No Expertise Required

When I was in the fifth grade my teacher wrote a high school level algebra problem on the chalkboard and challenged us to solve it. There were three stipulations:

1. It was to be done strictly as homework.

2. We would have to be ready to explain our solution to our classmates.

3. Because it was such an advanced level problem, our parents were allowed to help us.

Never before had I seen such a complicated, convoluted conglomeration of letters and numbers. Feeling doubtful about my mathematical expertise, I still felt compelled to try.

For one thing, I was very competitive when it came to all things school-related. For another, there was a candy prize for anyone who solved it. To the delight of my dentist’s banking account, candy was one of the driving motivators of my ten-year-old life.

That night as I sat at the dining room table struggling to make sense of the numbers and letters before me I came to a decision. I could either go to school the next day admitting defeat or I could ask my college educated parents for help. I chose the latter.

For the next half an hour my parents worked to find a solution while I sat by and watched. From time to time my mother would pop up her head and ask, “Are you sure your teacher said we could help you?” I would nod.

That nod was my sole contribution the process. Because the problem was so far over my head it was more likely that I would spin around and turn into Wonder Woman than it was for me to come up with anything relevant.

The next day I walked into the classroom, my well-worked problem secure under my arm, wondering how in the world I would explain that problem to the class. Math time arrived and our teacher asked which of us had accomplished the task. Only one other person had done the problem.

She asked the two of us come to the front to write out our equations. I might as well have been writing in Sanskrit for all I knew about what my piece of chalk was scratching across the chalkboard.

To my great relief, my classmate asked if he could be the one to explain the solution. As he enthusiastically pointed to parentheses and equal signs, I stood by, blank look on my face, still completely in the dark as to what any of it meant. Afterwards, the class applauded and we were each given a candy cane. I sat down feeling completely unworthily. Later, I tossed the candy cane into the garbage.

I couldn’t receive something I felt did not deserve.

So what’s the point?

Here it is. Jesus offers us something we don’t deserve and every one of us has the choice to happily receive it or throw it away.

We can gratefully accept that fact that by his death and resurrection we are saved. Our sins have been nailed to the cross and we can live as forgiven people under grace.

Or we can go through life, drowning under the weight of our own sin and unworthiness, refusing to accept the gift that He gives.

Let’s face it. We all sin and none of us are worthy. There is absolutely nothing we can contribute to the situation to solve that problem.

But, Good News!  He loves us just the same! Romans 5:8 tells me that God provided for me even while I was still in my sin.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

My sins separate me from God and I can do nothing on my own to remedy that. But God still made a way for me to reconnect.

His name is Jesus Christ. When I yield to Him, His grace pours over me.

I don’t have to stand by, palms sweating, afraid that my unworthiness will be exposed. Instead, Jesus stands in that gap for me. He takes my sins upon Him and reconciles me to the Father.

He did all the work on the cross.

As for me – no expertise required.

Thank-you, LORD.

Why I Don’t Like Math

At the risk of offending mathematicians everywhere, I have a confession to make.

Numbers are not my favorite thing.

1. I happen to like words w-a-a-a-ay more than numbers. Non-mathematical words, that is. Have you ever noticed how extremely difficult it is to pay a compliment using math terminology? In my own experience, “Your mass looks very nice today,” has never been well received.

Even in the best of circumstances.

2. Math can be difficult to grasp for creative thinkers like me. Let’s face it, there is absolutely no romantic mystery in numbers. If 2+2 always equals 4 every single, stinking, solitary time, what’s fun about that? Make a puzzle out of it like 2+__ =4 and the answer is still the same.

It’s 2, people. Number 3 never even had a chance.

3. And as far as I’m concerned, algebra is just a smoke-and-mirrors technique to get us right-brainers to consider doing math. By sneaking in some letters it makes math appear vaguely interesting. It never works for long. a+b=c inevitably translates in my mind to Anne+Baking=Cookies so I end up with a spatula in one hand and a bag of chocolate chips in the other.

4. Calculus. Need I go on?

5. Lastly, it is incredibly annoying to me that I just numbered all of the things I don’t like about numbers.

Evidence that there must be a tiny pull of mathematical logic buried somewhere deep in my brain.

That must be the part that allows me to enjoy the beauty of symmetrical patterns in nature or the complexity of a simple eight-note musical scale. It might even be the part that draws comfort from the predictable sequence of events that order my existence.

Okay. The truth be known, I don’t really hate math.

But if anyone comes up to me and tells me I look solid, I may have to reconsider.