What’s Your Measure?

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Something just occurred to me about the Covid numbers we’re seeing here in NSW. Here’s the recent reported cases over the past 14 days:

source: covid19data

It’s a fascinating image. We see a clear start of the Omicron wave and then it appears to level out. Cases have floated around 20k/day for the last 3/4 days. But it’s not the real number is it? We know that some people are asymptomatic, that others are not going to get tested, that results are taking 72hrs+ to come back and, most significantly, that testing centres are at their limits; turning people away.

So rather than showing us a levelling-off in our numbers, is it really just showing us the capacity of our testing facilities?

It’s rather reminiscent of that chilling moment in HBO’s brilliant Chernobyl when the engineer’s realise that the 3 Roentgen reading they’re getting from the exploded nuclear reactor (a level of radiation described by the director as “not great, not terrible”) is actually the maximum capacity of their meters, not the true measure:

Now this isn’t a post about Covid, or even Chernobyl. It’s an observation that if we measure the wrong thing, or are limited in our measurement, then we’ll get skewed results. We can be fooled (or even fool ourselves) that things are better or worse than they are. Many of us might be attempting to begin or restart good habits as the new year rolls over; again, it’s important that we measure strength gain, or weight loss, or whatever your goal is in the right way.

Jesus also warns us to measure the right thing in ministry:

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:17–20

The temptation in ministry, and in our Christian lives in general, is to be measuring the wrong thing in the wrong way. We can get distracted by the flashy and the impressive. The 72 returned to Jesus having seen some pretty amazing stuff. But Jesus recalibrates their assessment.

Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

In other words, the measure that really counts is people being saved; coming to know and trust and love the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s plenty of other stuff to measure and score (and I imagine that covid will be a continuing discussion/debate for quite a while) but let’s not get distracted from this main issue. I fear that towards the end of last year a number of us got too distracted by things that weren’t the main issue, even while they were important to engage with.

What’s your measure in 2022?

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Robert Bruce

    Thanks, David.
    We need this timely reminder. Life is not about Covid-19, it’s about our relationship with Jesus and how we can strengthen that daily by speaking with the Lord in prayer, reading his Word, and sharing fellowship with other Christians, meaning our soulmates on a daily basis, those we worship together with on Sundays and those we encounter at every other opportunity we get.
    Life is also about sharing the Gospel whenever we get the chance, especially sharing it with those who do not know Jesus, and leading them to know Him, to repent and believe, and to reap the great reward of eternal life with Him.
    Of course, Covid-19 is important at the moment and we should all do whatever we can to help overcome it, but the pandemic will pass away. The things of God will never pass away.

    1. chris russell

      Amen to that, Robert, but we have to ask the otherwise begged question as to what it is that “we should … do whatever we can do to overcome it [i.e. Covid-19]”. Are you referring to the recommendations of government, media, and public health authorities whatever they may be? I would hope not.

      Not measuring the wrong thing, and not being limited in our measurement, is surely a good start, by way of a suggestion, but, again, we have to ask the otherwise begged question as to what it is that we should be measuring, and what it is that constitutes unwelcome limits on our measurement.

      Consider then the miniscule mortality rate of this disease and the fact that, in Australia, the median age for those who died from COVID-19 was 86.9 years (85.2 years for males, 88.4 years for females), as of July 2021, whereas, in 2019, the median age at death was 78 years for males and 84 years for females. In this context, the hullabaloo we hear daily worldwide from government and the media appears to be motivated essentially by familiar concerns in relation to the problem of excess demand on hospital services. I don’t see that we should be doing whatever we can do to overcome this. It was a public health problem that was long forseen in pandemic planning, whereas the priorities of world economies are now simply coming home to roost.

      We should not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who do not love their neighbours as themselves, but we should certainly ask of ourselves as to whether we are among them.

      1. Robert Bruce

        G’day Chris.

        What I mean by “doing whatever we can to overcome the Covid pandemic” is for each of us, prayerfully and in good conscience, to do whatever we, as individuals, think best in that regard. This will, of course, vary from individual to individual. There can be no prescribed best way of acting. What I am doing, as a scientifically-based medical practitioner, may be very far from what someone else is doing, but that doesn’t make one of us “right” and the other person “wrong”.

        The key words here are “prayerfully and in good conscience”.

        Your comments on comparative mortality rates are very relevant. Information like that should stop a lot of the nonsense being pedalled by “authorities” and the catastrophising elements of the press.

        David Churchill’s comment below is also very relevant to the situation. As Christians we should trust Jesus; after all, He is in charge.

        The same might be said about “climate change” but that is another barrel of monkeys.

  2. David Churchill

    Trust Jesus.

  3. Roger Gallagher

    Hi David, while I agree with your main point, I think that the underlying analogy is flawed. Measurement shouldn’t be an issue.
    According to the ABC, there were 83,376 PCR swabs taken in NSW yesterday (3/1/22 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-04/nsw-records-highest-hospitalisation-and-covid-cases/100736056). But according to NSW Health statistics (https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/news/Pages/20210901_00.aspx ) back on the 31st August 2021 there were 173,913 PCR tests undertaken. And back then you pretty much always received your test results within 1 to 2 days. Now the system takes twice as long to process half the tests. My guess is that it’s a mixture of Christmas-New Years’ annual leave taking and poor management decisions by NSW Health and the private pathology providers, but, like Matthew 25’s 5 foolish virgins, the NSW Health system has been caught napping.

    1. David Ould

      Thanks Roger. It’s just an illustration to get the brain cogs turning 🙂

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