On Numerology and Catalysts

by Mike McKinniss

photo1I don’t typically go in for Gematria or other numerologies. I prefer the harder sciences, like prayer, which anyone seeking a direct and urgent answer from the Lord will tell you is exceptionally hard. But in this instance the numbers could be neither avoided nor ignored.

There is no better way to doom oneself to a predawn morning of endless tossing than to glance at the clock when inexplicably awaking in the middle of the night. I made the awful mistake a few hours after midnight in late April. Three fiery threes seared my eyes from across the bedroom. I should have dismissed them. Normally, I would have. Yet in that dark hour a miracle occurred: my groggy soul took notice.

The spirit is willing, they say, but the flesh–oh God, the flesh! I meant to ask someone more practiced in divine numbers about the triplicate threes, but alas! I’ve yet to reach my glorified state. I will, however, claim this small achievement to my credit, if you’ll allow it. I suspected something was up.

To the credit of the Lord’s great mercy and to the great relief of my spirit, the nocturnal illumination, like my own personal Aurora Borealis on the nightstand, repeated itself precisely one square month later. May was winding to a close and 3:33 again made its presence felt to me. Somehow I knew this was no unholy haunting. How could it be–a trinity of trinities. God was in those neon digits.

Equal parts spooked and excited, I sought the advice of my colleague, who is better versed in some of the Lord’s more curious modes of speech. “What’s the deal with threes?” I asked him. “Fulfillment,” he replied. “Resurrection!” His response sent a charge through my bones. It’s far too long a tale to tell here, and it’s probably far too personal a story to share on the internet, but I had long been awaiting a kind of new birth of my own.

In the 1950’s, scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey filled a glass apparatus with gases thought to have been swirling about the earth’s primordial atmosphere. Into this tiny chamber they injected a catalyst of electrical current, miniature lightning through a miniature atmosphere. The product of their experiment was a rich blend of amino acids, complex molecules that are the building blocks of simple life forms.

The ingredients to my own primordial soup: the love of my life, a broken heart, divine promises, countless prayers, and six years of solitude. My alarm clock was no longer a simple timepiece. It was the probe that supplied the electrical catalyst into my gaseous hopes. This digital clock radio, a gift to take to college nearly twenty years ago, had announced a different kind of time. The arrival of my dreams, it declared in its own curious language, was near.

It was not yet fulfillment, but it was a life, of sorts. I spent the following weeks and months in a state of constant anticipation. Surely, I thought as I checked my mailbox each evening, she’s written. “It’s her!” I exclaimed with each successive ding of my phone. She hadn’t and it wasn’t (not yet), but I was suspended on a wave of expectation. I had new life, or at least the building blocks of life.

All this is to say that the Lord was very gracious to me. Nearing the end of this lengthy journey, he could have left me to limp or crawl across the finish line. I could have been blindsided with a joyful conclusion. Instead, he dispatched a flurry of threes to intercept my sleepy spirit and had me bounding towards the fulfillment of his promises with courage and confidence, even if I still prefer not to look at the clock in the middle of the night.

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