Thirty days in May. Growing up in Indianapolis, those words were shouted on the radio and plastered in the newspapers. Thirty days in May. My grandfather loathed thirty days in May.
Thirty days that you couldn’t shop at the Topp’s Discount Store [Walmart wannabe] in Speedway because of the crowds. Thirty days that the price of gasoline was hiked to 42 cents a gallon. Thirty days that you couldn’t ride your bicycle to the 40 Motel to get a bottle of Grape Crush because the crowd there was “unsavory.” But mostly 30 days that the Indianapolis Indians were on the road instead of at Bush Stadium because baseball couldn’t compete with Andy Granatelli’s turbine engines.
Grandpa loved baseball and particularly the minor league Indianapolis Indians. If the Tribe played an eight game home stand, it was not unusual for him to attend six of the eight games. During the 30 days of May, Grandpa was like a lost child wandering for glimpses of home. He would listen to the road games on his radio, an old tube-filled Westinghouse. He would sit in his chair by it, leaning his head and ear close, so that he could hear the play-by-play over the static. But he longed for the day when he could again see them in person.
Grandpa had a calendar in his bedroom upon which he counted the days. A big red “X” marked through each passing day along with the number of the 30 days remaining. He always knew how many days had passed and how many days were left until the Indians returned to town.
Did you know that counting days in May has a biblical flavor? The Jews were instructed to count the days from the Passover forward for seven weeks. Each day was considered a measure of time — an omer to be counted. An omer was an ancient Hebrew measure of grain that equaled a little over three and a half liters. The measured days following the Passover carried both a spiritual and a practical significance for the Israelites.
From a practical standpoint, those seven weeks were in the spring as the people were planting and growing their crops. While those days provided a time celebrating the anticipated bountiful harvest, it was also a somber time of reflection. Agricultural communities were dependent upon successful harvests. Changes in the weather patterns or a harsh weather event could spell disaster for the entire community. This was a precarious time when the farmer spent many hours in prayer for God’s blessing over the growing season.
The seven weeks also carried an important spiritual significance. Seven weeks after the first Passover, the people of Israel were camped at the base of Mount Sinai. It was here where God spoke directly to Moses and he received the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Law. The lives of the Israelites would never be the same because God spoke. They counted each word as important. They remembered the number of days they spent awaiting His words.
The Israelites were to learn two very important principles by counting. First, they were to see that in spite of all the preparation and planning, the daily events of life like planting and tending the fields were really not completely in their control. Without the blessings of God, the things they counted on as necessities of life were as fickle as the wind.
Second, if the Israelites were to hear God’s words, they had to prepare their hearts and their ears. They were camped at Mount Sinai for three days before God spoke. Many of the people spent the entire time awake — prayerfully anticipating what God would say.
We would do well to learn the lessons of counting. Life is bigger than we are. It isn’t left just left to chance or fate. Our best efforts to control it don’t even corral it. And if we want to hear the whispered words of truth over the boisterous shouts of life, we must purposely lean our heads and ear to the source in order to hear the sound over the static.
From today on, let’s count the seven weeks — and we will add a day because of the newspaper’s schedule. Let’s notice what God is doing through nature. Let’s count the blessings that He graciously provides for us. Let’s reflect on the things that are important during this particular season of life. Let’s count the words of truth that God provides.
Let’s number the steps of our journey. Let’s measure the goodness of the moments. Let’s long for the day when gasoline was 42 cents a gallon. And at the end, we’ll celebrate by riding up and getting a Grape Crush. I’ll buy.
— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org