Did you catch the irony in the title? [Am I being too heavy-handed? Okay, sorry. Onward…]
Scan the blog titles circulating Facebook and you’ll notice a reoccurring theme: “How I Made 1 Million in 30 Days,” “Ten Ways to Improve Your Marriage,” “7 Trends of 2017,” “Five Smart Strategies to Parenting” and the list goes on. We almost can’t help ourselves. See a quick list of ideas and we’re giddy like an accountant during tax season. Okay, maybe I’m the only one.
While teaching composition and creative writing courses, I find my life dictated by words, but numbers rule the practical realm we live in. Our checkbooks, budgets, debt, and retirement bow to numbers. Even our time circulates the twelve hours on a clock. We try to estimate how to save more, borrow less, schedule time, and increase our bottom dollar.
We also get caught up in numbers because we’ve been programmed to do so from childhood. For the first 2o-something years of your life, you were applauded by the numbers you achieved. Received a 95% on your test? Excellent! Did you remember anything the next week? No, but who cares–you earned a high percentage! Student resort to cheating when they think the number matters more than the character. My daughter finished her standardized tests last month, earning high scores and knocking percentages out of the water. As most parents would, we shared her scores with grandparents and praised her hard work. Later that night, I felt the need to clarify my position. I held her hand and looked into her eyes, “You know your dad and I are proud of your achievement, but I want you to know something: even if you’d scored average or below average, I’d still be just as proud of you.”
“Really?” Her response plucked my heart strings.
I reminded her of why I was proud of her: her character, her loving heart, her generous spirit, etc. After all, we are raising kids for Heaven, not Harvard. Sometimes I have to remind myself where my priorities rest.
We aren’t just automatic machines computing digits.We snag on numbers in a title because we genuinely want to improve our lives. We cling to the hope that tangible ideas will enhance our marriage, develop our parenting skills, and boost our success at work. We want to become better people. And we see “better” through the lens of numbers–something we can weigh. Consider the dilemma of weight management. Experts can encourage you all day with phrases such as these, “The number on the scale doesn’t matter. Health matters. Energy matters. Muscle verses Fat matters,” but you still get discouraged when you can’t go down a jean size or when your hip size stays the same (forget that it’s muscles inches instead of fat). Again, we bow to numbers because we think the tag size or the savings figure will make our lives better…happier.
Before you start thinking assessment by numbers is all bad, remember that God designed them. He structured our lives around numbers (Six days you shall work and on the seventh day, rest), and gave us hope in numbers (on the third day! ), and established boundaries (12, 7, 3, 40, etc.). [Do a little research some day; it’s an interesting study].
One day He will break the chains of time and weight and debt. Forever (try to imagine that endless number!) we will live with Him, free from the burdens of more, the fears of less, the restraints of due dates. We can’t fully grasp the concept now, but we trust in the assurance of His promise….one day. (I Thes. 4:16-17, Rev. 1:8, John 14:3)
2 Peter 3:8-12 (emphasis mine): “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”