Quantification can be a distraction.
Modern times have brought unprecedented ability to measure all aspects of life. Statistics, polls, salary, GPA, website analytics, accounting, church attendance, personal fitness, caloric intake, weight, the list goes on and on. Measuring things is not wrong, and it is often a very helpful process that can bring clarity. For example, keeping an eye on your finances can let you know if you have money to spare, or if you need to cut spending. But if we are not careful with what (and how often) we measure, it is easy to lose focus of what really matters, and become consumed with quantifying our life. There are a couple ways that excessive measurement can be harmful. For one, as soon as you start quantifying, the typical next step is to start comparing. When we have some nice hard data, it is easy to see how we measure up with other people. Our pride loves to do this (although it doesn't always like what it sees). When we seem to be doing better than our peers, quantification fuels our ego and silences our insecurities. But when we perceive that we fail to measure up, quantification robs us of our joy, cultivating feelings of worthlessness, despair, even making us question if we belong. Another danger of excessive quantification is that it can drive us to unhealthy extremes in our lifestyle. When we become preoccupied with measuring performance, it can cause us to set an unsustainable pace for ourselves, leading to burnout. Or, it can cause us to throw our hands up in the air in frustration, and just stop trying altogether. We must remember that often, a perceived lack of performance is actually when we are growing the most. Jesus speaks to this in John 15. He says, "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." My father taught me about pruning a tree many years ago. For example, a peach tree naturally spends a lot of its energy making dozens of branches that go straight up toward the heavens. Although these branches look majestic, they significantly hurt the tree's ability to make what really matters - fruit. So a caring farmer will cut off these ambitious branches, often gutting out large portions of the inside of the tree's branches. When he is done, the flawless looking tree now looks mangled and skeleton like. If you tried to quantify how the tree was doing right then, you might be inclined to just cut it down and give up on it. But give it some time, and it will do what it was made to do - produce beautiful, delicious, and life-giving fruit. So often, our lives are like this. We have many grandiose things we're doing, and we love to measure just how high they are reaching towards the heavens. But then, God comes and prunes our achievements, cutting off things we care about, sometimes deeply wounding us (or at least our pride). When we look at our present state, its easy to be consumed with broken dreams, our inabilities, and our lackluster performance. When you are being pruned like a tree, it would not seem like an achievement worth celebrating. Quantification in this moment can lead us to despair, and make us wonder if we will ever do much that really matters. But, give it some time, and we will start to see fruit. And then one day (in this life or the next), we'll be able to see all those broken dreams and inabilities as God pruning us to make fruit that really mattered.