Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Numbers Game

I have always been a horrible math student. Actually, I despise numbers of any kind. I made it through Algebra and Geometry just fine in high school, and even went on to Advanced Algebra, but I think my love affair with anything formulaic started subconsciously rearing it's ugly head right around that time, and eventually my Mom got a phone call from the principal telling her that I had missed 17 math classes, and was she aware of all the doctor's appointments she had been signing me out of class for?

Oops. Busted.

To this day I avoid any numbers like they're the plague. Balancing the checkbook? All thanks goes to my mathematically unchallenged husband, Jason. Sudoku puzzles? I would rather have my hair pulled out strand by highlighted strand. If it were not for my trusty calculator (circa 1985 with all of about twelve buttons on it), teaspoons would be tablespoons, pints would be quarts, and my children would be even more leery of my cooking then they already are.

Give me letters and words any day. Oh, how I love the written word! I have a special place in my heart for my dictionary. I get excited about books on grammar. I can totally lose myself in someone else's term paper on the molecular make-up of water if it means I get to play editor and come up with all sorts of ways to use better phrasing and punctuation.

(Now, to all you fellow English-nerds, please don't start perusing my entries for errors. I'm sure there are some in here, and if I start thinking that you're going to be looking for them the pressure may be enough for me to get out my fine-toothed comb and locate them first. And frankly, right now I'm just too lazy.)

But anyway, ever since my Dad died it seems as if numbers have been creeping into my days, and not in a good way. I find myself tabulating, figuring, and subtracting these normally uneventful, mundane areas of my life until I have them boiled down to a definitive number. Something concrete, something I can hold onto, or something I can discard.

For instance, here's a sample of some numbers that have been finding their way to me as of late.

65: The age my Dad will forever be to me. I become so envious of people with father's who are in their 70's, or 80's, or 90's, because I will never know my Dad in that stage of his life. I wanted to see him grow old, to see what he would have looked like, to have been able to care for him, to be given the chance to honor my elderly father as the Lord commands me to. Now, he is immortalized to me as a mid-sixties man for the rest of all time.

4: The number of dried roses in a vase in my bedroom from a floral arrangement my friends sent to his visitation. These flowers make me angry every time I look at them. I can't help but think that it is too soon for me to have my Dad's funeral flowers on display. But I cannot, will not, ever part with them.

3 (minus 2): The number of live plants that came home with me from my Dad's funeral. Two I have failed to keep alive (no surprise there), but the last one I have grown an unhealthy and abnormally protective relationship over. If that one dies, I have lost one more thing that ties me to my father.

10: The number of months I have lived on without him. You could easily tell me this number stands for ten days, or ten years. It's hard to think that there would be any difference. Pain is pain, no matter how much time has passed.

13( plus 2): The number of grandchildren he shared his life with while he was here, plus the two who have been born since he died. (Dearest Cora and Gage, my prayer for you is that we can relate to you all of who your Papa was, instill in you his heart for the Lord, and be a living example of the love of Christ that would have been his lifelong gift to each one of you.)

2 (minus one big, fat, giant 1): The number of fathers in my life. At our Alberda family Christmas party I took along some homemade soup. As I was in the kitchen helping myself to a bowl, my father-in-law spoke up from the next room and said, "Nice work, Susie-Q". To my recollection, my own father never once called me Susie-Q, but hearing this from my father-in-law completely leveled me. It was such an obviously fatherly thing to say, and it totally caught me off guard how much I missed having that fatherly pride and affection shown to me. I was left speechless, holding the ladle and holding back tears, longing to feel like a daughter all the time, and not just once in awhile. That big, fat, giant 1 is the one that immerses itself in my hours and my days, and casts an overwhelming shadow over my future.

72: The number of minutes my father will spend in heaven without me if I live another 50 years, if 2 Peter 3 is to be taken literally and one day in heaven really is the equivalent of 1,000 years here on earth. (See, Mr. VandenBerg? All your math teaching was not completely lost on me. Unless I figured this wrong, in which case I'm sorry. And then you would be right, I should have listened to you when you told me that there would come a time where my math skills would come in handy.)

10 x 4 : The approximate number of Sunday services I have sat through without my father by my side. This is the one hour a week where his absence remains as bitter and as real to me as if he had just passed away days before. Although enough time has gone by that I don't expect to see him rounding the corner at church anymore, when I take my seat I can still feel him next to me, I can still see his reverent face ready to receive teaching, I can still remember his humble heart lost in worship. Sunday's are so hard for me, and rarely do I make it through a service without the memory of him there next to me bringing tears to my eyes. This one hour a week remains very bittersweet for me, as the comfort I find there in Christ often goes head-to-head with my sorrow over death. It is a constant battle, on a very appropriate battlefield.

Plus 1: The only number I have found to matter in my life. The number that all the other figures and formulas combined cannot touch, cannot hold a candle to, the number they all bow down before. The number of my God in my life. This number reminds me that I am always me, plus One. And this One can never change, will never leave me, and is perfect just the way it is. Without this One I am nothing, I am nil, I am zero. But with this One I am infinite.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day choosing to focus on my "plus 1", and to let all the other numbers fall by the wayside. None of them matter, Lord, in comparison with You.

You are my everything. You have carried me through the hours, the days, the months that keep adding up, keep growing greater and greater as my life with my father falls further and further behind.

And You have never once changed. You cannot be divided, You cannot be added to, You are not just one part of the equation. You are the equation. Everything begins and ends with You. You are sovereign, You are holy, You are powerful, You are in control, You are mighty, You are just, You are strong, You need no one or nothing.

And yet You still choose to be gracious, compassionate, merciful, and kind. You still come here to mourn with me, to comfort me, to offer Yourself to me, to love me, and invite me to love You.

All of these things add up to one amazing, unfathomable God. An indescribable God whose only desire is to be allowed into our lives as our "plus 1".

Lord, You are the one and only number that makes me whole.

Thank You for completing me.

In Your Name I pray,

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