How to Make Your Life Count

September 23, 2013 | 45 comments

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.

abacus

* * * * *

A GARDEN

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.

apple tree

 

* * * * *

A TABLE

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.

dinner table

 

* * * * *

A SCOREBOARD

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.

scoreboard

 

 * * * * *

“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?

“Meaningless, meaningless.”

magazines

* * * * *

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)

Faith counts.
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.

Dear God,
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

by | September 23, 2013 | 45 comments

45 Comments

  1. Debbie

    I too am not a stat-counter for the same reasons. Seems all of social media is about numbers.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Debbie.

      I don’t think the numbers are inherently bad. People can effectively manage the numbers. My problem? The numbers can manage me.

      Stats mess with me.

      Reply
  2. ro elliott

    Just lovely Jennifer…to live in the true economy of His upside down kingdom….the kingdom that turns this “measuring up “…right side up….which is actually …right side down…and yes and amen…I want to be fully present at this table God has me right now…not looking around…wishing for something….someplace different. Thanks for the encouragement this morning….blessing~

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I think often of this quote from Amy Carmichael:

      “If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

      Thanks for stopping by, Ro.

      (P.S. — I hope this doesn’t sound like an indictment of anyone who does track stats. But perhaps it will be helpful for people, like me, who’ve let stats blur their vision of the Main Thing.)

      Reply
      • ro elliott

        I love the quote….”If” is one of my long time favorites….that quote has helped me many times….I heard nothing but Grace in your words…and these words reach much further than just blog stats…

        Reply
      • Patricia @ Pollywog Creek

        LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this whole post, Jennifer. I took the site meter off Pollywog Creek maybe 2 years ago and recently, maybe 6 months ago, removed the setting that would inform me if someone cancelled their subscription – for the very same reason. LORD, keep my eyes on YOU and Your plans for ME. And I relate to your fear that others will take our decisions to do things differently as an indictment against what they do. I recently wrote a post on why I don’t add a watermark to my photos. I prayed that my readers would see that it was something between me and the LORD and had no bearing on what I think others should do. I thank the LORD often for the ways He keeps me humble in the small things – how he faithfully turns my face toward his. God is so good to me.

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          I don’t have the subscription setting either. I’m too thin-skinned to handle the rejection. 🙂

          Thanks for being here, Patricia!

          Reply
  3. Kathy Schwanke

    Eyes on Jesus, walking in His strength, in obedience, setting up boundaries to prevent disobedience. Beautiful encouragement Jennifer. {I find the story of Saul so haunting because I’ve seen my own (old flesh) tendencies in there. I hate that, but it makes me love Jesus all the more because of His grace. That grace that alerts me to the temptations and turns me away from sinning against him by self-worship} Praise God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. <3 Praise God who gives you such wisdom and ways with words. Thank you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      So glad you’re here, Kathy, encouraging all of us with you wisdom and warmth in the comment box. I so appreciate you.

      Reply
  4. floyd

    Good for you! I’ve checked stats probably twice in the last year and a half, the last one because an agent needing numbers. Like David who counted the number of his fighting men, if it’s done for pride, means were missing our calling.

    There’s a reason that the most valuable things in our lives can’t be equated or counted by a number… they’re just worth more than numbers could add up to…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You know, Floyd, I really wish that I could track stats in a healthy way. I don’t think it’s necessarily unhealthy. And in fact, may help someone with their business or ministry or whatever. But I have an unhealthy relationship with numbers.

      And truthfully, there are so many other ways to gauge how we’re doing. Even the little social-media counters on this post let me know what the response was. And I probably pay more attention to those little numbers than I ought to.

      Reply
  5. Deidra Riggs

    You know I love that table metaphor. 😉

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I know you do… It’s a metaphor we use often in our home, with the girls, especially when we talk about popularity. I compare it to the lunchroom at school, and urge the girls to be present with whomever is in their presence.

      Reply
      • dukeslee

        Also? Thanks for inviting people to the table. That’s one of your gifts.

        Reply
  6. Nancy Ruegg

    I LOVE that quote of Amy Carmichael’s you shared with Ro–one I’d not seen before. How true, and how enlightening of heights yet to be achieved. With Jesus’ help, “Higher up and further in” for his glory! Thank you, Jennifer, for your inspiring post.

    Reply
  7. S. Etole

    A truly refreshing post. And the Amy Carmichael quote is so true.

    Reply
  8. Karrilee Aggett

    It’s like you have been with me all along… throughout oh so many conversations as of late… it’s like we have something in common… or Someone!

    I know it can be so easily said and in the blogosphere we throw words around like it’s our job – but somehow, I honestly love you… I can not WAIT to hug you proper (and not count stats together) inrl at Allume!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I seriously might tackle you when I see you. 🙂 I can’t wait to give you a hug, friend!

      Reply
  9. Elizabeth Stewart

    “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.”
    This jumped out at me like a neon sign!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      (((Elizabeth)))

      Reply
  10. Anita Hunt

    Hi Jennifer 🙂

    I want to thank you from the depths of my heart for your truth filled, encouraging post. I am so with you on this 🙂 I have felt so discouraged lately with pressure from others, to do with numbers. All I want is to sit at the table God has prepared for me, and focus on His heart.

    As soon as numbers come into the mix I feel so stressed. I’m actually considering removing the Facebook like button on my website for this very purpose.

    Blessings.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, the table God has prepared. Indeed, Anita.

      Reply
  11. Mrs. H.

    This. A million times. I have a book brewing, and I got the chance to present to a publisher last year and she was so sweet and encouraging, but she kept talking about platform. And in one year since we met, I have a whopping 28 subscribers. But you know what? Jesus is in my story. And if I only get to tell it one time, to someone who needs the Jesus in my story, then that is all the platform I need. And I will write my book, and maybe only my family will read it, and that’s who needs it. Or maybe the Jesus in my storywriting is platform enough to make this book live beyond me … but ever and always the story is about Jesus and He IS enough. All that to say, this encourages me to no end, and I hope we get meet IRL at Allume. {I hope this makes sense .. it’s late and I have newish baby/lots of kids no sleep brain.}

    Reply
    • Miriam

      Hey friend! I love running into you online…and it makes me smile to hear you speak. “He IS enough.” Love you, Molly!

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      I know how frustrating that can be. I had to put together my numbers and tell about my “platform” when I prepared my book proposal. And I understand why they need to know. I truly do… Publishing is an actual business, even when it’s a ministry.

      But let me stand beside you right now and encourage you to continue to tell your story. He’s doing a beautiful work in you.

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yeah. I get the ouch.

      Reply
  12. Barbara Isaac

    My Goodness, is this wonderful and convicting…. Thank you for your words that went right into my heart, Jennifer! I will let God work with them today…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Barbara.

      Reply
  13. Shelly Miller

    I was just telling someone the other day how disappointing it is that we have become a society gauging success by numbers. I keep hearing God say the same thing over and over: “You do what I’ve called you to do and let me take care of the rest.” So I am and I don’t let numbers dictate my value. When we are Christ followers, the norm, well, it isn’t the norm.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Our friend Holley prayed with me the other day and reminded me to focus on obedience. The “results” part is God’s deal. My part is obedience.

      Reply
    • lynndmorrissey

      So neat to say that to you personally today, Shelly, not yet having read Jennifer’s wonderful blog. I think God is telling us all something here!

      Reply
  14. wendypainemiller

    I can very much relate to this kind of thinking and the destruction it does. Thanks for bringing it into the light. I haven’t checked Google Analytics in months. Used to be an every day checker.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Have been thinking about you, Wendy, and wondering about your publishing journey. Hope you’re doing well, friend. Let’s catch up!

      Reply
  15. Kim @ Kim's County Line

    So much to think about here. For someone who has never been good with math and is definitely more a word person, you’d think I wouldn’t get hung up on the numbers – numbers on a blog, numbers on a scale, counting “things” to make sure everything is “fair.” Thanks for the beautiful table analogy, Jennifer, and for reminding me that I count in God’s eyes, where it matters.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Numbers on a scale… A good one to mention, Kim. Thanks.

      Reply
  16. Miriam

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Praise God that HE gives freedom from torturous numbers!!! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks for stopping by, Miriam.

      Reply
  17. Sandra Heska King

    I have a piddly platform when I peek at numbers (compared to others, of course)–which I don’t even know how to do to get a full picture. I would think a publisher would poo-poo it. Some days I’m just tired of it all. Just weary. I want to sit at the table with the cool kids, even though I’m not a kid any more. But He keeps saying, “Count it all joy.” All. So I’m counting on HIs math skills being better than mine.

    Reply
  18. Alia Joy

    Oh my heart. Jennifer, I love yours. I am with you, I can’t look at numbers either. When I started, I looked a lot AND got unsubscribe notices sent to my email. That will kill your mojo for reals. I just can’t handle it, either. I end up worrying about all the wrong things and like you, become paralyzed by what I’m doing wrong or right. I hate how the numbers and stats separate us as you can see in my comments on the newbies page. I get that some people are goal driven and that maybe that helps them but I’d argue, for a lot of people, it just “kicks you in the teeth, and hijacks your dreams,” as the lovely Lisa Jo states. I’m only content to be small when I’m not striving to be big. So thankful for your honesty here as someone a lot of people would consider a very big blogger/ author.

    Reply
  19. lynndmorrissey

    Jennifer……what is it w/ table? God just put this word so distinctly in my mind several months ago, immediately upon rising. I know I”m to write about it, and to live it out. And so I especially loved reading about it here. And how I resonate with you over the whole numbers thing, also respecting the great sensitivity you’ve shown for others who need or feel led to count for the reasons you’ve indicated. Somehow in all this, I think of the number one–the one thing Jesus told Mary was necessary…..and that is making Him number one, of course, too.
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
  20. Mindy

    Echoing your prayer…

    Reply
  21. alisonhector

    “Counting fixed my eyes on myself, rather than on Jesus.” Oh my. This just about sums it all up, Jennifer. This post is a word in due season. The counting is wearying and unproductive. It’s not what He called us to.

    Reply

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