The God-shaped hole is not in your head

In the past couple of decades, it’s been common to hear the phrase “God-shaped hole” used to refer to our deep-seated need to be in some kind of communion with our creator, or at the very least, to “rest” in some sort of minimal knowledge or assurance of the divine. Even those who do not fear God acknowledges this hole as a natural psychological need of human-kind.

The phrase has been around for a long time, though it was more often referred to as the God-shaped void in previous centuries. Pascal called it a God-shaped vacuum and located the empty space in our “hearts”, which is more accurate than locating it in our heads. The idea goes all the way back to Augustine though and he uses the word “know” to describe what we do with God. We know him. But again, here we are subject to our contemporary vernacular where “knowing” something mostly takes place in your brain. This notion should not be so fully read back into history. When we know God, the desires of our heart change more than the articulated propositions of our mind. The first is better evidence of His presence than a wealth of the second.

As Augustine put it, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This is not a matter of intellect; Augustine doesn’t focus on the fact that we don’t “know” God. The problem here isn’t ignorance or skepticism. At issue is a kind of in-the-bones angst and restlessness that finds its resolution in “rest” – when our precognitive desire settles, finally, on its proper end (the end for which it was made), rather than being constantly frustrated by objects of desire that don’t return our love (idols).

-James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p.77

Incidentally, “Being constantly frustrated by objects of desire that don’t return out love” is probably the best definition of “idol worship” I’ve ever heard.