The year of subtraction

Jan 4, 2016Find joy today

I’ve hesitated sharing this publicly, but you know me: Mrs. Disclosure. I figured it would leak out anyway.

And to be honest, at first I didn’t like this word that kept worming its way into my life and heart last fall. Subtraction? Who wants subtraction? Addition, yes. Multiplication, yes. But subtraction?

The more I considered that word, the more it grew on me. Because underneath subtraction is abundance. The more you take away the superfluous things, the shoulds, the must-dos, the clutter, you get back to the important. Family. Jesus. Friendship. Discipleship. Selflessness.

After “subtraction” settled into me, I searched the Scriptures for it. Did you know that word does not exist? So then I realized “take away” and “remove” have similar connotations, and I found these gems:

God takes away my hard heart:

“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 11:19).

God has already taken away my sackcloth:

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).

He asks me to remove impurities so I’ll be ready for refining:

“Remove the impurities from silver, and the sterling will be ready for the silversmith. (Proverbs 25:4).

He asks me to remove the chains of slavery from my neck:

“Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:2).

So God does two things (takes away my stubborn, hard heart, takes off my mourning clothes), and He asks me to participate by removing sin and what enslaves me.

A high order. And, honestly, I don’t know what all of it means personally. I do know I can’t subtract without Him. I do know my tendency is to add, add, add until I’m close to burnout. I do know this means I’ll need to step closer and closer to Him, to hear His heart, and be brave enough to say more NOs this year than I ever had. It means knowing what He has called me to do, and being doggedly pursuant of that despite economic stress, lack of booked engagements, and whatever else may distract me.

Subtraction actually means doing His bidding, letting go of all the fluff, and even some very good things.

I go into 2016 with fear. My word last year, trust, reminded me of the frailty of my ability to surrender to God despite what I see. And I start January with less promise than most of the 16 years of my career. I don’t have another book contract. Other than a book on prayer I’m writing independently, I have zero idea what is next.

I feel like subtraction has been chasing me the past three years, and here I sit, looking around, wondering how God will make all this work.

It’s a good, hard place, friends. I’m reminded of Mary of Bethany who chose to subtract: work, distraction, busyness. She did this so she could sit at the feet of Jesus, the One who could never be subtracted from her life. That truly is my prayer this year–for me, for you. I want this verse to be true of me:

“There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

All that being said, I would so very much appreciate your prayers as I walk this road of subtraction. Thank you.