This past week I went for my once-every-decade colonoscopy. I could say much about this process, but I will attempt to maintain my dignity (what’s left of it) and refrain from giving you the details. For those who have gone down this road… in reverse I might add…, I don’t need to tell you. For those who have not… ah… one more thing in life to which you can look forward. Anyway, when the procedure was “accompli” (that’s French meaning “done” for you Yinzers reading this) the doctor came to give me his report. He breezed into my cubicle and said, “You had 17 polyps!” My insightful first words were, “Wow, that’s a prime number.” He went on to explain that 17 was a lot. Actually 17 was 17 more than I was supposed to have. He then said that he sent half of them out to be tested. Now assuming they were not sent out for an I.Q. test, or the S.A.T. tests, I’m guessing we’re talking about cancer testing. But here is what really troubled me. I mean, if I remember correctly, prime numbers are only divisible by themselves and 1. So when he said he sent “half” of them out for testing… well, how do I interpret that? Is there something he’s not telling me? Do you know what I mean? He has to know what a prime number is, right? It’s all rather troubling. The good news is this… he concluded by telling me that I get to do this again in 365 days. Whoo, whoo!
I’m sure you can tell by now that this rumination is about math. I don’t really know much about math. It’s not something that we spent a lot of time on in Seminary. Well actually, it’s something we spent no time on in seminary. I suspect it’s related to the fact that the Bible doesn’t have much math in it. Outside of page numbers, chapter numbers, verse numbers, (none of which were placed there by the original authors) and a few other “holy numbers,” there just aren’t many digits to speak of. My underwhelming “love” of math goes back to my teen years. In high school I liked Algebra 2 so much that I took it twice. After completing the second go around I figured I knew so much about Algebra that there was no need to go on to Algebra 3-Trig. Well and I graduated that year… so…
I should say that there is a field of study in the context of the Faith (both Jewish and Christian) called “Numerology.” This “discipline” is practiced by folks who believe that there is a complex numbering code in the Bible that holds hidden clues to the future and secret messages from God. And it’s practiced by those who have NOTHING in the world to do of importance but count words and letters. These are likely the same people who get a yearly subscription to “The World News magazine” and “The Inquirer.” I don’t want to be disparaging but… um… these folks are crackpots! They can tell you what the very middle word in the Bible is, what the middle letter is, what the central verse is. They can even tell you which chapters in the Bible speak of the assassination of President Kennedy. (Seriously, look it up.) I was going to convey all that information, but honestly it’s so complicated, convoluted and moronic that our time would be better spent emptying the lint traps in our dryers. Oh… right… back to math.
Ellen and I went to see “Hidden Figures” at the movies a few weeks ago. If you don’t go to the theater much this film is well worth a special trip. It’s about many important things… math being one of them. I can’t help but hear about these complex math equations and wonder where God is in all of it. I mean, God created this universe and somehow He factored math in. (Get it… “factored.”) Complex math; mind boggling math; no doubt above Algebra 2 math. There are some brilliant people walking around who could astound us with their understanding of math and yet…
1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”
Romans 11: 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
I gather from those verses that even the wisest and “smartest” of us are but babies when compared to the Author of all math… even those of us who completed Algebra 2… twice.
I say all of that as a reminder that we worship an amazing and complex God. One who continues to be faithful to His unfaithful creation and One who does not cease to surprise us daily. If you are inclined to think that you sort of have a handle on God… I would suggest you think again. We’re all going to be surprised on the far side of the Pearly Gates.
In closing… I would appreciate your prayers related to that prime number thing I mentioned. Like I said… math is not my strong suit, but I can count off the 7-10 days before I hear if my polyps got a passing grade.