So a while back, I was riding in a car with a woman I’ll call Plumcake. At a stoplight, while deep in discussion with me about something else, Plumcake suddenly gasped and blurted, “Hey! Look at that car! It has ‘333’ on the license plate! Oh, thank you, Lord!”
Hm. I looked at the car. I looked at her. I looked back at the car. It was just a car.
Uh, I didn’t get it.
“You see, the Lord has told me that whenever I see the number ‘333,’ it means He’s thinking about me and loving me.”
I’m sorry, what??
Was she joking? Temporarily off her nut? I wasn’t sure, so I decided a solid, but noncommittal response was a chuckle. I mean, what person, whether joker or nutter, could object to the chuckle, right? So I chuckled. Plumcake threw a withering glare at me. Oops. Okay. I guess she was serious. Duly chastised, I shut my mouth, too stunned to make a peep now. I sat in silence while she rhapsodized about ‘333.’
Now I thought this was an isolated incident, but since then, I’ve seen her publicly gush over anything with the number 333: addresses, phone numbers, digital clocks. I was at her house one afternoon when the kitchen clock struck 3:33 and she started to dance a little jiggedy jig of joy: “It’s 3:33! God’s thinking of me. It’s 3:33! God’s thinking of ME!” Her two little kids ran in and joined the 333 jig.
I stood stock still and wide eyed at the celebration, the only one not dancing, which is a bummer because I like to dance, just not about numbers generally. Frankly, I thought the whole dealio seemed rather exclusionary, since apparently, God was thinking just of Plumcake and there were other people in the room. Once 3:33 clicked over to 3:34 and God wasn’t thinking about her anymore — I mean, I guess, if you follow the “logic” here — Plumcake calmed down and resumed her (semi)normal life. I, on the other hand, left Plumcake’s house shortly thereafter so I could begin my private spiritual freakout at the thought that God was now in the numbers game.
Because if God is in the numbers, I’m toast. Doomed. If this is the direction he’s headed, then at some point I will wet my pants about it, because Crackie ain’t so good with the numbers. Oh, no, she ain’t.
I generally don’t like to wet my pants, so to calm down and keep myself dry, I’ve given some thought to Plumcake’s spiritual epiphany and, it turns out, I’ve got a few niggling questions. First, why 333? I mean, why that number? Is “God in the number” because the three digits are identical? Is that the magic of it? And what would happen, Plumcake, if I just scribbled 333 on a piece of paper? Would that mean God’s thinking of you or would it mean that I just scribbled 333 on a freaking piece of paper?
But, wait. I need to think this through. Maybe God is speaking this way. Maybe God IS in the numbers. If so, what’s next? Story problems?? Oh, sweet baby Jesus in the manger. Just think of the ones ALMIGHTY GOD could come up with: “Two trains depart Toledo, one traveling the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, the other, the speed of an eyelash blink and if X is the total number of passengers and Y is the total number of sins amongst them, which locomotive arrives at the pearly gates first??” I mean, I’d be toast for sure. My utter incompetence with numbers would cement my spiritual doom forever and ever. I’m schvitzing just thinking about it.
Maybe it’s not story problems, though. Maybe it’s these numbers, as Plumcake says. So then does God speak exclusively through the identical three-digit number? And how do all believers get one of these? Because I don’t think there are enough of them to go ’round. I mean, let’s count:
000, 111, 222, 333 (Plumcake’s), 444, 555, 666 (uh, Satan’s), 777, 888, 999.
By my count, that leaves only 8 of these “God numbers” left over for the rest of us.
Wow. This is really rough. I’m sorry to tell you that God does not love you, nor is He thinking of you. Tough, tough break, peaches.
And if God is speaking through numbers, then I must be deaf.
What is going on here? Where are we Christians getting these fairy-tale notions? Where? Please understand. Plumcake isn’t stupid. (She’s emotion-based, yes, but I don’t question her native intelligence.) What I question is when superstition and fantasy creeps into believers’ hearts, weakening or totally replacing firm foundations. You may say, “Well, but I don’t buy into these notions.” To which I say, “Thank God,” but there are enough Christians who do that we should be concerned.
This concerns me too: I know a couple who dubbed their youngest child the “Resurrection Baby.” The husband had had an affair and in the midst of the traumatic fallout, they got pregnant. According to them, the baby was a “sign from God,” of the “resurrection” of their marriage.
(Wow. No pressure, baby. Mess that diaper. Spew those peas. Save that marriage.)
One day, the husband blithely said to me, “Well, I guess this means I get to stay married now.” (Maybe not something you say to a woman in the throes of infertility but whatevs.) And, really? Is that what the blessed baby “means”? Or does it perhaps mean a chance to avoid, to deny, the deep and abiding issues that brought your marriage to the brink? Or does it perhaps mean that you deftly manipulated your broken and betrayed wife into bed — at least once? Why is that a sign from God, I wonder? Given his comment, I questioned whether the baby was really a “resurrection” or a deflection.
Has the God of the universe transitioned into the business of saying what we want to hear, of saying things that are facile, expedient, and small? Or have we become so immersed in our spiritual ADD and laziness that we want — no, need — God to speak in ways that are facile, expedient, and small?
It seems the Word is no longer enough for us. Our souls become so hollowed out by the on-the-spot society swirling around us that we seek, not just instant gratification, but instant sanctification. The lifelong process is simply too wearisome, too burdensome. We need a God who speaks in newer, better, faster ways. We need a God who’s just more efficient, dammit. Please be easier to understand, God. Please speak to me right now, God. Please give me a “word” that makes things better for me, God.
What we want from God diminishes God. What we want from God diminishes our chances of becoming more like him. Still, we want it. And believe me, it’s astounding what “God” will say to a desperate, vulnerable mind. I’m adamant here because I’ve been there. And back, thank God. (A post for another time.)
God gave us the Word, his radical love letter to the world. He woos us to The Enduring Romance, but we settle for the quick cheap thrill of “333” on the back of a car. He gave us His precious Spirit, but we still crave a sign, any sign, as long as it’s the one we want. His Word gives us a foundation, but we long for flights of fancy, for the whimsical escape of other, newer words. We are desperate for His love, but numbed to the bloodied, beautiful proof of it on the cross.
Just give me another sign, God. Speak a new word to me, God. Thanks for 333, God.
Really? That’s what you want? We have The Cross. We have the Word. We have the Holy Spirit. You want 333?
Honestly, you can have it.
I think I’ll stick with the rest.