JOY and the ABACUS

Praise God for the abacus.

When He was dolling out brains and gifts, knitting me together in quiet, He crafted me into a right brain, made me a host of creativity. Math left me crying with my head in my hands through school and college. If it was not for a professor who shut the door of a classroom containing me, him, and two blackboards filled with chemistry equations, promising me we would not leave until I could solve every one of them, I would have never passed CHE101. A faithful friend tutored me for six hours before an algebra final, which I aced, and promptly forgot everything I'd just learned.

So praise God for the abacus.

This ancient tool made for counting was—in the creative bastion of art and literature of my childhood home—used for more than simply adding and subtracting. For hours my hands would spread and separate those colored beads, creating patterns and chaos. I knew it was intended for mathematics, but to me it seemed more a thing of art and beauty.

The concepts of math have always felt far from me. I am always sure that I could manage my way through them if necessary, but I have been clever about my vocational choices and I never double recipes. When I take account of what I need to count, I focus instead on beads of joy, colors and patterns of life in front of me and count them thus.

So when yet another friend brings her heart to the threshold of my inbox, when I sit across from a friend at lunch, when I get a desperate text message from another one, when the trials of our faith are near and close and oh, so painful, you will not find me saying to count it all joy.

Because counting is painful.

And, for me, counting is a process. A long, slow process.

It cannot be rushed or formulated into additions, subtractions, and divisions.

Counting all things joy means taking each bead of sweat, each beautifully painful moment, and each complicated pattern, and it means counting it, touching it, feeling it, and knowing it is part of a whole abacus. But sometimes counting is slow going and that's okay.

Praise God for the abacus, praise Him for tangible numbers and complicated patterns. But praise Him more that His math isn't always our math and sometimes what feels like our subtraction is His multiplication.