Numbers don’t lie…or do they?

  Do you like quantity or quality?

Would you rather buy 15 pairs of sandals from Target or one pair of more expensive, high quality sandals? Do you like to have 30 different t-shirts hanging in your closet or a handful of higher quality, longer-lasting t-shirts? Do you buy the expensive, high quality cell phone case or go for 5 of the cheapest ones that look cute and break after a month or two?

I will admit that I tend to like quantity. I like choices, options, and if I buy one really nice thing, I am afraid I will get sick of it before it wears out and just be stuck with something I don’t like anymore. I have changed some over the years, but my closet is still filled with cheap clearance finds that were worn once. I have learned that if I am patient and wait until I find a shirt I really love, I will wear it more and feel better when I wear it, too.

There is something about numbers that can get to us before we realize it. Unfortunately, I think Facebook has made it much more obvious to me than it was in the past. In high school, it was pretty clear who the popular people were – those who were elected to student council, those who performed well in sports or other clubs, those who always had a crowded table surrounding them at lunch. High school ended 20 years ago for me, but Facebook and Instagram have kept the popularity contest alive (just in case you were missing it) I notice how many people like my pictures or how many visitors read my blog. And yes, if I’m going to be honest here, I wonder why that friend always gets so many likes or why this person has dozens of comments on everything she posts.

What is it about numbers that makes us feel important? Why do I think that if a larger number of people read my blog, then I will really make a difference? I don’t see this anywhere in the teachings of Jesus other than the fact that we are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

Jesus spoke to large crowds, and He attracted lots of people wherever He went. But He also surrounded Himself with a few chosen disciples with whom He shared the days and nights of His ministry. When Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount, I don’t see any indication that those who speak to thousands of people regularly or who have large Facebook or blog followings will be blessed. I read blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers (selections from Matthew 5 ESV).

Hmmm. Do the poor in spirit, the meek, and the peacemakers have a lot of Facebook followers? Some of them do. But when Jesus says that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45 ESV), He was encouraging His disciples to follow in His very footsteps.

I served in ministry positions in both a local church and a national denomination for 10 years before I became a mother. Even in the quest to share the gospel, the tendency to count the numbers is always there. Do we have more than we had at this event last year? Did our district give more money than we gave last year? Did our church rank higher this year than we have in the past? It is exciting to reach more people with the Good News of Jesus, and we can feel that our work and our efforts matter more if they reach an increasing number of people. The more people we reach, the more souls will be saved, right?

Except that saving souls is God’s business, not ours. We fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation.

In mothering and parenting, we fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation. Except in this case, our efforts are concentrated on a handful of souls into whom we pour our very lives. I honestly think this is one of the toughest underlying challenges of motherhood. This is the most concentrated effort of servanthood you or I will ever experience. No one else gets the full weight of our efforts in the way that our children do. Yet those efforts are seen by just a few and acknowledged sparingly. There are no large, ever increasing numbers to count and impress ourselves or others unless you want to count the hours spent scrubbing dishes, folding laundry, buying groceries, and changing diapers.

I am too easily impressed by numbers. I am too easily disappointed by the lack of them.

Jesus, please change my heart. Make me grateful for what you have given me and where you have placed me today. Encourage me to be faithful in my calling and responsible with the gifts you have given to me. Thank you for glimpses that remind me that I do make a difference, and that is why I am still here on this earth.

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