There's a lot of emphasis on numbers in our world. In most businesses, I think. It's the bottom line or the demographic reach or any other number (pardon the pun) of numbers we focus on to determine if what we're doing is a success or not.
I know there are certainly times I feel the pressure. Times I'm trying to get something going, forge a partnership, or whatever it is with my writing in particular, only to have someone "well-established" (think: large numbers popular) ask me how many subscribers I have, how many followers or fans or likes or traffic I have. Well-intentioned people wanting to know about my book always wonder how many copies I've sold.
These are questions I don't answer with numbers. And won't. I answer them with stories. The truth is, the numbers aren't that important to me. I know there are a great deal of people out there - "experts" let's call them - who say that if I don't focus on the numbers, I will never "make it." I don't think that's necessarily true, and I'm basing that entirely on One Guy who made it without ever counting past one.
That Guy, of course, was Jesus.
Read the Gospel accounts, and you'll see that each story is Jesus and the one. Jesus and the leper. Jesus and the tax collector. Jesus and the demon-possessed man. You never see a recap or a recount or a tally list that says, "Jesus went to Galilee and cast out 14 demons, restored sight to 3 blind men, opened the ears of 1 deaf man, and converted 42 to follow Him." No. Sometimes, you see that He "healed the sick among them," but if you read it all in context, you know that this wasn't some mass prayer of healing, not some blanket action. You know Jesus took His time with each. one. Individually. That's the kind of Guy He was. (And is.)
There are other numbers in the Gospels, and you might think it's contradictory, but it's really not. The Gospels record, to the number, how many fish came up in the net when Jesus told His fisherman to cast again. 153. They record exactly how many containers of wine He made from water at the wedding. An exact number, not an approximation.
Why share these numbers and not the others? Why not count the numbers of people He'd healed and tally them up?
Because these numbers - the fish, the wine, the loaves of bread divided to feed the thousands - weren't about relationship. They weren't about what God was doing in His restorative work for this world. These numbers spoke to His personality, His very nature, His extravagance. He wanted us to see how lush He pours out His blessing on His people. These numbers were speaking about Him: who He is. Not how He works.
The one - the leper, the tax collector, the blind man - with whom God took His time was a relationship. The story of Christ wasn't about the numbers, then. It was about His interaction with His people, the intimacy with which He engages His children.
He wants us to see the contrast in numbers - how beautifully extravagant and rich and fruitful He is in His nature...and how when He is with us, we are all that matters to Him. One.
Who can argue with that kind of example? I certainly can't. That's why I stopped looking at numbers a long time ago and started looking at my inbox. At my interactions. Listening not to how many copies sold but one life at a time that my words mattered in. One life that returns to church because of something I wrote. One heart that cries out for God because of a few meager words, that if we're honest, I just borrowed anyway. They're His. And so are the other numbers. What right do I have to count as mine what are His?
So that's that. I will say that I peeked at the numbers this weekend (it's human nature) after my 2-day giveaway of my first book ended. (Amazon Prime members can still download the Kindle version for free.) And I told a few people, but not many. I was humbled. Yes, I cried. It's so surreal that God would do that through me. But it's the one I'm still concerned about, the one I still concern myself with. The One I seek to emulate...and honor somehow with all He's given me, that which I count as blessing. And still the number doesn't matter; I am blessed to overflowing.
Because of the One.