When I was in high school I served as our basketball teams' statistician. I absolutely loved it. When I wasn't keeping the official green book, I used a legal-sized piece of paper, turned sideways on a clipboard, with a homemade chart for marking every detail of the basketball game. There were usually three of us on the bench, eyes glued to the court, trying to catch every single steal, assist, shot attempt, rebound, and turnover. Back then I didn't think much about statistics, at least where sports were concerned. It was pretty cut-and-dry. At the end of the school year we would figure up the percentages for the athletic awards ceremony based upon all of those stat sheets throughout the year. Awards were given to the player with the best field goal percentage, the best free throw percentage, the most steals, and so on. It was a simple thing, really. The numbers pretty much told the story.
When it comes to real life, I don't really like statistics. They never do seem to tell the whole story. What matters, of course, is what side of them you happen to be on.
I've never cared for the statistic that says that people who come from divorced parents are twice as likely to get divorced. I'm not saying there's absolutely no data out there to support the claim, and it's true that statistics are only meant to be a sampling. There's no way they could apply to and be true for everyone. Still, I don't like the assumption that the odds are against me simply because my parents' marriage didn't work. I like knowing there is room for me to break that cycle. I realize that, like the first line of one of my favorite Caedmon's Call songs says, "I come from a long line of leavers." There is a lot of divorce in my family, but I don't for a second believe that it means our marriage is doomed. I believe we can change that trend. With that considered, I believe that sometimes it's a good thing to be on the "wrong side" of a statistic.
As I'm sure you can imagine, I'm also not a fan of infertility-related statistics. I know that sometimes they are used to try to make you feel better. Even at our last appointment, our doctor went through the run-down of miscarriage percentages. Right now I have about a 20% chance of miscarrying (considering the stage of this pregnancy only). If we see a heartbeat, that number will go down, and it will continue to decrease as we see more and more development, such as arm and leg buds, etc. And that's all wonderful to hear, except that I've been on the wrong side of those statistics, too.
It's hard for me to take comfort in those numbers. I've seen those wonderful baby heartbeats before. We even saw our baby's arm and leg buds on an ultrasound screen for our 4th pregnancy! But it doesn't mean much when you find out that you're still in the small percentage of people who will lose their baby. Some sources say that after 4 pregnancies and no live births, my chances of having this baby are between 0 and 5%. I haven't looked up one for 6 pregnancies and no live births because I just don't want to know. I think I'm much better off not knowing what the numbers say and hoping that I can beat the odds. This is definitely another trend I'm determined to break.
Fortunately I've reached a point where I'm simply annoyed by statistics. I don't put my trust in them; I put my trust in the Creator of heaven and earth, and the One who made me and loved me first. I know that nothing is impossible with God. (Interesting side note: Did you know that when that verse is used in Luke 1:37, the topic of conversation is that Elizabeth, who was barren, is having a child? I love that!)
To bring this post full-circle (and if you'll pardon me for the basketball analogy), something else I learned as a statistician is that the person who gets awarded is usually the person who took the most shots. Sure, the important part is making them. But you can't expect to make the shot if you aren't first brave enough to attempt it. I'm hoping that this time for me will be a lot like the time the guy in my class who played center, the biggest guy on the team, took that wild, one-in-a-million shot from behind the three-point line... and he made it.
The odds were totally against that shot, but boy, was it worth it -- to him and to everyone who was cheering him on!