I’ve always been intrigued by the imagery that is associated with the God Shaped Hole philosophy. I think most people are interested in the idea, which helped spawn books and songs that cover the topic. The philosophy in summary form is pretty simple. Inside each of us there is a space that only God can fill and until we fill that space with God we will always feel a sense of emptiness. In reading the first chapter of Romans I really see this spelled out. You can read it in Romans 1:18-32 (<— hover your mouse over the passage), but I’ll summarize:
- God’s invisible qualities are evident
- People ignored God and decided to turn to sin
- God turned them over to their own desires
- They spiraled into sin and decay, choosing to fill the God Shaped Hole with something other than God.
So the God Shaped Hole philosophy is bigger than just the idea of longing for God, it also includes the idea that filling it with something other than God will lead to a downward spiral as your attempts to self-medicate the emptiness are unsuccessful. I’ve always thought that this longing created by absence of God was simply that: an absence or emptiness. I thought it was like a hunger pain that rattles your body when your stomach is empty. I’ve recently changed my mind on that.
In preparing for my sermon on Worship this Sunday, I came across a more powerful and serious cause for the issue. It isn’t a passive absence but rather an active and intense mourning. Let me try and explain in a way that doesn’t create too much confusion. If you end up confused, at least there’s a cool image on this entry. 🙂
In actuality, the God Shaped Hole is caused by idolatry. There is only one who is worthy of worship, and that is God. When we chose to worship things other than God, be it sex, drugs, alcohol, television, facebook, etc., we are practicing idolatry. Since it is true that we will become like what we worship (Matthew 6:21, for instance), and since anything other than God is empty, we inevitably become empty as time goes on, which creates the foundation for the longing of the God Shaped Hole.
But wait, there’s more…
Because we are created in the image of God, being in community with God is a natural part of what it means to be human. We experience this community through praise and worship. In a really strange way, worshipping God makes us more human since part of our humanity is to worship him. When we worship, we grow to be like God because that’s what we were designed to do. Since we can only fulfill our purpose of creation when we worship, when we worship we discover what it truly means to be alive.
Because we become like what we worship, and because part of our humanity is bearing the image of God, when we practice idolatry by worshipping things other God we actually devolve as human beings. Our momentary fulfillment is replaced with an ever increasing emptiness as we become less human than we were designed to be. The part of our humanity that dies is the part that reflects the image of God and that lives in community with Him. As this happens, we experience a deep longing to be reunited with our Creator.
Maybe the difference that I’m talking about is merely semantic, but it is significant to realized that the God Shaped Hole that we seek to fill with idolatry is not simply a spiritual hunger pain. It is the part of us that is wired for God, the part that bears His image, that is groaning from the separation between creator and creation. Like a child forcibly separated from its parent, our souls are screaming out in panic as the distance between Source and reflection grows greater. This is no growling belly that can be satiated with a few crackers, but rather is a void that transcends the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. Thus the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27).
Think about this the next time you’re experiencing your typical temptation of choice. The next time you crave ‘just one more’ drink, the quick glimpse at pornography, the extra large bowl of ice cream, or even the urge to lash out at people verbally or physically. The desire you feel the need to self-medicate is really your soul crying out for a time of worship. Your choice to worship instead of drinking water that will only make you thirsty again (John 4:1-26) will feed your soul and will satisfy you more than any idol you choose to worship. In this way, you will redeem your humanity and the image of God you were designed to bear.