Thursday, May 14, 2015

The "God-Shaped Hole"

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Growing up in the church, I always heard that every person had a "God-shaped hole" and that we were always looking to fill it. I was taught that we tried to fill it with material things, romantic relationships, drugs & alcohol, money, whatever, but that really only God could fill that empty space. We can only be whole, healthy and happy when we let God fill us up.

And I still believe this is true to some extent. But if I'm really honest, God alone doesn't always fill my "God-shaped hole."  And it hasn't always felt safe to share that with people of faith.

You see, when I admit that God alone doesn't fill me up and make my life complete it feels like a failure. Maybe my faith isn't strong enough. I must be doing something wrong. I was never taught what to do if God alone wasn't enough for me.  Maybe, I thought, I shouldn't admit that in church, especially since my husband's a pastor. For a long time, I didn't feel like I could be truly myself in a faith setting - I had too many different ideas, my experiences didn't always line up with what I thought everyone else was saying. I couldn't honestly say that God alone was enough.

I honestly regret all the years I kept silent in church. I wish I had been a bit braver then. We are all figuring out our own journeys of faith, and I am certain I'm not alone when I feel like I don't always fit in with people of faith, or that my faith experience doesn't match the mainstream.

This week, I had coffee with a friend who is working to get out of homelessness. And we were talking about God. He loves God. And he has 15 years clean & sober. But he says his faith doesn't quite make him happy and whole and make his life complete. "I need a network," he says, "I need good positive people in my life who love me."

My friend told me how God alone doesn't fill him up, but that he has found that God gives him some incredible ways to fill in the gaps: service work through NA, having positive, supportive people in his life.  So basically, loving others and being loved by others.

I started writing a blog post earlier this week and I actually wrote the words, "I have everything I could possibly want. Sometimes I don't know how I got the amazing life I have." And then something we had been really hoping and praying for didn't work out. We got some really disappointing news. And I let it ruin two days for me. I needed to sulk and be disappointed.  I cried and yelled at the kids over nothing.  And in those two days, God alone didn't fill up that "God-shaped hole."

But then I started reaching out to friends and to my husband. I was reminded of the ways I see my friends love each other and our community. I have some fun projects to do for a friend this weekend who is going through a tough time.  And I started to fill up again.

I'm reading the book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (if you are a Bible-reader, this is a wonderful book!).  One of the things the author, Scot McKnight, says is that no matter how we interpret all the intricacies of the Bible, the one thing our study of the Bible should do is make us love others. Wow. No matter what we agree or disagree on over all the things the Bible could possibly say, the one mega-story, the way the Bible should change us most is that it makes us love others. The point of the Gospel isn't just that individuals are reconciled back to God... the point is that we are all reconciled back to God AND to each other.  Being part of the redemption story means connecting to others.  It's not just about me & God. It's about me, God, and all the people God loves.

So maybe it's okay that, for me, God alone doesn't entirely fill up that hole.  Maybe it's not supposed to work that day. The gospel changes my life because it creates in me a desire to reach out and love others (and let myself be loved by others) in order to be healthy and whole. I don't always get to know what the next step is and my family has sacrificed a good bit of security in order to live out our faith the way we think we need to.  But of this I'm certain: I'm not lacking faith... I'm finding it.

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