Posts Tagged ‘the perfect number’

It’s happened before.

People are missing.

Murdered, kidnapped, AWOL or gone to the store — I’m missing them.

When I was in Nicaragua recently, I found that my wife was missing.

I had to return home to find her. There she was, at home, saying, “You’re always the one who gets to go off on adventures, and I’m stuck home, waiting for you. I feel like I spend my whole life waiting for you!”

I know what she means — kind of.

In Nicaragua I was waiting for her too, waiting to get back to her, to be with her again, my soul mate, my true love.

She is my lady in waiting.

What is it about missing people? This summer my daughter has gone missing. She’ll be home next week after two months on the road — camps, kids, a worship band, her job.

So, next week I’ll be more complete; I’ll get back to my number of completion. The number is 4.

Perhaps there is a kind of idiosyncratic number of completion that each of us internalize and use to measure completeness. I’ve heard people say that the Biblical number of completion is 7. God created the heaven and the earth, finished the work in 6 days, and rested on the seventh day. Creation was complete at 7.

One could go on and on about 7 in Jewish and Christian history — 7 days for the feast of unleavened bread, 7 days of consecration, the seventh month of atonement, 7 cities of refuge, 7 eyes, 7 horns, 7 candlesticks, 7 churches, 7 stars …

It’s enough. I’m good with it, even if I don’t entirely understand it.

I’m a bit of a man in waiting when it comes to numbers anyway. I wait for them to make sense when they don’t.

Whatever our proclivity with numbers, I think most of us get the general concept of a number that represents a sense of completion.

“Three scoops of ice cream please.”

We like our realities in certain numbers — packaged, bundled, just the right amount.

I especially get this, the completion thing, regarding my family. In my family, my wife, my two daughters and me make 4. When all 4 are present, a very peaceful, familiar, satisfying completion settles on us.

But I don’t think this is the same for when it comes to how many other people I might be willing to talk to know, to help, to befriend, or to love.

In all cultures there are some prescribed limits on a semse of social completion. A friend of mine who just got back from South Central China told me that he found that people there were reluctant to help a stranger. There you help family and friends, you’d do anything for them, but with ones you don’t know, you are careful, because if you were to help them, then you would be including them within your close circle, and thus obligating yourself to help them always.

Interesting. We set numerical, social limits, resource limits. It the same here in the United States, but perhaps a bit more lose. Here, one can help a person once, and never help them again, and it’s okay. In fact we like that, the hit and run charity thing, but I don’t really like it.

I like hit and hug and stay charity.

I get the number of completion in a family thing, the biological deal, the same DNA bundled, but what about when that number changes, when somebody dies, and what about when you want to change that number by adopting someone, or treating them as family or taking them into your home, an aging mom or dad, to be very close extended family?

Then after a time, that may feel normal, and the number of completion is then something you have changed. I like that. I don’t like a fixed number, always and forever the same by holy writ, or cultural mandate, although that’s fine to for some purposes and ever so practical too.

But I like it when numbers flit around a bit, change shapes, become larger — numbers on fragile, hopeful, surprisingly human terms.

I’ll always want the same 4, my girls, but I think I’ll also want more because what is alive grows, changes, morphs, expands. I want to be able to open my tent to a grand-daughter someday or a grandson or someone else’s daughter or son for whatever is needed or I need to do or they need.

I think it’s a spiritual thing to think of the number of completion as a changing number. I think, but what a heretic I am, that God is interested in more than 7! Way more!

What more might He or we package up, given a little time and a little love.

Who more might end up in my bundle?

What number might feel like completion for me in the future that I can’t even imagine now?

It’s worth considering. People are missing.

In fact, I think that I’m missing people who I haven’t even met yet.

They are my people in waiting, and I’m waiting for them to get to me.

4 is good. So is 8, 16 32 or today’s count, 7,057,020,330.