Outside The Numbers
March 17, 2011
March is when most people give up on this experiment. Their intentions roar in like a lion, but by the end of the month their word if they can still remember it -has gone out like a lamb.http://mountainsphoto.ru
Who knows, the real problem could be the Scotch Tape. It doesnt take long for the sticky side to wear out. Now the index card that used to serve as a daily reminder with your word printed out in huge block letters has fallen from the dashboard or the bathroom mirror; out of sight, out of mind.
Of course theres another possibility. It has to do with Measuring Sticks. Thats a phrase youve heard a lot this month. Many of my friends have told you that in order to keep going you have to celebrate the slightest amount of growth.
Theyre right, but be careful! Picking the wrong Measuring Stick can be a huge mistake!
I think we get into problems when we try to turn faith into a numbers game. Its part of our human nature. We think that all progress needs a digit attached to it.
But what are you counting?
This year my word is seed. In January I promised to focus on the small efforts, turning them over to God and letting Him worry about how big they will become. Its been amazing. In just a short time some of what Ive planted has already started to bloom. And yet, I am discouraged right now. I want to quit and give up.
You know why? Because two days ago I planted five seeds and yesterday I only planted one! Thats not growth! Thats not progress! Thats not moving forward, its going backwards. Whats the point?
If the Measuring Stick that you use compares moment to moment or one day to another, you are going to end up failing. It is vital that you look at growth on a much bigger scale.
Yes, I only planted one seed yesterday. But you want to know the truth? That single seed took a lot out of me. It depleted my resources. It required me to really engage with another individual. It forced me to be compassionate, to be honest, to share my own fears and doubts and tell them about the faith that sustains me.
Compare that to the five seeds I threw the previous day. In truth, looking back at in now, those really werent anything more than random acts of kindness, quick in and outs, drive by Christianity. I may have thrown more of them, but the larger number really is no indicator of how much I truly gave of myself.
Perhaps when it comes to my word, and maybe yours, too, the key is not to count up but to count down.
To understand my point you have to read the Gospels of Matthew and Mark in chronological order. This is fascinating to me. In Chapter 14 of Mathew (Mark 6) Jesus feeds five thousand with a few crumbs of bread and fish. And in the next chapter (or Mark 8) he does the same thing but this time the number drops to only four thousand.
Close your eyes and you can almost picture the panic attack among the disciples: Whats going on? Our numbers our down! This is a crisis! Our movement is dwindling! We got to do something here.
Okay that sounds sarcastic, but think about this: Why didnt John mention the second (or lesser miracle) in his Gospel? Did he delete it simply because He was counting in the wrong direction?
Here is how you count down.
After taking inventory of the few pieces of fish and bread Jesus speaks my favorite words in all of scripture: Give it to me, or in some versions: Bring it to me.
In essence He is saying: Give me what you got, dont hold back.
In that regard it doesnt matter how many seeds I threw yesterday provided that I empty my tank today. My goal is not to increase the number, but to decrease it. So at the end of each day I can say: God, I am on empty! I gave you what I had. I left it all on the court. There is nothing in the reserves.
Progress and growth need to be measured, but in March just make sure you are counting in the right direction.
Doug Wahl is a former award winning broadcast journalist. His first book Gradually to God will be released in April. He is also the founder of the Off the Wahl blog on facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Off-The-Wahl-Eassys-in-taking-the-next-step-in-a-walk-with-Christ/108832095861048?v=wall