It’s hard not to get seduced by the numbers: how many followers, how many pages viewed, how many books sold, how many re-tweets, how many church members, how many small groups, how many, how many, how many?
It’s hard not to wonder–what could I write to become the Seth Godin of my “spiritual practice, writing, reading, faith, and life” world? Can I double my current numbers? Triple them? Go viral?
Late one night/early one morning, just after midnight, I thought I might actually have a breakthrough. I was up late writing and noticed that my WordPress stats said 101 views—wow, just three minutes into the new day, and what a great start to my numbers! It was the middle of the night in Abbotsford, but maybe there were other night owls still wide awake and reading my blog. Or maybe readers in Australia and the Philippines and around the world were online and boosting my numbers.
But when I checked—ha!—all of those 101 page views were from ONE viewer in North America. I suppose some bot somewhere was having a field day with my website.
Numbers can be a helpful measure of connecting and engaging with others, but as I discovered, numbers can also be misleading. Sometimes the numbers look great. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I’m just fooling myself.
And ultimately, I know my blogging isn’t about the numbers. My writing isn’t about the numbers. My church ministry isn’t about the numbers.
Writer Madeleine L’Engle tells this story:
One woman told of going to a meeting where only a handful of people turned out, and these faithful few were scolded by the visiting preacher for the sparseness of the congregation. And she said indignantly, “Our Lord said *feed* my sheep, not count them!” I often feel that I’m being counted, rather than fed, and so I am hungry.
As an author of more than 50 books with many awards and honours for her writing, Madeleine L’Engle had great numbers. But she didn’t focus there. Instead, her writing credo was “to radiate hope, to bring healing, and to say ‘yes’ to life.”
That sounds good to me—a more worthy goal than writing by numbers and ultimately more satisfying.
So I haven’t let myself get distracted by numbers yet today (and yes, I know it’s early yet in my part of the world). But at least I want to begin my day à la Madeleine L’Engle, with a view to radiating hope, bringing healing, and saying yes to life.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: How do you handle being tempted by numbers?
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