Substitute teaching has taught me another lesson. The school system I’m in is an alternative learning place. There are two teachers in every classroom. So when I sub there’s an educational professional in there too.
A couple of weeks ago I was in with a science teacher named Pam Foster. She had written a recommendation for one of the students to be on a robotics team. One particular accolade intrigued me: “He is good at letting go of unsuccessful hypotheses.”
If I remember correctly, a hypothesis is an educated guess. It’s a theory scientists come up with based on knowledge in their fields. An experiment is performed to either validate or refute it. Science students are regularly given a scenario and instructed to offer a hypothesis. For instance, if you drop a bowling ball and a baseball from a window three stories high, which will hit the ground first? You could create you own hypothesis. Then you’d actually drop a bowling ball and a baseball from a three-story building several times to see if your hypothesis was correct.
Pam’s comment struck me because of its complicated simplicity. It’s simple because it’s not a difficult concept to grasp. We complicate it when we refuse to see the reality of a scenario and try to find ways around what is obviously true.
It may make sense to you that the bowling ball would fall much faster than the baseball because it is heavier. But, Galileo did this experiment several hundred years ago and found that they actually fall at the same rate (though he didn’t use a bowling ball and a baseball, of course!). Go ahead and try it yourself, it’s still true today. You may not understand the results of this experiment, but it would be foolish to continue to suggest that the results are wrong because of your reasoning.
So, this young man who Pam was recommending for the robotics team has what it takes to be a successful scientist. He doesn’t let subjectivity get in the way of accurate results. If he did, then his results would be skewed and his results would be inaccurate and misleading.
Sometimes, as Christians, what we claim to be perseverance is really our inability to let go of an unsuccessful hypothesis. When the results of our actions aren’t what we want them to be, we ignore the facts and offer an alternative explanation: If people aren’t coming into our church it must be because they simply refuse to see the light, because we’re doing everything correctly . . . My addiction to pornography isn’t hurting anyone . . . Consumerism isn’t an issue for me. I have far less than most people and my debt is manageable.
Take the time to challenge your Christian hypotheses. Sometimes your struggles are about godly perseverance. Sometimes you need to act more like a scientist and be willing to let go of unsuccessful hypotheses.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)