Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jesus Doesn't Fill Your Void.

Sexy mullet man Darcy McAlister sent an email out last week to the youth pastors with an article written by Cameron Stang of Relevant Media Group. It’s a short and sweet article that, for the most part, is quite agreeable. Cameron is simply trying to outline the great paradox and tension of what it means to be holy and separated while still being active participants in the world and culture. Good article.

However, he ends the article with a statement that I think severely hamstrings and misrepresents Jesus: Our generation is looking for something to fill the void in their lives. We have what they’re looking for.

I can only assume that what Cameron is talking about is Jesus. Jesus; the Great Void Filler. If I can be open here for a moment, I’m not too sure that Jesus actually is this great void filler that we so adamantly preach about, in fact, I’m more then a wee bit skeptical.

Every time I hear this phrase I think of a jigsaw puzzle. Like most people, I am yet to find a completed puzzle that has captured my imagination and devotion for longer then a brief instant. When a puzzle is finished and we lock that last key piece into place there is that fleeting moment of satisfaction, a nice picture, and then we move on with life. It looses interest real fast. However, an incomplete puzzle will keep me interested for hours; I might get up and leave the puzzle for a few minutes to go to the bathroom and get some food and I might even leave for a day to go climbing, but the incompleteness of the puzzle brings me back. There is something about searching for the pieces that is much more opium-like then actually locking the final piece into place.

I can’t think of anyone who has ‘come to Jesus’ who has had all of their voids in life filled? Next time a friend approaches me with their confusion, hurt, excitement, anger, joy, or whatever, I am going to pull out a piece of paper and:
let a = your feelings
let b = your problems
let y = the solution
and leave x unknown.

Then, I am going to proudly proclaim that if we let x = Jesus then the problem will work out brilliantly. Jesus the Great Void Filler? The Mathematician maybe? I hope not. I would much rather prefer the intrigue and richness of a poem as opposed to the calculated response of formula.

Let me suggest that Jesus-centered spirituality is less about living a completed life and more about living a life that is incomplete and concerned more about finding then having. Lack of void in life is perfection. Proclaiming lack of void in life is pride.


Paul & Wanda Moores said...

Well said Jer.

My problem with Strang's comment is that everytime I hear that phrase I think that it's a cop out for Christians to just do nothing. "By guess or by golly" is what my pastor used to say.

I am a conduit of God's work. I can be Him in any situation if I choose to align myself with His purposes and (more importantly) He chooses to uses me.

I thought I understood from Scripture that God wants to use me. Why am I (as Christ extended) not filling the void?

Markimus said...

I get seriously concerned when anybody says 'we have what they are looking for' Seems very arrogant...I think hypocritical and rather un christ-like... I'll leave that for more comment another time... does the search ever end? Or does it deepen? Or more accurately the values are shifted/changed?


I would probably put it this way
let a = your feelings
let b = your problems
let c = Jesus
Leave x unknown
and there is no solution...
Better a friend, guide, and a leader/rescuer in the journey than to walk this road alone.
Is it a formula no... are there values YES!!! but those values shift when Jesus is thrown into the mix.

Steve said...

ultimately, I think that Jesus would be the answer.

a = feelings
b = problems
c = reality
x = Gods will for our lives
Answer = Jesus

Isn't the end result to be more like Jesus then before?
However, we don't know what GOd's will for our lives are... well, we know his will- to love God and people, but God's specific plan, His layout for our lives, I think that is the unknown.

So, yes there is a formula. Is there a particular 'perfect' pattern to unravel it? No. There are values, but I don't think we can narrow it down to 1+1= 2. It's more like the idea of pie... it's unending and we don't know, and will never know the complete set of numbers behind it because it is unending.

I've been asked many times, "if God exists, why is there so much pain?" or "Why did this have to happen to me?" Or "Why does God allow pain if he is so good?" I can think of cliche christian answers, and I can also look at different biblical examples... and God has a tendancy to say, "I'm God, you're not. I don't have to give you answers, so I won't."
So, we don't know why everything has the values, and we don't knwo why there is that unkown, and will never fully know WHY there is that unknown, but we do know the answer, the end result.

I hate puzzles. I seriously do. I would much rather look at from that of climbing a tree... now, I'm afraid of hights, but I love climbing trees. I can get in ones that people think are eithr too high.. and I"ll climb as high as I can go, and there is the brief satisfaction of getting there, and most of the time, I won't even realize how I even got there. I know I used the branches, but which ones? So, I'll begin my decent, and realize when I look down, how high up I am, so I'll cling to the tree like nothing else... God is the tree, the thing that I cling to. The branches are the plan.. but how do I get to the bottom safely? The ground, the foundation of that tree, in a sense, is Jesus. All the fears of falling, all the fears of somethign breaking, all the problems you run across, they all do exist, the unkwown is the way around them, but you cling to the tree, and hope to make it to the ground safely, and sometimes, it seems, you have to jump at the last branch, and hope how you land is ok, but remember whichever way you land, Jesus is right there... although, if you land the wrong way, it may hurt ^_-

Boomer said...

It's been my experience that everything said to bring void fulfillment brings pain. While there is, as mentioned above, temporary satisfaction, the resulting dissapointment leaves us worse off than where we started. The reality seems somewhat torcherous. I suppose it reflects sin consequence. Perhaps when we take Jesus for something that he's not, he becomes a dissapointment because of our twisted anticipation. I think Jesus isn't even in the puzzle. Perhaps he's the picture on the box. Any piece that we can put in, crucial or not, may encourage us just enough to continue until our puzzle is complete. w/o the guide I can't imagine what working on the puzzle would be like. Is Jesus the solution to life? Is there any solution?

My vote is no. You trackin'?

Esther said...

I agree with you boomer. I think Jesus is the picture. Who would want to do a puzzle that's all white with no picture? What if filling the void isn't completing the puzzle but giving each piece meaning and purpose. Of course it will still bring pain and frustration because we're impatient and we want to see the whole picture right away but the little bit of colour on each piece gives hope that each piece is a part of the bigger picture. I think a lot of people's voids are a search for purpose anyway. Jesus doesn't tell us the whole plan but with each part of our life he gives us hope that we're part of a greater plan of his. That's where filling the void comes in because life is no longer meaningless.

e.d. said...

I don't suppose that anyone can really see the whole picture of Jesus though? That's where the search and the 'progressive revelation of Jesus' comes into play a little bit. I might suggest that there are bits of the picture that we see and can emulate but much larger chunks of puzzle where we are just feeling it out....testing, trying, leaving for food breaks, being drawn back, and seeing Jesus more clearly each time.

What if the picture on the box was only revealed as the puzzle pieces began to fit? It seems it may work like that. The more I study and search and experience Jesus the more I begin to see him....

Just a thought.

Mike Hunt said...

"In every person is a God shaped vacuum" - C.S. Lewis

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

Jesus is the picture. There's no dobut about that. But there is so much colour, definition and contrast in the picture that I don't think you could ever have 'just a white puzzle'.

It seems to me that because "'The progressive revelation of Jesus'" is, well, progressive, it takes time to see what the end picture looks like. We don't know fully what's happening. I think we have an idea of what the puzzle should look like, but we don't see the picture on the box at all. We are doing this puzzle blindly. We have an idea because of what we've been told and read about the puzzle, but we don't know much else.

So I would suggest, in the puzzle context, that we've emptied the box, and are told to complete the puzzle from what a few things have said. We don't know the picture. We just know the end result is Jesus. but we don't know what that looks like. Or atleast, not clearly.

Markimus said...

What if each of us had a peice of the puzzle but when we come together in community we begin to discover more realistically what that picture of Jesus is like. The searching for the peices becomes a search for others who are doing the same?

Steve said...

This is, of course, presupposing that we are all apart of the same 'puzzle'. ;)

Boomer said...

Jer, I recant my earlier statement of Jesus as the picture to subscribe to Jesus as the progressive picture discovered through the puzzle.

Mark, I see the value of community in discovering that picture. Within the parameters of personal context, everyone brings a different part of the puzzle. When we combine those parts we see a fuller, but still incomplete picture. In community more progress is made.

However community can slow progression when people mix in pieces of a different puzzle.

Community is an extremly valuable liability.

e.d. said...

Yes, community can slow the progress....However, there are pieces of the puzzle of that we may never ever would have suspected are from the same puzzle until the moment that they suddenly, and unashamedly, lock into place. When that moment happens community becomes an invaluable liability....or in other words, a liability that you can not live without.

Markimus said...

Might be good to ask what are the metrics of PRogress... Is there such a thing as finding Jesus quickly or too slowly? ... kind of seems that it would be like telling the sun that it slows the process of daylight??? What is good progress??? Different pieces of the puzzle is part of the progress isn't it?

Should be noted we will never see the complete picture until we see him face to face. [I Cor 13:12]

Boomer said...

I think I could agree with both of those thoughts, however I have been concerned with the c-bomb lately. It would seem at times that anyone who mentions community is praised as progressive, while those who don't archaic.

Is community as much trend as traction?

Esther said...

I don't know if community would slow the process. It seems to me that everybody has preconceived ideas of what the picture is supposed to look like which I would think is an even bigger hindrance to putting together the puzzle. Within community not only can we combine our pieces of the puzzle, we also get an outside perspective of what the puzzle COULD look like which is a huge asset because it helps us think outside the box which is a very good thing because I'm convinced that God is much bigger than the box we put Him in.

jeffro said...

or the picture WE pin to the box.

"Jesus as the progressive picture discovered through the puzzle"

something about this bothers me...
im not sure if its jesus as a progressive picture ? or.. the discovered through the puzzle.
i think its that it is an understanding of faith that seems so ... human. lol.
i like what mark reminded us that we will only see the completeness of the puzzle when we are face to face with him.. and even then.. that might not be an end but a beggining to a whole new puzzle...
but... to me its important to remember that Jesus isn't a progressive picture... he is a complete God, something outside the weak allegories of our human understanding. complete, and the character of God revealed fully in Christ.
with this pretense i could agree that we discover him progressively through the puzzle.

a few things to remain forefront:
my frailty
his divinity
our journey

boomer want to expand on your community are trend/tradition ??

Anonymous said...

There is some validity to the concept of a "void" or as Lewis puts it a "God shaped vacuum".

I grew up in a severly broken home, was a gang member and have had many different traumatic experiences. Once I "gave my life to Christ", things changed, and yet I still struggle with a feeling of emptiness.

This feeling is actually a secondary emotion dove-tailing off of deeper woundings as a child. I suffered immense abandonment and loss in my early years. These feelings were caused by my mother constantly leaving me alond at an early age. I basically clothed myself, fed myself and taught myself at the ages of 3-8, prior to that I was in the hospital with severe health issues.

This god shaped vacuum simply reminds me of my need for a savior, and my deep desire for emotional and spiritual healing.

The use of the word 'void' or 'vacuum' may not be good language to use, becuase of its departure from a healthy theology, however there must be some language to describe the deep emotional need many face in their daily lives.

As society and the church learn more about emotional intelligence or as many physchologists are now calling it E.Q., I expect that differences such as this will soon fall away so that love can prevail.

Markimus said...

I agree with CS Lewis statement of the God shaped Vaccum.. but his intent I do not think was to point to a void that only God can fill... CS IMO is pointing to an awareness of The Divine that is built into every culture and people group... A desire for man to knwo someone beyond himself. Shallow statements such as 'Our generation is looking for something to fill the void in their lives. We have what they’re looking for.' is not at all reflective of a rich theology as CS Lewis. Thoughts?


Boomer said...

Jeff, I just have this feeling that community is becoming a catch phrase that everyone claims to be the answer, but nobody lives in or creates. I'm not necessarily saying that it is, but it could be more trendy than it is useful, for whatever reason.

Mark, the more we discuss this the more ridiculous "We have what they're looking for." looks. Sounds to me like someone was pressed for time and got to the end of their word count so they had to wrap it up.

At the same time there is some truth to it. Do we not need Jesus? Why do so many believer's feel unfulfilled? Can we over estimate God?

Steve said...

I know for me, the thing Jesus filled was not so much a void, but satisfied the need and desires.

That doesn't mean that I'm not screwing up and don't ever look to other things to fill this, because I do (due to my selfish desires) but if I look to God to fill the need, he does. And so long as I use him, the need remains filled. THe desires to go to someone or somewhere else may still remain, but the idea of a void doesn't actually sit great with me. The more I read the comments the more i picture a broken heart. Pieces scattered. And slowly God brings them together to regenerate something. To mend the old into something new perse. I know he gives us new lives but new heart? David says "Create in my a clean heart." But I don't know where I'm really going with this anymore... haha. Anyone got anything to say to that thus far?

Chad said...

If I proclaim I have no void in my life whatsoever, I'm saying I don't need God. I think if I say I've completely had every need met by Jesus then I don't think I know Him at all. Usually in the Bible whoever was faced with Jesus hit the ground and either asked Jesus to leave or cried out in despair because they immediately realized in His presence how broken they were. I think as we realize and find God, we may just become more aware of the void??? idn

Steve said...

I'm not trying to say I don't have a void... I think of it more as a need...

Saying filling the need is like sayin filling the void.
The closer we come to God, the more we become aware of the need? That's just another way to put it.

Esther said...

Boomer I thought your question "Can we over estimate God?" was a good one. To me, it seems like we can't over estimate God but we often over estimate our capacity for God and under estimate how big He is. I think maybe the reason a lot of us still feel empty is because no matter how much we understand about God, or how close of a relationship we have with Him, we will never know all of Him in this life because our minds can't comprehend Him. If we were whole people maybe we would feel whole.

Thom Singer said...


What a great post. I LOVE your analogy of the jigsaw puzzel. You are 100% correct that the finished puzzel fizzles our interest. I also think that Jesus cannot fill in the whole void of a puzzel. He is one piece (granted a big, central piece). One can't just pour him in the void and have completion in life. Life is made up of so many pieces that it can never be "done"...but that is the fun part. I think that God intends us to enjoy the process of life.

I am now 40 years old. I wish that when I was younger I understood more about embracing all the pieces of the puzzle. Time goes by very fast and people miss so much of the joy and excitement that is around them everyday because they put too much focus on one part of their life (or they focus too much on themself). Looking at life as an infinate puzzle with each piece having significance is a great ways to live.

You are very insightful, my young friend.


PS- You always add thoughtful comments on my blog...I thought I should check out yours!!!

James T said...

hmmm... Well I have a thought... perhaps the "void" lewis is talking about is more like this... Imagine we are a car, a really old.. busted... rusty... car... and we are just barely holding on to actually running at all... people walking by beat you off the start at a stop light, thats the kind of cars we are. Now... when we meet Jesus for the first time and accept him into our lives its like someone came and topped up the oil, gave us a fresh tank of premium gas, new tires, wiper blades, washer fluid, brake fluid, new brake pads, new tires, and rebuilt your engine, ok so now the cars running pretty well, but Jesus reminds us we need to keep bring the car in for regular checkups... keep filling up with oil, making sure the brakes are ok, etc... to me this more accurately describes the need of Jesus in my life he is the super mechanic when i know nothing about cars, he is the sustainer of my life, helps me to begin a change.. I'm still a rusty old car beaten up and rough around the edges on the outside but he fixes up the insides and helps me where it counts. Of course, many people go around with their cars clanking breaking down not really getting anywhere when all they really need is a mechanic. Of course... this analogy is flawed like everything we think of to explain Jesus who in his very nature , in my mind, is indescribable. But when I hear of the "God shaped vaccum this is the general idea of what I think the same when I hear the "we have what these people are searching for" statement because if your friends car was broken down wouldn't you tell him of the mechanic that can help him fix it.

I've been reading your posts as the come out... very insightful indeed :)

to be added might be that you might need to reach into your glove box and give him the pink slip (super echanic Jesus) He'll let you continue but really, you are his bought and paid for.