By SHERYE S. GREEN
God’s ‘math’ lesson:
Teach us to number our days
Mathematics always baffled me. Somehow my brain couldn’t quite wrap itself around the science of numbers. I particularly struggled with math in college.
As a marketing major at Mississippi State, I was required to take six hours of statistics. I made D’s in both classes and was proud to receive them. How thankful I was for my professors who allowed me a path to academic redemption: extra credit. Then during the summer following my sophomore year, I took Statistics 1 again at Belhaven University (called Belhaven College in those days) to try and improve my GPA. I made an A, thank you very much!
Once I’d been working in business a few years, I attended a conference at which Disney’s short film starring Donald Duck, “Donald in Mathmagic Land” was shown. The film combined animation with live photography. First, Donald would go through the forest and look for numbers to shoot. Once he took aim and fired, say at the number 5, the film would switch to live photography. The five-sided geographic shape of a pentagon would be superimposed over photographs of items in nature, such as a five-petaled flower or a honeycomb cell. Then the picture would switch back to animation, and Donald Duck would continue his hunt.
When the lights in the meeting room came back on, the first reaction that rose up from deep inside me was anger and consternation: Why didn’t anyone tell me how exciting and common-sense math is? I learned more about math from that little film, lasting less than 30 minutes, than I had in 20 years of formalized education.
Part of the problem was that I don’t remember ever having a math teacher who helped me “get it”: to properly learn and understand the basic concepts, but most importantly to appreciate how math related to my everyday life. The other part of the problem was that perhaps a teacher did share those concepts, but I didn’t have the eyes to see, the ears to hear or the heart to understand.
A few months ago, I entered the wonderful decade of the 60s. Now, I’ve bigger fish to fry than worry about my age, but that number 60 got my attention! As I’ve been adjusting to this new, more distinguished age, God’s been whispering that I need to treasure each day and not waste time.
God has much to say to us in His Word about the subject of time. A favorite encouragement on this subject is Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days; that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Two other versions of that verse have helped me get a better handle on how precious each day is. The Contemporary English Version states, “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.” The Easy-to-Read Version states, “Teach us how short our lives are so that we can become wise.”
The thought has crossed my mind that there are more days behind me than days that possibly lie ahead. Only God knows how many years He has purposed for me before He calls me home. My job is to keep my eye on the ball and focus on each day I am given, not to worry or speculate about what might be looming before me.
One mathematical precept that God shares about right living is, “Whoever chases unrealistic dreams will have plenty of nothing” (Proverbs 28:19, CEV). Sixty or not, I still remember the concept of zero: Nothing + nothing = nothing. Only when I surrender all of me to the Lord — my heart, my talents, my time — and allow Him to multiply my meager offerings, will I get the solution to the equation of my life: Me + me = zero; me + God = results beyond anything I can ask or think.
“Donald in Mathmagic Land” turned 60 this year, just like me! Nominated for an Academy Award in 1960 for Best Documentary, Short Subject, this film is still available for purchase. I’m thinking of ordering copies for my grandsons.
Wherever you are in life, God has a work for you to do, a purpose for you to fulfill and His mission for you to accomplish. My prayer is that you will make an A+ on your homework assignment for God’s math lesson.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian and a wife, mother and grandmother. She has enjoyed two careers — one in business, the other in education. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul and Tending the Garden of My Heart: Reflections on Cultivating a Life of Faith.