Last week my daughter came home with a question about her math homework. For some, math questions might be more dreaded than having The Talk, but for me these discussions are usually a delight. After years of being the mom who has no idea how to make crafty designs for elementary school projects, I’m finally in my comfort zone. I’ve been waiting and ready for this moment.
Unfortunately, as we opened her enormous geometry book and read the question, I realized to my chagrin that I had no idea how to solve the problem.
Swoosh…that was the sound of my excitement rushing out the door.
And, then I did what I have done for so many years of both studying and teaching math. I took a pencil into my hand, reread the question and said to my daughter, “Let’s write out everything we know to be true.”
As we went through this process of listing out the facts before us, slowly the light clicked on about how to solve the problem. We checked her answer in the back of the book and high-fived when we realized we had gotten the answer correct.
As my daughter and I chatted, I told her: “One of the best (and worst) things about math is that you become accustomed to the feeling of not-knowing. It’s not comfortable, but if you can work through the discomfort, you will usually figure out which way to go. The one thing to avoid is throwing your hands up in the air and not even trying because you think it’s too difficult.”
As I reflected upon our discussion I realized that studying math probably prepared me for ministry more than any other subject. Most of the time, I look at the struggles in my own life and the lives of those around me and I have no idea what to do or say. It’s tempting to just throw my hands up in the air, choosing to give up because I’m fearful of not knowing the right answer.