Monday, January 26, 2009

Mean, median and more

I’m living in a statistics fog. I have an arduous study schedule for each chapter of the text for my stats class:

1. Read the chapter and take notes
2. Complete sample problems in the chapter
3. Go to supplementary web site and study with the tools offered there
4. Complete online quiz
5. Complete sample quiz in the chapter
6. Go to the professor’s on-line site and complete the sample quiz
7. Cry and eat chocolate
8. Struggle through class, anyway
9. Start all over for the next chapter

Things just don’t stick in my brain. I love words. I love the experience of losing myself in a good description, of precise analogies rolling across the page; I love tasting the words in poems and savoring the blessings of a well written devotion. I especially love God’s Word and how it teaches and heals.

I just don’t get numbers. They are only numbers, to me; they do not conjure up symbols as they are intended to. Numbers just stand there and mock me; reminding me that they will always be outside of my reach. For brief moments I think I understand, and then the feeling passes. In statistics talk, the frequency of my distribution is skewed negatively toward panic.

Right now I am managing to stay at a “B” level with the practice quizzes. However, the practice quizzes are easier than the graded quizzes which are easier than the unit tests which are easier than the final. I am also painfully aware that I need to do better than a “C” on this class or it will be strongly encouraged that I repeat the class. Then, I mistakenly look ahead and see at least two other harder stats classes that I need to take looming in the future. I am left standing dejected and forlorn.

It is really hard to keep myself from chuckin’ it all out the window and going to the kitchen to bake brownies. Of course, if I did that, my textbook would probably crash through the heat pump and then I would be dejected, forlorn and cold . . .but, I would have brownies.

Empathy is a strange thing. We look at the struggle of our neighbor but we cannot understand unless we can connect it to something we ourselves have experienced. When I struggle to understand my text or to keep my focus on the professor when his words mean little to me, I get a small taste of what my son deals with everyday in most of his classes. He is an intelligent person with a brain that works differently than the way his teachers teach. When I give myself a break to do some reading and writing, to remind myself that it is possible for me to think in a coherent manner, I get a small taste of why Joel loves computers.

When I look ahead to the seemingly impossible task of passing this 800 level class only to find that I am merely at base camp for the real climb of two 900 level stats classes, then I get a small glimpse of what my young friend feels on a daily basis when he wishes he didn’t have to be in a wheel chair. When I feel like crying in class because I look around and see the faces of classmates who all seem to understand, I know, a little bit, how Elliot feels when he races to catch up with friends on the playground.

When my own brain causes me to fail and fail again in the minor task of learning how to interpret formulas with Greek letters, I get a small glimpse into the life of my friends and family members whose bodies attack themselves in the form of MS and Alzheimer’s. I can’t know what they are feeling, or what their lives are like, but I can get a small glimpse into the struggle that will hopefully help me to love them better.

It is true that we cannot love except that God loves us first. It is also true that we cannot empathize except that God first had empathy for us. He sent His Son to live with us, to feel with us, to struggle and succeed with us. He sent His Son to BE us. He is able to perfectly empathize and to perfectly love us. In this way we know that when we go to Him in prayer, when we drop all of our struggles, pain and sorrows in His lap, He really does know how we feel. More importantly, he knows how we can feel better. Sometimes He takes the pain and struggle away from us, and sometime He walks us through it. He gently reminds us that He did not walk away from the pain He endured for us.

I just need to be reminded that God invented statistics; He invented statistics to help me and not to harm me. My text book may only give me the answers to the even numbered questions, but God has all the answers. God will lead me to pray and study, to find friends who can help, and pray again. He will also lead me to pray for, and serve, the loved ones who struggle in their own lives so I don’t center myself on my insignificant struggles. Then He will lead me to pray some more.

After that, I will bake brownies (with sprinkles on top.)

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36: 26

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