Counting Cars

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”  Isaiah 40:26

Counting Cars

One day, while making our way to our office in Tokyo, I noticed a man oddly sitting in a chair beside a busy intersection engaged in some mysterious activity. As I looked up, I spotted another person seated on the opposite corner who seemed to be equally preoccupied with the same task. Having witnessed this oddity before, I had a pretty good idea as to what these people were doing. They were manually counting the cars that passed by in order to determine the volume of traffic at that particular intersection. Over the next few days as we bicycled along the same route, we noticed different teams of people engaged in the same exercise at numerous major intersections. This practice always strikes me as a very labor-intensive method to gather knowledge and, on top of that, it is often performed in adverse weather conditions. Hopefully, someone will use that painstakingly collected data to make well-informed decisions that will later improve the flow of traffic in those respective areas.

Japan’s penchant for organization and details never ceases to amaze me, but I am still surprised whenever I wander through a city park or stroll along a sidewalk and note that every public tree is numbered. This phenomenon indicates that somewhere in the bowels of local Japanese government bureaucracies, someone is tracking each of these individual trees, just like counting cars. I suppose such information could be useful when it comes to identifying and locating a particular tree that needs attention or to be removed. However, the sheer logistics of maintaining this extensive database of knowledge and making it available for practical purposes is rather mind numbing. This practice indicates that some civil servant, or more likely, a team of government employees, are apparently charged with counting, marking and recording each one of those trees. In some aspects, it is a rather impressive undertaking when one pauses to reflect on this overarching objective.

However, much more impressive is the fact that God’s knowledge is unlimited by time and encompasses our most individual, intricate details, extending to the furthest expanse of the heavenly hosts. (Isaiah 40:26) God not only counts His creation, He amazingly cares for it, which is a tremendously comforting thought. Some days, the traffic of our lives seems to be moving by so fast with such volume that we cannot begin to count the endless stream of cars that whiz by as we strive to keep up and deal with the many demands of life. Perhaps this is why Moses prayed that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) This verse is a great reminder that true wisdom comes not from counting our activities, but by counting the quality of our lives as we strive to align our days with God’s purposes. No matter how much we count or what we count, the numbers only make sense when we include God in our mathematical equation.