Ache in the empty spaces

“There’s nothing more addictive than something that almost works.”
– Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Many of us bemoan our addiction to our digital devices. What began as a curiosity – the magic of sharing a photo directly from our pocket camera with our family and friends across the globe! – has devolved into an algorithm-fuelled habit that distracts us from our values, inverts our priorities, and steals our attention away from the ones we love.

It is possible these days to pass the entire day without ever feeling the discomfort of boredom, or spending one moment devoid of chatter.

When’s the last time that noise in your head went silent? Have you spent any time today staring blankly into space?


Last week our church community observed Ash Wednesday. Ashes were drawn in the shape of a cross on foreheads, not as an exercise in organic face-painting (although our kids raced to the mirror to check their faces), but to remind us of our humanity and our frailty.

Dust to dust.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, when Christians traditionally fast or give up some kind of luxury. Fasting serves as a reminder, when we feel the pangs of craving, of our hunger for redemption and healing.

As this season began, our community reflected on hunger, and the empty spaces that we often try to fill with noise.


The impulse reach for our phones to fill times of quiet is a symptom of our frailty. We have a hunger for connection, but aren’t always wise about how to satisfy our hunger.

Instead of making conversation, we reach for a quick hit of dopamine.

Instead of eating a nutritious meal, we reach for the bag of chips.

In a recent seminar, development psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld put it this way: “Digital technology offers quick fixes that compete with natural solutions.”

This hunger can’t be satisfied as easily or conveniently as those little screens promise. Dr. Neufeld says our hunger for connection is satisfied by community and real connection with our family and friends.

Being seen and loved.

The ache

Maybe an appropriate action during Lent – this season of reflection on our brokenness and anticipation of redemption – is to acknowledge those empty spaces. To recognize our failed attempts to satisfy our hunger for connection. To pause for one extra moment before diving into our little screens to feel the ache.

Maybe in recognizing the ache, and acknowledging our hunger, we will take the first step towards satisfying our deepest need.