Water, Binaries, and a God-Sized Hole

On a drive this morning, I passed by several churches of different denominations all with a giant cross extending from the roof into the backdrop of blue sky. I thought about the people who say that humanity invented God out of a desperate, pathetic attempt to make meaning and find solace from suffering. It’s an attempt to fill a hole, they argue, that does more harm than good. But I wonder why such a hole exists in the first place. If we were not made for something else, why do we so desperately crave something else? Something we can’t exactly name. Why do all our human attempts at filling this hole inside of us with earthly things (booze, drugs, food, fame, money, achievement, and people) fail us every time? Why do we always end up disappointed at best or devastated at worst? It’s like the saying: you can never have enough of what you don’t need.

So, did we invent God as a mythical idea meant to merely soothe our weary souls? It’s a reasonable question. Or were we born with a God-sized hole because only God can fill it? If God could be fully understood, would God be worthy of worship?

To me, faith is both balm and fire. My faith can be medicinal, yes, as it does soothe me. It provides me with the kind of peace and assurance nothing else in the world ever could. But it’s also fire. Something urgent and untouchable. A call to action and a call to serve. Not to bury my head in the sand. If I believe Jesus is who He says He is, then I have an obligation. If I am willing to receive this gift of grace, then I am obligated to share that gift of grace with everyone with whom I cross paths. And I don’t mean through ministry. I don’t mean through politics. I mean through humility and empathy.

This thought led me into thinking of the binary between scientific and spiritual. The seen and unseen. The logical and creative. Order and chaos. The irony is that they imply separation or mutual exclusivity, but indeed one cannot exist with the other. Male cannot exist without female. And vice versa. Order is insignificant without chaos. Science and faith are dependent upon each other.

So, I think about the question: are you more of a creative type or logical type? Sure, most of us have genetic propensities for one over the other. But I think it’s a moot question. We are whole people, made in the image of a God who embodies every shade of every spectrum. The tension we feel, I believe, is self-imposed from the lie that we must choose sides. We must be one thing over another. Why can’t we accept we are all of it? All at once? Why are we so uncomfortable with gray in a world that tells us to think in black-and-white?

The danger of binary is why we feel guilty when we experience joy during grief. Or melancholy on a beautiful, sunny day. It’s why we struggle to reckon with historical figures who did both immeasurable good and committed horrific injustice like slavery. Or when we tell our sons that boys don’t cry and tell our daughters to keep quiet and stay small. We are trying so hard to fit the human experience into neatly tied boxes. It’s like when Francis Collins writes: “The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings…should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.”

The water is not the problem. It’s our attempt to contain and label it. And I wonder what might happen if we let it run freely? If we made more space for nuance. If we welcomed shades of gray. If we could tolerate paradox. Maybe we’d stop fighting so much. And stop yelling in comment sections and stop hating each other. But perhaps such a thought is idyllic and impractical. Perhaps that is why only God can fill this God-sized hole in each of us.

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