Love-Hate Relationship with Numbers

Not the book of the Bible… I actually like the book of Numbers, the fourth book written by Moses between the years 1440 and 1400 B.C. that documents the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites. What I am referring to is actual numbers.

Number one, I am not a math person. I don’t do well with mental calculations and I feel that makes me look stupid when I’m really not. I have always had a tendency to switch numbers in my head. I have never been tested nor diagnosed with dyscalculia (it’s like dyslexia but involves numbers), but I have always had a problem with number order. If I write a math problem out on paper, as long as I know what I’m doing I’m usually easily able to solve it. But I cannot do math in my head, and it’s gotten worse as I’ve battled this ever-present Mystery Illness (so the next time you’re in the store and you give a cashier more change than what they expected, perhaps you ought to consider the possibility of some type of learning disability before you berate them. I get sick and tired of older people assuming that folks are stupid because they can’t make fast mental calculations).

But my disdain for numbers comes from more than my poor mental math abilities. I’ve grown weary with how one’s success is measured by numbers. I’m sick of test scores, credit scores, income status, productivity measures, shoot I’m even tired of weight. All of these things mean nothing in the grand scheme of things but are taken to mean everything. And it’s stealing people’s joy.

With that being said, I understand WHY these things need to be measured, to an extent. I do not like all the testing that is done in schools; I do not feel that the tests measure children’s knowledge, since all schools in America do not have the same resources and all children do not learn or test the same. On the contrary, I can see the need for schools to do some type of testing in order that they may gauge a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses in order to craft them an appropriate learning plan based thereupon. I also understand that colleges and universities want to see some type of evidence that incoming students have achieved at least a basic understanding of the concepts upon which a college education is built. But I do not like this whole concept of credit in America and how it is used to keep lower-income people in the same bracket (can someone explain to me the point of charging someone who is already of lower means more interest? I understand they’re considered a higher risk, but does a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding one’s credit history truly appropriate? The only thing damaging on my credit report (in addition to the fraudulent charges associated with identity theft) are my ridiculous student loans. So I’m not creditworthy because I believed in the American dream as a naïve teen???). But I understand that one’s productivity at work is going to be measured. I understand that it IS important to maintain a healthy weight and BMI. But what I don’t like is how people have erased the concept of a person being a PERSON and hold people to numerical standards.

Personally, I don’t care if a person is 300 pounds (other than being concerned about their health), has a 500 credit score (other than the fact that that puts them at a financial disadvantage and to the extent that a Christian person IS supposed to pay his debts), or got an 800 on his SATs in high school. I care about who they are as a person and that their needs are being met. More importantly, God does not care about those things.  I know there are certain numbers that hang over my head every single day that give me pause–my weight, my credit score, that ever-increasing amount of student loans that I will probably never pay off. I know personally how these numbers weigh on my self-esteem. But at the end of the day, if I am doing something that benefits someone else, do they care about those things? Nope. Is God measuring my adherence to His commands with those numbers? Nah.

These kids are being impacted by numerical standards as well. They see tons upon TONS of information disseminated by social media on weight and body standards in particular. They are under tons of pressure to maintain a certain grade point average and achieve certain test scores knowing that their academic performance will make a difference on how much they may eventually end up paying for college (I just read that Congress is going to allow student loan interest to increase by 18%, and I was flipping furious).

Are we reminding them that development of their moral character is just as important? Are we focusing on their mental health as well? I suppose that is my major problem with these numerical standards–that people look at them instead of the person holistically.

Numerical deficiencies mean the world in today’s society, but in the kingdom of God, you are more than just the numbers that are associated with you. Regardless of whether you have the ideal body weight, the perfect credit score, the best grades, the highest productivity rate at your job, or the best test scores, God has given you some type of ability you can use to advance His kingdom. So don’t get bogged down by society’s measurements and standards. You are not mediocre in God’s eyes. And it’s okay to be average. All throughout the Bible we see God using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That should give us all confidence and erase the self-doubt this world can bring.

numbers hatred


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