I come from a family of nine – two parents and seven children. I am number six. If I was Vietnamese, I would be called Number 6. (I learned that reading Fire Road which I highly recommend.)
In 1981, I was dating and my weight fell to an all time low of 112#. My mother and sister in-law thought I had an eating disorder. I thought I was in love. I started eating again.
In 1983, I graduated 9th in a class of 192 with a GPA of 3.875. My best friend, Sarah, graduated 8th with a GPA of 3.899*. The first three in our class had 4.0. We were a competitive bunch.
Returning home after five weeks in Florida where I was quite intentional about what I ate – or rather what I didn’t eat – I came home and weighed myself. Anticipating a lower number, I saw a higher than ever number. A too high number combined with a lack of sleep and I was a mess.
Forty-eight hours later I decided to check again. I know! What am I? A glutton for punishment? But I gingerly stepped onto this magical number wielding machine to see it drop 7 numbers. Wow! Here’s a little happy dance!
Do you ever stop to think how much of what we do is measured in numbers? Our children test in school and the results are numbers and percentiles. Many indicators of a healthy lifestyle are numbers – blood pressure, weight, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar, liver enzymes – everything has a below, mid, high range. IQ is measured in numbers; ACT and SAT tests are measured in numbers.
Now I don’t have anything against numbers per se. Good information can be gained by knowing our numbers. My mom discovered she was diabetic because she learned her glucose number was too high. It saved her life.
My problem with numbers is when I begin to see it as an indicator of my value rather than a useful piece of information. When I stepped on the scale and saw an “Oh *#%$” number, I spiraled into a hole. It was a black hole. I was discouraged, defeated and overwhelmed. Two mornings later when I did the same thing with a different result, I danced a little jig, my spirit felt lighter, I felt successful and bright! But what really changed? Had my value changed? Was I really any different save for a little less water hanging out in my cells?
I recently read a quote relating to the relationship between numbers and people. The following is a paraphrased version, but it preserves the essence of the quote.
Behind every number is a name.
Behind every name is a person.
Behind every person is a story, a family, a life.
I don’t want to be a number or even a name. I want to be a person with a story. I want to be more than even the sum of all the numbers associated with my name. When we live in a world where numbers are used to evaluate and organize virtually everything, how do we know that we are more than a number or a sum of numbers? Or that the numbers don’t indicate our value?
There is another place numbering is referenced. Check this out in the gospels – Jesus is talking to us. He says:
What is the price of five sparrows —two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.Luke 12:6-7
Sparrows are abundant. Today during brunch they twittered about our tables hoping for some scraps. It seems there are always more sparrows than needed. But God sees all of them and he doesn’t forget them even when we have deemed them plentiful or unnecessary. He counts them and knows when one goes missing.
Furthermore, he counts the hair on our head. Fifteen times the original Greek is translated hair. At least three times, it is used in the idiom “not a hair on your head will be harmed/touched.” This means we are completely and utterly secure, without fear of even the slightest degree of harm or injury. But only three times is a word used in the Greek New Testament that is translated count or number. Twice it refers to God counting the hair on our head. He knows us so well and is so aware of our being, that he even counts our hair. The third time it is used in Revelation 7:9 in reference to the crowd gathered in front of the throne and it says it was “too vast to count from every nation and tribe and people and language.”
*GPA is recalled to the best of my ability. Her actual GPA may have been higher. Numbers are only to prove a point. My apologies to Sarah if I misrepresented her actual GPA.