Saturday 4th April 2020

Day 39   A God-Shaped Hole

I am currently reading a book of daily reflections by the Franciscan, Richard Rohr. In one of those reflections he writes about a “God-Shaped hole” that is inside each and every one of us that can only be satisfied by God, but that we try to fill, unsuccessfully, in so many different ways. We have an inner thirst that we try and quench in a variety of ways that will simply not satisfy it. “Thou hast made us for Thyself”, wrote St. Augustine, “and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

The Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton, also wrote of this hole, which he often called a void, that we have to find the strength and courage to enter or leap into and trust that God will catch us. It is impossible to define or truly comprehend God, and to fully enter into God’s Presence is literally a leap of faith; a leap into the unknown, into holy mystery. Rather than do that it is very tempting to try and fill the hole, the yearning, with other material things.

I imagine that we will all have our own unique personal experience of this “God-Shaped hole”, this yearning, this part of us that will always feel unfulfilled. But it is an important part of our life, it is what keeps us longing for a true experience of God, of love, of the holy. The 17th century priest and poet, George Herbert, in his poem “The Pulley” called it “a repining restlessness”; a yearning planted in us by God so that we would never be wholly satisfied with the gifts themselves, but only by the Giver of gifts.

I feel this yearning in life regularly, but I am never sure quite how I am to enter this “God-Shaped hole” or how to allow God to fill it. It is, of course, this longing that calls us to go on seeking union with God’s Presence and not to feel smug by thinking we have made it. The longing calls us to continually open ourselves to God, and to trust God with the process of our lives.

For me, praying my mantra, and trusting God’s Presence in whatever life brings my way seems to be about the best that I can do. The mantra itself is not the answer, but it is a means to keep the door of the heart open, and waiting patiently on God; on God’s grace and love to gradually draw us in.


There’s this hole thing
In my life
I’ve never been able to fill
No matter how hard I try.

It’s not that I’m unhappy
Or feel unfulfilled
I’m content with my lot
Ecstatic to tell the truth.

It’s just that the gaping hole
Is still there
Still not filled.

Maybe I’m not supposed to fill it
But enter it.
Do I dare?


Meditation 33

In meditation we spend a little time each day sitting in this God-shaped hole. It is not always an easy hole to sit in, and we find ourselves filling this hole with daydreams, thinking, current emotions, planning, regretting, and imagination. We fill it with so much, we lose sight of the fact that we are sitting in a hole at all! But that is ok, all this thought, emotion, and imagination is all just in our head; the hole remains, it cannot be filled by such things. So, bit by bit, meditation by meditation, we gently learn to sit as quietly in the hole as we possibly can, to sit as still as we possibly can, slowly letting go of all that is going through our head. If we stick with it, we eventually begin to realise that it is not an empty hole at all, but a well of living water within us. How do we draw water from this well? We don’t, we just sit there, and allow the water to come to us, to draw us to its source. We simply sit as still and as quietly as we can, pray our mantra, move our beads, breathe gently in and out.

It takes a lifetime to truly discover that nothing we put into the hole can satisfy – but we will keep pouring stuff in anyway! That’s ok. God understands. As long as we realise that what we put in is of no substance, and slowly allow God to sift through it, we will find God’s grace always finds a way. Eventually, as St Augustine discovered after many years, our restless hearts will find their rest in God.