ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
As a kid I was never really good in math. My favorite subjects in school were always reading-based. Social Studies, African American History – these were the subjects where I excelled. Given my disdain for mathematics it’s odd that I ultimately became a numbers guy in my professionally. God has a funny way of doing things: I always considered subjects like Calculus to be torturous exercises and satanic. Growing up I endured mathematics because I had no choice. In reality, I actually did quite well with simple mathematics in spite of my disdain for the subject: Addition and multiplication were tolerable, however I never really cared for subtraction.
For me, there has always been a sense of sadness surrounding subtraction. The very exercise is rooted in taking something from another thing leaving that thing with less than it started with. The symbol for subtraction is a minus sign. You don’t have to be a genius to know that when you see a minus sign it symbolizes loss. No one likes to lose anything. Humans are by nature territorial and protective. From the things we possess to the people we love, our “things” become a part of us. Therefore, when we lose something it often hurts because it is as if we lost a part of ourselves. The world associates failure with loss: a failed marriage or being fired from a job for example. The loss of a loved one can create a feeling of loneliness and fear. Losing your home due to poor financial stewardship can create a feeling of shame. The world reinforces my sentiment and I’m challenged in my flesh to find circumstances where the process of losing something is not painful.
The things we see and touch are all temporal. Therefore, the situations that are associated with the pain we experience during a loss are temporary also. All things ultimately work together for our good. I believe that we must view our losses from a “higher” perspective. The experience of loss provides a teachable moment regarding God’s love and grace. Personal growth is crippled if you don’t lose the prison of familiarity. Would we fully appreciate love if we never experienced the loss of a loved one? How can we know what it means to heal if we have never been injured or hurt during the experience of loss?
Loss can subtracts from our personal joy temporarily, while adding to the resolve of our faith.