On the ranch, you do a lot of counting. More than you might expect. Every day, always.
Horses. One, two, three … ten.
Ducks: Two, four, six, eight, ten, er – wait, nine.
Steps – to the barn, and back.
Water pales to be filled. Feed pans empty.
Broken fence wires needing repair (stupid deer!).
Hay bales moved.
Feed bins to fill.
Dollars and dimes ($1,237 on feed this month?!?!?) spent.
Weeks building this and fixing that.
Degrees until freezing. Days without rain.
Minutes of light left in an un-electrified barn.
Days, months, years passed – how quickly?
Lives saved. Lives lost.
Moments spent, breaths taken.
Prayers said. Blessings received.
Counting, continuous counting. Addition and subtraction, multiplication and division.
Numbers that matter.
You know, real-world math.
But when the figures don’t add up right or the “figurin’” is off, so is something in your soul.
None of the numbers remain static. They are ever-changing; sometimes that’s progress – like when there’s 35 fewer fence posts to place or there is one less stall to build. However, when the numbers don’t add up, the smallest amount of anxiety bubbles up from the stomach, past the heart and into the throat.
When the head count is off, there’s a stop in your step and a catch in your throat — when you’re short one in the herd because a horse is tucked in the trees or over the little rise and out of sight, or when the ducks waddle impatiently with the fury that only ducks can muster and the count of each is near impossible to come by. The feeling, until the problem is solved, is much like the frustration that comes from being a penny or two off in your checkbook.
Then, sweet relief when the “lost” is found or all are present and accounted for. In these instances, it’s easy to understand the parable Jesus told about how, in heaven, there’s more joy and celebration over the one lost soul that’s been saved than for the 99 already righteous.
Once the figures are laid straight and the real-world math complete and all accounts settled, then, for a few minutes, the counting can cease. But that’s a short-lived peace. Because the counting always continues.