Someone asked me the other day if I knew how many people visit my blog a month. I told her I had no idea.
I haven’t tracked blog stats for more than a year. I don’t say that out of a sense of spiritual superiority. In fact, I’m not all that proud of my decision to turn off the stat-counter.
Many people track stats in a healthy way; it helps them make good decisions about what works and what doesn’t. But for me, numbers had become a way to take my eyes off the Reason – to take my eyes off of God.
My emotions were manipulated by math. If the numbers dropped, I obsessed over why. If they soared, I had an inflated sense of self-worth.
Counting can become an abacus to falsely measure worth.
And I needed to give myself permission to focus on what really counts.
* * * * *
Counting first got ugly in the Garden.
The story in Genesis doesn’t tell us how many trees were in that lush, fruit-bearing land of Eden. But Adam and Eve could eat from any of them, except for the Tree of Knowledge. They could count on one finger how many trees were off limits.
In a single creation-altering moment, amidst immeasurable abundance, Adam and Eve were lured by the need for just.one.more. What God had already given—they had determined—was simply not enough.
So they bit.
This is the time-tested deception of the enemy: He tricks us into counting. We tell ourselves we need more: money, followers, blog subscribers, fans, people in the pews. We unwittingly turn our backs on the uncountable, mountainous love of God, while redirecting our focus to the “Just One Mores” that lie dangerously within our reach.
* * * * *
Pretend your life is a table. A few people are sitting there with you. These are the people that really love you, and whom you really love. These are your people. Can you see their faces?
It can be tempting to look over the shoulders of your people, wishing you were invited to another, more important table.
I want to remember the faces at my table. I want to memorize the lines on their faces, the scars on their souls, the sparkle in their eyes, the healing on their hearts. I want to know what makes them laugh, tick, breathe, cry, sing… live.
But I can’t see any of it, if I’m always looking over shoulders.
* * * * *
I flip pages of my Bible, to the palace rooms of Saul. The scene grew dark and ugly when Saul started counting. He counted and compared himself to David. After one of David’s memorable victories, scores of women, dancing with tambourines, greeted King Saul with a cheery little counting song:
Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.”
The scoreboard read: Saul – thousands. David – tens of thousands.
Saul burned with jealousy. If it were 2013, he’d be the guy scrolling through his Twitter feed, deflated by the lack of @mentions, wishing he were the one everyone was talking about.
Scoreboards make me know where I fall short, make me look past my very own table. Might even make me seethe and sin.
* * * * *
“JUST ONE MORE”
This legacy of counting and wanting “Just One More” had left me empty, weary and discontented—even if the numbers rose. Counting fixed my eyes on myself, rather than on Jesus.
I think of Solomon. He had a sky-high approval rating, and an abundance of countable accomplishments: houses built, vineyards established, gardens and parks that he designed, irrigation systems for tree groves. Had he lived in the 21st century, Solomon could have tabulated his worth by degrees and plaques and followers and fans. Time magazine may well have slapped his Photo-shopped face on a glossy cover, dubbing him “Man of the Year.”
But in the end, what did he count it as?
* * * * *
COUNTING ON GOD
But God steps in, like a patient math teacher, sharing the arithmetic of the saints. He tells us that we are already loved.
And we can count on it.
Can I put a number on God’s love toward me? No. It is impossible.
“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:18)
There are no earthly ways to measure such love. I want to do the math of the Master.
I flip to Matthew to find an old truth, jumping afresh off the page: My Maker counts hairs. (Matthew 10:30) He loves me that much!
I rustle pages under my fingers, moving deeper into the story, toward Romans. My spirit quickens. How does God count us?
Will we be counted according to earthly measures? No. It is this remarkable truth instead:
“But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” (Romans 4:5)
I count because of my faith.
I count because of Christ.
And I can count on Christ.
I flip the pages once more, to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
“For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” ~ Philippians 3:8-9
Until I breathe my last, I want to count the worth of my life by those terms. I want to count on God, and I wanted to be counted on—to live a life of love and service for my King, not for my approval.
I want to be fully present at the table where I sit, rather than longing to be invited to the table in the distance.
I don’t want empty-hearted, empty-handed living that measures worth by the numbers. I want to count only and always on You. And I cannot add anything to what You’ve already done. Amen.
Photo 1: Kinchan 1, via Flickr
Photo 2: B Tall, via Flickr
Photo 3: My kitchen table
Photo 4: vistavision
Photo 5: theseanster93