1 … 2 … 3 …
It could be a game of hide-and-seek. Perhaps it’s a two-year-old learning her numbers. Maybe we’re dealing cards for a quick family round of Uno.
4 … 5 … 6…
Did you learn to count with giant, colourful flash cards? Picture books? By counting the toys on Playschool? Or maybe Count von Count on Sesame Street was your go-to Educator? (1 … ha ha ha … 2 … ha ha ha …)
It seems that we all, from a very early age, began to count things. Toys, books, pencils, cards, candy, peas (maybe if we told mum how many there were, she would have pity on us and not make us eat them!)
And our obsession with quantifying things continued through our teenage years: albums (or CDs), shoes, tops, days until (insert favourite band here) showed up in our city.
19 … 18 … 17 … 16 …
This talent wasn’t lost in the transfer across to our spiritual life. Many churches still seek to quantify ‘spiritual’ activities, assuming the more we do the better people of faith we will be. It could be Bible verses memorised, Rosaries repeated each day, hours spent in prayer or pages in a journal. Unspoken spiritual hierarchies formed based on the things we think we can count.
And no wonder, because it seemed as we were growing up that ‘bums on seats,’ souls ‘saved,’ or baptisms were the measure of the success of a church and religious organisations were ready to do whatever it took to get the numbers up.
146 … 147 … 148 …
It appears that we humans are addicted to measuring and to formulae that we believe will ‘guarantee success.’ We lie awake at night wondering if we have done enough, worrying that we may not reach the nebulous goal of expectations placed on us by our culture, our church, our family, our peers. Our life is overtaken by what we learn in basic mathematics: quantifying every aspect, measuring our goodness, striving to increase our net worth . . . or at least the size and value of our wardrobe.
Surrounded by such a societal norm, Jesus asked the rhetorical question: ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ (Matthew 6:27 NIV)
Well, can we?
The obvious answer is ‘No.’ But it’s not even the thought of counting our days (or hours–or cubits as the old version reads). In the context, the Rabbi is addressing the ancient art of worrying, fretting, concerning ourselves with the stuff of life that we can’t–or shouldn’t–count.
Look at the grass.
Look at the birds.
Look at the wildflowers.
Glory surrounds you. And this glorious beauty hasn’t gotten where it is by measuring itself against another, by hoarding its possessions, or striving for a greater quantity of anything.
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’
We do not need to be wrapped up in measuring, accumulating, primping, counting our possessions and Instagramming our latest look. Rather, we need to rest, enjoy what we have and be content with who we are. I have value. I am worthy. I am beloved of God.