August 4, 2017

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

For God, we are much more than a simple number in life

Patti LambLast week, I accompanied our son Henry to his middle school orientation night prior to the start of the school year.

The evening provided a great opportunity for students to walk through their schedules, meet their teachers, practice their locker combinations, purchase spirit wear and much more. It was well organized and efficiently run, although it was a bit overwhelming. The hallways were a sea of middle school humanity, with hundreds of students feverishly navigating their ways during the one hour allotted.

My son commented that, at seemingly every turn, he was required to remember or to identify himself by a number.

As we walked through his schedule, he had to remember the numbers of his classrooms, located within five different numbered hallways. He was asked for his student identification number when we loaded money into his lunch account. He also had to commit a new locker number and combination to memory.

At one point, it all became a bit daunting.

“I can’t keep all of these numbers straight,” he said, as he accidentally provided his student identification number when I gave him a pop quiz on his locker combination.

As we waited in line behind about 10 other kiddos and their parents to pay book fees, my son leaned over and said, “I just feel like a walking number.”

I proposed a challenge and asked him to list—in under one minute—all the ways we are known by a number.

“Go!” I exclaimed.

I was impressed with the list he rattled off, which included everything from Social Security number and phone number to height, weight, shoe size, birth order, license plate number and more.

Then I reminded Henry that, unfortunately, life is full of opportunities to see ourselves and compare ourselves by the numbers. We gage success based on standardized test score numbers, grade point averages, salaries, bonuses and credit scores. We judge ourselves by the numbers we see on a scale and in our bank accounts.

But I told my son that God doesn’t see in terms of numbers. We are more than a number that others might use to categorize us. To our Creator, each one of us is a precious human being made in his own likeness and image, totally unique and unrepeatable.

And no matter how many of us there are, he loves us all abundantly. That love is irrevocable. I tried to explain that God sees us in an entirely different way than we might view one another.

I pulled out my phone and looked up a passage from the First Book of Samuel, and I showed it to Henry.

“But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sm 16:7).

As we drove home from back-to-school night, I reminded my son that, as he progresses along his educational career, emphasis will continue to be placed on numbers—class rank, SAT scores and even cross country mile times. But I reminded him that to God, and to his dad and me, he will always be much more than a number or anything quantifiable.

Ironically, at bedtime, I opened one of my devotionals to this quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: