I’ve played them.

Truth be told, I still do.

Chances are you’ve played them to.

The games started for me when I was in elementary school…in the fifth grade, I believe. The school nurse told me I was overweight and made me weigh in every week. And so began a preoccupation with numbers. A system started forming in me that measured the value of my worth in numbers.

Through the years, the number games would be played out on various platforms. Would I be the last to be picked for a team in gym class? Next to last? Where did I fall in the batting line-up on the softball team? Would I be a starter on the volleyball team? When I decided to give up sports, the numbers shifted to the musical side of my life. What chair did I place in the flute section? How did I place in the piano accompanist tryouts? What position did I place at districts? At regionals? If it wasn’t first place, I would push to prove myself at the next tryout.

It didn’t stop with extracurricular activities. Academic achievement was an obsession as well. Grade letters equated to numbers and anything less than an “A” in my mind was unacceptable. I returned to college to get an associate’s degree in nursing after working as a licensed nurse for many years. Because of having my nursing license, I was able to test out of the first year of nursing classes in college, which was great…until it came time to graduate. I maintained a 4.0 GPA during my two years in college; but, when I had taken the challenge exams to test out of those nursing credits, I had a “C” average on those tests. At the time I was pleased because after all, I passed two semesters worth of classes without having to take them. Not a big deal until someone else…whose GPA was only 3.7…received an award for having the highest GPA in the class. The “C” from those challenge exams had been figured into my final GPA and pulled it down. I was completely and utterly devastated. Instead of being thrilled to be finished with school, I moped around during my graduation. (It didn’t help that I was seven months pregnant when I graduated and hormonally imbalanced, but I can’t hide behind that excuse because a pattern of being an overachiever had already been established in my life.) Rather pathetic, don’t you think?

There have been times in my life when I have not been bothered by numbers and rankings, finding satisfaction in simply being a wife and mother to three amazing kids. But here I am…middle-aged (gasp)…and still playing the game. It looks different now in this age of technology. How many likes do I have on my Facebook page? How many followers on Twitter? Connections on LinkedIn? In the music industry I’m too old because I’m over 20. If only I lost a few pounds…okay, more than a few…then I’d look really great in those trendy fashions and maybe wouldn’t seem so “old”.

But over the years, I’m learning that there is only one number that really matters and that number belongs to The One who loves me unconditionally despite what other numbers may show. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all wrapped up in One. As Father, he loved me enough to send his only Son to redeem me and bring me into relationship with himself. And as if that weren’t enough, he gave me his Holy Spirit to live and breathe and walk through this life with me. He also left a love letter full of his thoughts toward me that I can reflect on and remember the depths he would go to to show his love for me. In his letter are the numbers of Hope… for me, for you, for everyone… John 3:16… For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. All He asks is that I love him in return, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind. (Luke 10:27) As I continue to grow in my love for him, I find my desire to be in letting him take first place. Letting him be the drive behind my music. Letting him receive all honor and glory and praise. First in my heart…first in my life.

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