We live in a culture obsessed with numbers.
We put too much stock into numbers, quantity, measures and units.
I’m talking about the dollar amount in our bank accounts, the numbers on the scale, our GPA, the number of likes our Facebook profile pictures receive, how old we are when we marry, how many months and years we can maintain a relationship, the amount of events we have planned in a given week, the number of calories in our food and followers of our blogs and compliments on our outfits… I could go on.
I realized this yesterday when I came to the conclusion that I myself often base the quality of my day off of the quantity of good versus bad things that happen to me.
I got a great parking spot and ran into a friend who made me smile. Oh, but then I found out about a homework assignment that’s due and I realized my coffee doesn’t taste that good. To make up for it, I’ll go to 2nd and Charles and buy some new CDs and then take a nice, long nap. And if no one invites me to do anything tonight and I find myself sorrowful because of my lack of social life, I will go to Starbucks and buy an iced lemon cake for myself and watch three episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess on Netflix. That’s enough “good” stuff to balance out the “bad”, right?
This is the worst perception of life that I could possibly have, yet I found myself judging my day (and many days before that) with this screwed-up method.
I am guilty of frequent retail therapy sessions. I keep recording movies to keep in my DVR for those nights when my calendar is empty. I find solace in forty-minute afternoon naps. Going to sleep before 11:00pm is not an option. I change my hairstyle any time I undergo a major change in my life. I try to have as many adventures as possible (that’s the thing that college students my age do, right?).
For a time, this method seems to work for me. I make sure that no matter what happens in a given day, I at least have enough money for a Starbucks purchase and one random friend I can call up to make plans with when everything else falls through. As long as the good outweighs the bad, I’m doing alright.
But here’s the problem: I am trying to fill my life with numbers and measures and I put more value into measurable things than I do the immeasurable. And the sad truth is that the immeasurable things, the stuff that never runs out, are the only things that can really fill me up.
These immeasurable things, the stuff that is outside limits and too great to be tagged with a number, are the things of the Kingdom of God. These things include joy, peace, protection, victory, healing, and so much more.
Now here is my cry of truth (or “rant”, if you must) for all of the people out there in the world who find themselves in the same boat as me:
Why, why, WHY are we counting and caring about numbers when God is offering us infinite joy, infinite peace, infinite grace, infinite love, infinite acceptance, infinite satisfaction?
Maybe the reason for this is because when he does hand us these amazing gifts of infinite quantity, we, out of habit and an unhealthy misperception of what meaningful life is, subconsciously put a cap on those things with our dumb numbers.
We subconsciously believe that joy comes from having more wonderful things happen to us than awful ones. So when he tries to offer us his joy, no matter what time of the day, we have to wait until those wonderful things happen to truly believe in it. Oh, I got an A on my test! I just got a Starbucks gift card right when I was running out of money! God is so good! No, God was always good and always wanted us to rejoice in that goodness, but it took us receiving a good grade or a kind word from a friend or finding $20 or hearing a Louie Giglio sermon to accept it. Sadly, it’s not even accepted in full. When we get home later that day and mom starts yelling or the laundry is piling up, we’re usually back to where we started- wondering why wonderful things never last, putting a number on things when those numbers don’t really mean anything. His joy is bountiful enough to cover ALL things, but we don’t let it.
We subconsciously believe that his forgiveness and grace is only applicable in our lives up until the moment we make a mistake again. If we make two or three mistakes, we maybe even wait a longer amount of time until running to him again. After all, there’s only so much forgiveness he wants to give us, right? We already made a mess of our day- better wait until morning to repent and start again. I honestly believe that this is one of the most crippling lies we could believe in, and I know it comes from satan himself. What better way to incapacitate a believer than make them believe for a time that the one thing that brings them salvation, Christ’s death on the cross that paid the penalty for ALL sins, is no longer true or valid?
We subconsciously believe that his promises for our life that pertain to marriage, careers, and ministry are more important than the promises he’s given us from the beginning- promises of his everlasting presence, his unfailing love, his protection and the victories he’s scored on our behalf. We know of these promises and we sometimes declare them in times of great difficulty after we’re hit over the head with them. But usually, we’re too busy looking for the other promises and insight into our lives to even remember those. God, what is your step-by-step plan for my life? Will I find the man of my dreams by the time I graduate college? How long will I be out in the mission field? When will I find my dream job? These things would be great to know, but again we see the fixation on numbers, age, and time when things of immeasurable importance, like his never-ending love and all-mighty power, are placed on the side until we have nothing else to grasp onto.
You see, we have a major problem on our hands. But numbers, my friends, are NOT, and never will be, valid solutions.
I will say it again, and shout it from the rooftops. Numbers will NEVER be solutions to the problems in our lives.
We care far too much about numbers when life, truly meaningful life that is found in Christ, has nothing to do with numbers at all.
We have to stop counting.