly peace. He promises presence in the midst of and within it all. This alone is our peace. Not in being taken out of the hard spaces of our world, but being met within them. The only peace we need is in knowing we’re not alone, whatever the circumstances or season, whether anything ever changes or not, even if personal hardships never get easier and certain suffering never goes away; even if nothing, not even God himself, ever fixes us. 

Our peace is not being taken out of, but being met within.

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