Losing Count: Not because of the One but because of the two

Today two college boys, brothers, say good-bye to their 47-year-old mama after a fierce battle with cancer.

Two days after returning home from a nine-hour road trip for a mother/daughter conference a massive heart attack steals life from this mama’s husband and this daughter’s daddy.

Two hours into practice, my Sixteen calls to ask if I can come pick her up because she is pretty sure she’s just torn her OTHER ACL. This time it is her right ACL. Last year this time, it was her left. One, and now two! It just doesn’t add up.

And two just doesn’t add up. My mind fuzzes and I start to lose count. My brain turns to mush. The numbers run amuck. My hands shake unable to find the right numbers. I grope hopelessly for the simplest of math, but my heart cannot apprehend it.

I yell and I scream. I flail. I flunk my very first quiz. I lose count.

Within moments of learning and writing and sharing my new found math, Thanks-counting, God tests my skill. Yep that’s right,  a pop-quiz laid out right in front of me. Unannounced. Unplanned. Unprepared. UNFAIR!

“God, You expect me to pass this quiz?” I doubt angrily suspicious. “Don’t You remember? I can’t do math in public.” Yet, Your eye fixes upon me, and the eyes of all watch to see.

Through the gym door. Beside her. On the sweaty seat. Out the heavy door. Down the snowy street. At the front desk. In the doctor’s office. After the MRI. During the exam.

“Or privately, either, God…God? God!” I yell and I scream. I flail. I flunk my very first quiz. I lose count. In prayer. Around the table. Next to the bed. On the floor. Two just doesn’t add up.

I find myself in a muddled mucky mess. No counting here, I honestly confess.

So where do I go when two doesn’t add up and the math just doesn’t make sense? Where does this math student go when the Story problem leaves me settling for the less?

Why of course, to the Teacher and the Book!

Yet, I waste minutes and hours and days attempting to figure the problem out. I turn it over in my mind tens of hundreds of times – every detail, every ‘what if,” every step of the way in this muddled mess.

Finally! Sigh-exhaling me comes to the Teacher and the Book. And assuredly I find examples of Story problems in the Book, messes in which people find themselves where the math just doesn’t add up. For example consider Joseph.

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At age seventeen Joseph’s brothers throw him into a pit to die, but decide the better and sell him into slavery. The purchased Joseph serves an Egyptian officer named Potiphar for eleven years. Potiphar’s lusting deceitful wife, “Hotiphar”, as someone once called her, attempts to snag Joseph. Joseph flees temptation, but not without penalty. Potiphar imprisons Joseph locking him up for two years. And again two just doesn’t add up.

Eleven plus two makes thirteen. Thirteen years after his seventeen, Joseph counts two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. The numbers begin to make sense. Two starts to add up!

Joseph counts! With powerful counting he assigns importance and value by way of naming his sons. Joseph displays promise as a math student in the names he chooses for his sons. Both sons’ names offer a demonstration in Joseph’s apprehension of God’s economy. Particularly as Ephraim means “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

  • Fruitful in affliction, that’s God’s economy not the world’s parsimony!

Joseph acknowledges his affliction, a time when the two didn’t make sense. His life was a muddled murky mess, yet there were still things to ac-count and re-count.

So I count again today, with courage and dogged resolve. I name and I confess, and I reckon and I count.

  • I surrender and bend the knee to a God whose math doesn’t always make sense to me.

I am reminded of some profound words in the Book, “Naked, I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

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  • The LORD gives and He takes away. He adds and He subtracts.

And sometimes, maybe even more often than not, I don’t understand or get His math. But God is counting. Truly He is. God counts therefore so can I.

  • God is keeping track of every tear that falls, every hair that grows, and every star that shines. He does the math.

So what, when two just doesn’t add up?

Can we surrender and say yes to the mess, to the murky muddled math? Can we say yes to an addition and a subtraction that just doesn’t make sense?

Yes, I believe we can.

We can say yes to the mess because the math is this:

  • Mess + 3 = MessIAH

MessIAH takes the two that doesn’t add up, adds three and it becomes One. MessIAH comes to set the equation right. MessIAH comes to un-muddle the math. MessIAH ushers in God’s economy. MessIAH brings fruit in affliction.

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MessIAH is the One who brings sight to the blind, liberty to the captives, an opening to the bound. MessIAH gives strength for fear, beauty for ashes, oil of joy for mourning, praise for a spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61)

  • MessIAH gives fruit in affliction!

I don’t understand it. How He does the math, but I know I have experienced it and I have seen it and God’s word confirms it.

And for those of us who love multi-faceted story problems like the homework my kids now have, there’s another step. Yep, they’re the problems I can’t help them with. I can’t help them because it’s way over my head.

It’s Way. Over. My. Head. Isn’t that how God’s ways and thoughts are – higher and deeper! That’s precisely why I am letting Him do the math!

So here’s another step. This step might even be more confounding than the first.

  • Mess + 3 = MessAGE   (What?!)

When three is added to my mess I am also given a MessAGE. When MessIAH enters my mess He doesn’t waste a thing. There is no remainder! God’s math works a MessAGE right in the midst of my mess. He gives me a MessAGE to share with a watching world when the math just doesn’t have the answers. They want to see me do the math in public. They want to know if I can do this kind of math in public. In the gym on the sweaty seat. At the doctor’s office after the MRI. Through the heavy door down the snowy street.

As much as I hate to do math in public, God is taking my mess, adding three and I get two – MessIAH and a MessAGE!

Now think about that…I get two and the two starts to add up! Wahoo! LORD, You do the math!

Happy Thanks-Counting, my friends!

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