What’s In a Number

Photo By Luis Argerich

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

Four thousand nine hundred sixty-five.

Of course, you just read that numeric expression with no reaction whatsoever. Without knowing what it represents, any number – from one to a billion – is simply that – a number. Many attempt to assign significance to certain numbers, whether in Christianity, where numbers like three and twelve are often pointed to as divine quantities, or in terms of celebratory moments like the sweet sixteen, the big  4-0, or the 50th anniversary.  But the majority of numbers live  in obscurity, having no reason for being celebrated, held in  high esteem, or remembered for anything else than being  passed by in an accounting of some unnoticed pile of objects, or  maybe a passing mention on a stock sheet or a store receipt.

So why is my number significant today? Perhaps some  background from a song I’ve heard would help explain. I  believe it’s from the musical “Rent” – a piece called “Seasons of  Love”.  The lyricist obviously did his homework, having  calculated that every year contains five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. He then wraps that number in  the query of how we measure a year, whether in the quantity of  time, or in the opportunities we have to share love with our  friends and family. A great question, for sure.  And one that I  found myself asking last night as my upper eyelids began to  hover just above my lower ones in a vain attempt to stave off their magnetic attraction.

It had been a restless evening, one in which I was unable to focus on any particular problem at hand, – a new job offer, our impending house sale, my son’s entrance into college in two weeks – all standing in front of me like bowling pins in an impossible split configuration, daring me to take the correct mental approach and roll my problem solving ball in a way that would knock them all down in one improbable swoop. Lacking the skill or the understanding to do so, I tried to turn my thoughts to the things I should be grateful for.

Now math is not the normal path I would take for a mental exercise in thankfulness. But having my wife at my side inspired an equation, a simple one I know, but one that the mind that got a C- in Algebra could handle. I thought about our 13 years of marriage, and tried to calculate how many nights I have had the privilege of laying down with this beautiful lady at my side, in the hope that by God’s mercy that I would not wake up the next morning alone. So the easy answer was multiply the 13 years by 365 days.

No, I couldn’t do the mental math on that one. But the thought was sobering as I estimated the number was in the thousands. Thousands of nights spent, and what could I show for it in terms of love shown? Of problems that could have been overlooked in favor of sharing a hug, a kiss, a contented sigh and glance at the love of my life? Just how many of those thousands of evenings and mornings did I really make count? The number fades in significance in comparison to the emotional bond and depth of connection that could have been attained if I just stopped thinking of what’s missing, and remembered what was there all along.

So today the formulation was done, the leap years accounted for, and the current year added (I’d love to turn it into an algebraic equation to prove my mathematical mettle, but I digress), and the solution to the equation is the number at the  beginning of this entry. Yet, already it has passed into the recesses of my mind, again insignificant, again lost to the heap of inconsequential facts. For the most important thing is not the number of days and nights I’ve had opportunity to touch and show love to my wife and family. It’s what I do with the current one. #4,965  is today, and I intend to make the best of it. My wife and kids may not know the number of the day, but they’ll know who was there in the midst of it.

Unto the hills,



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