Numbers and Language, Signs and Wonders

I believe that if we only discern the signs God sends us, then we may follow the path He has set down for us, for He has counted all the hairs on our head.[1] I believe His signs come in many different forms, including internal sensations of His presence. For me, one of them is in the reappearance of numbers. In particular, double-digit pairs stand for me as a sign that Jesus is with me, and that He intends for me to know we form a pair. Many will disagree strongly. But I ask you to open your mind to the possibility, and live amazed. “If you do not see signs and wonders, says the Lord, “you will never believe”.[2]

I live amazed because the frequency and the chance occurrences that I continue to see are too striking to reduce to mere chance. There must be a greater explanation for these things. And I know it is God, because the “chance occurrences” form patterns that tie into the events of my life and my own personal thought processes just at the right time, as though there is a great alchemist putting it all together.[3] I would be a fool not to admit it. Rather than being foolish to see signs and wonders, I believe it is a function of our higher rational faculties that we do. It is foolishness to deny it. God is always there, knocking at our door.[4] The question is: when will we open it? (I thank my good friend, Jeff, for making this point to me).

The numbers 11, 44 and 14 keep coming up in my daily life. They hold special inner significance to me and to other people I know. Often when I look at my clock without thinking, the seconds or the minutes, or both, are at double-digit pairs. It happens too often for me to reasonably reduce it to chance occurrences. When I am driving, I inevitably find myself following, stopped behind or cut off by a car with double-digit pairs of letters or numbers, or both, on its license plate. Again, it happens too often for me to reasonably reduce it to mere chance occurrences. And the odometer on my car seems so frequently to end with a pair every time I park my car that I cannot accept it is mere chance; or I end up parking beside a license plate ending with a pair.

I explained this phenomenon to my spouse once when we were running errands. She wasn’t so sure. As we made our way back to our car, she noticed two cars parked side by side a few over from ours. They both had the exact same first 4 letters in their license plates. Ontario license plates have 4 letters followed by 3 digits. This was striking to me, or as some might say, “scary”. There are millions of license plates in the Province of Ontario, and the chances of having any two license plates have the exact same 4 letters are relatively tiny. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, so each license plate’s first four letters are open to 456 976 different permutations (or 26 to the force of 4, or 26 multiplied by its own value 4 times). Plus, the chances of two of them parked side by side on any given day, in a Province as large as Ontario, at the same time, in the same city, in the same parking lot, with four out of seven identical letters/digits in its combination, in the same order, in the same location in the series, i.e. at the very beginning of the series, is a great unlikelihood. That they appeared to my wife just when I had explained the phenomenon to her was arresting. If this had been a one-time occurrence of its kind, I wouldn’t make any hay about it. But as I say, these things happen too often not to be reasonably interpreted as signs and wonders from above.

Now some may still say that this and other similar incidences are coincidences. And I agree. But the question as I see it is whether they are co-incidences arranged by God, indications to us that He is present in our lives. He is always knocking at our door, waiting for us to open it. For if God wants us to have faith and to connect with Him, then won’t He show us, His most intelligent creatures, signs and wonders to assure us that He is present in our lives, and that He seeks to have us let him in? God so loves us that He has given us free will – to choose to invite Him into our lives, and to choose not to. The timeless painting titled The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt illustrates this. It shows Christ knocking at a long unopened door. The door has no handle on the outside, so it can only be opened from within. Christ does not impose himself on others. Out of love and respect, He stands outside, knocking.

Man begins in God and his proper destination is to know Him, to commune with Him, to arrange his life for the plan God has set before him, and so to end in Him. In doing so we become the “best version of ourselves” and find true happiness.[5] Of all creatures, humans alone are capable of knowing God, and of discerning the signs of His presence, to worship Him and to bring our lives in unison with what we honestly discern to be His plan for us. I believe that numbers and high statistical improbabilities are one of the many languages with which God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit speak to us. If only we open up our hearts and our minds to Him.

One of the signs that came to me in my mid-twenties was the number 14. When I moved away for law school, which was a transformative experience for me, my apartment address in my first year was 414, located in building 14 of the law school residences. I was in the graduating class of 2014.[6] My exam number was 4414, and the first exam of my last semester in law school was on April 14, 2014 – or 4-14-14. The following year, when my wife was in the hospital for the birth of our first child, she started pushing at 4:14. Our child was born an hour later.

Another moving experience occurred in May of 2016. After graduating from law school in Toronto, I moved back to Ottawa and was now going to church at my local parish, where we had gone when I was a child. My father still had a tiny ad in the bottom right-hand corner of the parish bulletin. I was now working with my father as a lawyer and just starting out. For weeks I had been thinking about how I would like to enlarge the ad and advertise specifically the Wills and Estated services I was now providing. But I kept on putting it off. Then one day I received a phone call at 11:11. It was a representative of the ad agency that looked after our parish bulletin ad. He enquired to know whether our firm wanted to renew our ad. I got the ad I had been hoping for. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”[7]

The phenomenon is not exclusive to pairs. During a discussion one night with a group I had formed, we discussed the importance of generosity and the pitfalls of selfishness in the economy, which can lead to monopoly. On the way home, I drove behind a car with the license plate “Givopoly”. I couldn’t help but smile.

I once negotiated at a mediation for a client who had been wronged by his union. He is a taxi driver. The mediation didn’t work out. The union was uncompromising. It was a total mystery to me why they kept fighting so hard. Who was behind this? Who or what were they protecting? What were their motives?

I prayed to the Lord in the morning, and I prayed to him throughout the day. I prayed to Him when it was all over. I was stressed out by the end and for the rest for the day as I worked to amend my pleadings to improve them.

I was to go to a lecture being given by Bishop Riesbeck in the evening. I ordered a cab because I didn’t want to drive in the dark and on the ice.

The cab pulled into the driveway. I walked to the cab. I noticed the cab number on the side of the vehicle was 777. I thought to myself, there are the numbers again.

I have been in a dozen cabs since I began fighting for my client. And every time I do, I ask the driver about the taxi industry so as to better familiarise myself with my client’s situation.

This time I asked the driver what he thought about my case, having obtained my client’s permission to discuss his case with others. The driver told me he knew all about my case, and that my client was his friend. What is more, he told me he was the chairperson of my client’s bargaining unit for 16 years. He also knew the union rep I had dealt with that day. He enlightened me with details I had not been aware of and suddenly the entire case made sense to me.

I told my story to the bishop that night after his talk in front of a room full of people. He said “do you know what the number 7 stands for?” And then I was reminded by a very kind woman near me “it’s the perfect number in our scripture”. Then she said, “I see numbers too”, and smiled. I recalled that 7 is the perfect number, and that there are 7 petitions in the Our Father.

After the lecture we went out for drinks. When I left, it was cold, dark, and raining. I looked and prayed for a cab to hail as I walked along the streets. One zoomed past me from behind and I missed it. I thought, Lord, I am praying for you to send me a cab, and they are few and far between, and one whizzes by me? So I thought perhaps that it was not the one He wanted to send my way. Finally, I saw one coming up ahead from far away, and I hailed it. It pulled up to me.

As I got in the cab I noticed the number on the vehicle. 111. I can’t make this stuff up.

On another occasion, I had just delivered a religious pendant to someone I knew. I drove home behind a car with the license plate ARLD 888. I could not help but see “Our Lord 888”. It was my wife’s birthday. That night, as my wife and I made our way up the outdoor steps of a restaurant to celebrate my her birthday with our friends, I found a brown scapular on the steps. It is a sacred Catholic object that shows the Virgin Mary’s protection to those who wear it. It holds special significance for those who have consecrated themselves to the Virgin Mary, which I have done.

I am continually stupefied, overjoyed and lifted up by the reality that God enchants my day-to-day life with His signs. Through them He tells us, His little children, that we are not alone, and that He is with us, watching over us, guiding us like a shepherd. Though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[8] and mourn and weep in this valley of tears,[9] God is with us ‘til the end. We need only open the door. He stands outside, knocking.

[1] Matthew 10:30.

[2] John 4 :48

[3] Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, 1988.

[4] Revelation 3:20.

[5] Matthew Kelly, Rediscover Catholicism: A Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose.

[6] Of note, I began my law studies, which would change the direction of my life, in my champagne year, in 2011.

[7] Luke 17:6.

[8] Psalm 23.

[9] Salve Regina.

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