What’s In a Number?

There was a time that I was a slave to the number on the scale. That number dictated my mood, my motivation, and my self-worth. Numbers of calories took up way too much mental and emotional space. Those numbers related to how much food I could eat, how much food I wouldn’t eat, or how much I needed to exercise. I knew the number of calories in various foods and could add or subtract them in my sleep. I was a slave to the numbers.

There was a time that I was a slave to the number on a scale.

Thankfully, those numbers hold less power over me at this stage in my life. In fact, rarely do I pay much attention to those numbers anymore. Still, I have found other numbers can quickly take precedence in my mind. The number in my bank account. The number of an upcoming bill. The number of days left until vacation. The number of friends who RSVP’d to my party. Numbers seem to take up a lot of my mental space.

In this season of life, however, the numbers I seem to focus on most are the number of friends, followers, and likes I have on social media. I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s the truth. I have a love/hate relationship with social media for all of the reasons that most people do. On the positive side, it means instant access to my friends, even those I don’t get to see in everyday life. Also, from a ministry aspect, it means I have an instant platform from which to advertise and reach an audience I may never see in real life.

Numbers of likes and follows can also become a source of bondage in the desire for approval.

On the other hand, social media stirs in me a constant desire for likes and approval. There is an addictive quality of needing to check and recheck, and, before I know it, my time has been wasted. Minutes and hours lost on social media are also numbers.

Numbers are not inherently bad. They are in fact just measurements. It’s what I am measuring, and the significance I place on the numbers that can turn them into a form of idolatry. An ideal number can quickly become bondage. God knows that our hearts are idol factories, and Jesus kindly warns us in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6: 19-21 NASB

How then, can we break the habit of getting caught up in the number cycle? We can begin by recognizing when we’re allowing ourselves to be controlled by them. For instance, when I find myself discouraged by numbers of followers or listeners, I tell myself that God can change the world with one individual, and if even one individual is encouraged or inspired, then all of the hard work was worth it. I can tell myself that my worth is not defined by likes on social media. When I’m worried about my bank account, I can remember all of the times the Lord has provided for me before and how He promises He will take care of all of my needs according to His riches in glory. My worth and security cannot be tied to how much money I have, my weight, or my number of followers.

It’s all about a perspective shift. Numbers are only numbers after all. They’re only measurements. They are not the treasure, and they will always disappoint. The treasure is Christ, and He means for us to enjoy the gifts we have been given, including our bodies, our friends, and our resources. Let’s not let the numbers take away our joy.

Pause: Breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the exhale. Read the above Scripture passage from Matthew and meditate on it for a few minutes.

Renew: Is there a place in your life where you are placing too much focus on numbers? What do those numbers represent for you? How have they become an idol or a kind of bondage for you?

Next: If you find that there is an area in your life that numbers have become too important to you, pray this week about how the Lord can change your perspective. Seek out a source of accountability for yourself so you don’t have to carry it alone.

May we store up treasure in heaven and enjoy the gifts we’ve been given!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Seen and Unseen

One evening, while wandering the perimeter of our property, my husband and I enjoyed a few moments of quiet conversation together. With four boys, moments of relative quiet are to be savored, and I was doing just that. Suddenly, my husband pulled out his phone and pointed it at the sky. “What are you doing?,” I asked, surprised that in the midst of a conversation he could be so easily distracted. “I’m checking for planets with this app on my phone,” he replied. “Look, it will show you the planets and stars in orbit.” He passed me the phone, and I looked for myself. Sure enough, with the help of the app, we found Mars and Jupiter in the night sky.

Seen and Unseen: visions in the night sky

As often happens, my mind takes everyday occurrences and turns them into spiritual or relational metaphors. This instance was no different. It occurred to me that those planets and stars had been present throughout the day, but had remained unseen. Why? Because the Sun, our planet’s favorite star, shines so brightly, it blinds us to the presence of the others. It’s only when the Sun sets, and we can peer into the dark corridors of space, that we are able to see far-off stars and planets.

In II Corinthians 4, Paul writes about the perspective of what is seen and what is unseen in relation to suffering. He encourages his readers to look not at what is seen, but at what is unseen. He does not deny that suffering exists, or wish it away with platitudes of faith. What he does do, is put it into perspective declaring that these “light and momentary trials are working for us an eternal weight of glory.” He closes the chapter challenging his readers to “fix their eyes” on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I relate to this analogy personally. In this season of my life, I am struggling to make sense of and hold onto truth while coming to terms with physical conditions that are worsening over time. Will I choose to hold onto what is “seen” or what is “unseen” about the situation? Certainly, both are real factors. I cannot wish away the facts. I have to learn to live with and manage what is “seen” about the situation.

Still, in Christ, I know that behind the scenes, much more is at work. Even if I never know the entirety of the story this side of heaven, I can remind myself that these days of discomfort are just “light and momentary.” What is unseen by the eye, but perceived by the Spirit is an “eternal weight of glory” at the end of the race.

Just as the Sun shines brightly through the day lighting up all that we see, we can know with the same surety that at night, through darkness, stars will shine. Darkness, or the “unseen,” is where we grow in faith most, learning the art of hope, and clinging more closely to the promises of Scripture.

II Corinthians 4:18

Pause: Breathe in. Breathe out. Read II Corinthians 4 and meditate on any verses that resonate with you in this chapter.

Renew: As you think about your own life, is there a trial or struggle that you can relate to in reading this chapter? What about the situation or trial is seen and temporary? What might be unseen and eternal?

Next: Pray this week that the Lord would give you renewed perspective about this situation. Ask Him to help you fix your eyes on what is unseen and eternal.

May we be renewed day by day, and have eyes to see with eternal perspective!

Pause, Renew, Next!