The Author

Numbers Game

Do you have a favorite number? I do. The number 7 has been my favorite since childhood. The reason is simple: it was Mickey Mantle’s jersey number. Long before I became interested in any other team or player, I fancied myself as the one who would replace the Mick when he was no longer able to play the outfield for the Yankees.

I was thinking about this the other day because of a radio program I was listening to while traveling between hospitals. A scientist who studies brain development had been asked the question, “what’s your favorite number?” Being analytical and seeming somewhat cold-blooded, he thought the question was nonsense. What purpose would a favorite number serve and who would have one? Surely no one would really have a favorite number.

It turns out that he was wrong. First by casual questioning and then through disciplined research, he began to ask people if they had a favorite number and why. It turns out that many, if not most, people do, for all kinds of reasons. Like me, some have a connection to an athlete (ask all those who wear all those football and baseball jerseys what their favorite number is!). Others like the number that corresponds to their birthdate or anniversary. For all these reasons and more, people have favorite numbers.

As I listened, I hoped that he would announce that the number 7 was a rare favorite, one chosen by a special few. I was wrong. It turns out that 7 is the most common favorite number of the people that he had tested. As he dug deeper, he discovered that seven has been the preferred number throughout history. For example, the earliest preserved manuscripts ever discovered, written by the Babylonians, are full of events that revolve around that number.

Of course, I am sure that you are not really surprised by its importance. Long before the Babylonians got to writing down their thoughts, God had 7 on his mind during the creation. When he came to that seventh day, he looked around and declared all that he saw as “very good.” Because of God’s watchcare over his children, he ruled that the seventh day would be one of rest. When the Bible thinks of what is incomplete, that falls eternally short, it speaks of that which is 666. When, to be somewhat redundant, it wants to declare something eternally whole, 777 comes to mind.

What’s your favorite number? What does it remind you of? I was hoping that my number would be unique, but I have to confess that I don’t mind that I share it with others. I’m glad that God likes it, too, for it reminds me that one of these days, all that he has made will once again be very good.