Three Taverns Church

Spirituality of Subtraction


“It is said that nature abhors a vacuum; I tell you God abhors a vacuum and cannot abide a vacuum anywhere on earth. So empty yourself of self and you automatically fill with God.” Meister Eckhart, 14th century mystic

“By nature’s law, there can’t be a void. There is no void in the universe. Something rushes in to fill a void. So if you’re willing to let go of a defect, the void it leaves is going to be filled by its opposite.” Joe McQ, The Steps We Took

Jesus’ moment of glory came when He died on the cross and emptied himself completely (Matt. 26:28).  The Apostle Paul talked about being poured out as a drink offering and emptying himself for others (2 Tim 4:6). Most of my life I tried to grasp at God, to fill with God through my own efforts; it’s like trying to catch smoke.  The quotes above hold the key to a truth I’ve missed all my life: I cannot fill myself with God, I can only let Him in. But I can’t let Him into my heart and soul if I am filled with my Self.

I often worry that if I give up my character defects and my obsession with my Self, there will be nothing left. However, as Joe McQ and Meister Eckhart point out, God abhors a vacuum: There isn’t a void in the universe which is not immediately refilled. These men claim  that if I give up my Self, there won’t be a vacuum left where my fear, selfishness, and pride were; I won’t be walking around like a Recovery Zombie with no soul to speak of. Rather, in place of my fear, selfishness and pride God will substitute courage, generosity and humility. I can stop trying to figure out how to be courageous, generous, and humble (a tremendous challenge!); God will take care of filling me with those qualities. What I need to do is focus on clearing the garbage out of my heart to make room for Him. This is so different from the ‘self-help’ mumbo-jumbo I’ve heard before!

God will work as fast as I am willing to go. The slower I clear away space in my heart, the slower God will fill me with the fruits of His Spirit. Conversely, if I fully surrender to him and sacrifice my Self, God will quickly fill me with the qualities I wish I possessed. I sincerely hope I can begin surrendering my Self and let God begin working in me.

Will you sacrifice your Self and let God begin a work in you?

9 thoughts on “Spirituality of Subtraction

  1. GOD will NOT fill you with those qualities. You MUST believe that HE already HAS “..given you all things pertaining to life and godliness” and “has (already) blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” Look to Romans 7 and know that your sin nature is ALREADY crucified (held in a position of powerlessness) because of what Christ did and rest in HIS new nature.

    You cannot clean the garbage out of your heart. If you could, you would not need GOD. Just know that HE knows you and loves you. Trust him as best you can for where you are and just do the next right thing, trusting the outcome to GOD.

    HE has promised. HE will sanctify you.

    • I’m going to push back a bit, John. I agree that these positive things are already inside me; Joe McQ makes the same point. What I was trying to say is that the vacuum will be filled (though I suppose you are trying to argue that there is no vacuum)…

      I also agree that I can’t clean the garbage out myself, but what I can do (and what my post alludes to) is become aware of the garbage and pray for healing. You are right in pointing out that I can’t do anything in my own power…I think I’ve stated that before. I hope my post wasn’t misleading. When I say ‘clean my heart’ I’m talking about getting rid of my denial and ‘owning’ my sin. That is how I clean my heart. God’s not magic, and he’s not going to force me to ‘be healed’ of something I’m not even aware of.

      • Then I admit I spoke in ignorance. As stupid as it sounds, I just learned how to find the blogs of the people I follow. Silly me, I was waiting for email.

        Anyway, I just saw your blog and felt compelled to reply because I know personally how devestating it can be for someone when they do not fully understand the foundational identity truths and when they feel they have to struggle under their own effort to “clean up” for GOD.

        Obviously, I had just not read enough. I apologize.

        Just remember, though…you say you are unsure of your faith. Well, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing, the word of GOD.” I know you already know that, intellectually, but I know that for myself, it is always good to hear it, and many other things again.

        My mentor’s nickname for me was “Dumb Boy” because I was stubborn. One of his most oft quotes verses to me…”I am not hesitant to tell you again…..”

        Keep the faith!

  2. One more thing, if it helps. Way back in Exodus, GOD told the Jews, “I am gonna give you guys ALL this land, but I am only gonna let you have a little of it today because you are not big enough to hold it. I will grow you to possess the land, though.”

    It’s the same way with us. If all the garbage were wiped out at once when we are saved, we might be like the possessed man Jesus talked about that was cleansed, but then the empty vessel was filled with worse demons.

    To every man is given a measure of faith. To me, that is the first little bit of the Promised Land. As GOD wills, I will grow into the rest of all HE has for me, as will we all.

  3. I agree with John Woodward’s initial comment. Jesus did a finished work on the Cross. I have always heard 1 Peter 2:24 quoted as testimony to this reality, “who Himself (Jesus) bore our sins in His own body on the tree…by Whose stripes you were (past tense) healed.” The healing has already been granted.

    But then there’s those three little dots (…) in the middle of that verse that aren’t usually emphasized, “that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness”. You (rabid mongoose) say that you “clean your heart” by “getting rid of my denial and owning my sin.”
    Perhaps this is part of the process of realizing that we, too, HAVING DIED (past tense) to sins MIGHT LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS….” As we live FOR righteousness, for God’s Glory, rather than for OUR own glory, we will begin to recognize our unrighteous behaviors (own them), then begin to form new habits and behaviors that are righteous, that is, that give Glory to God.

    Even then, we will not let go of our sins as long as we love them more than we love God. As we increase in our love for God we will increase in our diligence to form and practice new AND righteous behaviors and attitudes. For some, the beginning of this process starts with the fear of bad consequences, maybe losing one’s earthly possessions or even fear of going to hell. That’s okay because that fear will drive the person to seek God’s Mercy and Forgiveness. And in their seeking, asking and knocking they will come to find God’s Love.

    God is Love. Love heals. We were given healing on the Cross. God does not force us to receive healing but it IS available. I do believe that God heals us of all kinds of things that we are not aware of. Thank God for that!

    Sometimes God will put us back into the same situation we faced in the past that was quite distasteful to us, perhaps it upset us or angered us in the past. We will experience that same situation with a completely peaceful attitude and response. We will be shocked at the change in us because we hadn’t prayed or addressed that bad behavior at all. And God might even speak to one’s heart and ask,”Do you see what I have done for you?”. Has that ever happened to you?

    We might want to remember that God loved us when we were still sinners! (Romans 5:8).

    Food for thought.

  4. Yeah, being in recovery myself, I related to a lot of things you brought up. Perhaps you’ll find my blog interesting, as it explores themes of spirituality in Christianity and other spiritual paths, looking for the “solution” to our soul problems that each tradition may offer.
    The latest post is about the problems Christianity faces in our times, and the lessons St. Francis’ example might teach us. It was also a lot about emptying Self to allow the Good to shine through.
    Feel free to browse at:

    • I did take a quick look and I saw some very interesting things. I’m not sure we take the same approach to ‘soul solutions’, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. I’ll be back to take a deeper read when I’ve got time.

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