At Crossroads Prison Ministry, the first lesson sent to inmates teaches that inherent in each human being is “a God-shaped hole” that only God our Creator can fill. In that sense, restorative justice can be extrapolated to everyone, although there is perhaps no heart more fertile than one behind razor wire and concrete walls. In that captive audience, we mentor hope to facilitate an honest introspection about one’s ultimate purpose in life. In the light of God’s Word, the deviant is gently guided to take a moral inventory and explore the meaning of his or her discontent and explore the consequences behind his or her choices, both at present and eternal.
Paul the Apostle explores this concept of a God-shaped hole in humanity in the Book of Acts chapter 17, 22-27. 22. Then Paul stood before the meeting of Areopagus and said, “People of Athens, I can see you are very religious in all things. 23 As I was going through your city, I saw the objects that you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: TO A GOD WHO IS NOT KNOWN. You worship a God that you do not know, and this is the God that I am telling you about. 24 The God who made the whole world and everything in it, is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in a temple built by human hands. 25. This God is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. 26 God began by making one person, and from him came all different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided when and where they must live. 27 God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far away from any of us.
The great commission is that we, by divine mercy and love have become friends of the Lord, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, now minister His abounding grace, tasked as trackers in the forest, pointing to evidence along the trail leading to God and filling that empty space within the soul. The famous philosopher and mathematician Pascal is thought to have generated the idea of The God-Shaped Hole through his work in Pensées. He wrote,
“What does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking things that are not there to help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself”
There is much in the Scriptures to support the theological principle behind the God-Shaped Hole, for example, in John 7:37, Now on the last day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying,
“If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. This innermost being is the empty place in the hearts of men, and the divine solution to our thirst is the Holy Spirit who comes and fills, guides, and protects us.
The Church Father Augustine pleaded in his famous Confessions “for God to come and dwell in him”. It is this action, most often taken when we have been humbled, broken, and at our lowest that invites the power of Christ to calm the storm from within. The Great Physician has the only medicine that can truly mend a broken heart. All that is required of us is to admit defeat, to say I can’t do it, but I believe Lord that you can. Do this and you will find that God will remove the terrible pain of knowing that you have hurt those you love. God can take away the callouses of your shame. He can soften even the hardest of hearts and bring to you “a peace that defies understanding”. You must admit that there is indeed a God-Shaped hole in each of us.