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Fascinating Number 5

Kindred spirits. It’s a term I was first introduced to many years ago in the series of books, Anne of Green Gables.  A friend who is so much like yourself, who understands you on a level that few understand, and who accepts you as you are- that is a kindred spirit. And that is what my friend Jill Thornton is to me.  

Jill and I realized just recently that we share a significant anniversary.  August 20, 2014, just a couple of weeks before my car accident, Jill received a diagnosis of breast cancer- an aggressive kind that, had she waited to act on it, she wouldn’t be here today.  I’m so thankful that she is!  

To commemorate her “#5 cancer-versary,” I invited Jill to share her thoughts.  This is what she has to say:

This marks the fifth year since I was diagnosed with cancer.  It also marks the fifth year since my very good friend Chrissie had a terrible car accident.  Chrissie and I didn’t know each other at the time of our traumas.  We met a good two years into our respective recoveries and didn’t become good friends until around a year later.  In fact, we didn’t realize we shared an anniversary year of sorts until just a few weeks ago.

Taken on its face, the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer and she had a car accident in the same year seems arbitrary—a meaningless coincidence.  I may have thought of it that way had we realized it in year two or three, but year five is a different matter entirely.  Why?  I asked myself that question repeatedly.  Why is five years such a significant milestone?  What makes the number five so special?

In terms of cancer, of course, this is the most commonly quoted statistic for survival.  After five years, X% of patients will still be alive. The chance of long term survival increases with each year that passes, but the fifth year seems to be statistically significant.  That makes sense mathematically, but the number five was significant well before the idea of statistics was introduced in 1786.  (You can thank William Playfair for that bit of nonsense.)  So what is our fascination with the number five?

To answer this, we must look first at ourselves.  How many fingers on each hand?  How many toes on each foot?  The answer of course is five.  It’s one of the very first things we look for in a newborn baby.  We have five senses—touch, taste, hearing, sight, and smell. When we look around us we see that the minutes of the clock are broken down into fives.  There are five Olympic rings.  Five is also a prime number.

Now, take a look in the Bible.  The first five books were given from God to Moses.  On Mount Sinai Moses was given five commandments describing our relationship with God and five commandments describing our relationships with others. In the book of Leviticus, God commanded Israel to bring him five types of offerings. The New Testament contains five foundational books:  the four Gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus suffered five wounds while on the cross. The number five is used repeatedly to signify something significant in the Bible.

So back to the shared anniversary.  Chrissie and I didn’t know each other in 2014.  We were both being tested and changed, transformed for His purpose when we crossed paths later.  And as we struggle through 2019 together, He flashes the number five before us as a sign. It is a reminder that everything happens for his purpose and we have not struggled in vain.  And perhaps most importantly, he has given us each other as a reminder that we need not bear our burdens alone.

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