Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Regression Analysis


In my job, I look at regression analyses all the time. Before I go any further, I’ll break down a regression analysis: it is a statistical process for estimating the relationships among variables (dependent variables and independent variables). About now, only two sentences in, your eyes are glazing over and you’re thinking: This poor girl...

Yes, it is true. Regression analyses are not exciting at all. However, (nerd alert) if you can determine how correlated (or interdependent) certain events are...you can predict the future! And that’s what regression is used for in my job. We use 36 historical situations, and then use that information to predict/forecast the future.* And it works! 

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve spent nearly 10 years of my life looking at regressions, but using historical data points as predictors of future results is often how I approach real life. 

For example, someone I know is going through a trial at work. They are the victim of character assassination and outright lies. I was discussing this situation with my mother, and she said: “but God takes care of His people.” And I, being the realist that I am, said: 

“Ummm, Joseph went to prison on a lie.” 

Mic drop. 

You know Joseph: the teenager who was thrown into a pit, then sold into slavery where he was falsely accused of rape, and then imprisoned for several years? That guy. I used a historical data point, from a child of God, and used it to predict a possible future for another child of God. Same same? For so many reasons these situations are not at all correlated, yet that didn’t stop me from making that tiny regression analysis. It shows where my faith was in that moment. 

And you know what I wasn’t thinking about when I thought about Joseph? I wasn’t thinking about this: 

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. - Genesis 39:1-4

And when I was thinking about that lie that landed Joseph behind bars, I wasn’t thinking about this: 

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. - Genesis 39:1-20-22

Come to think of it, how did Joseph come to be in this crummy situation to begin with? Seems like I forgot this: 

Correlation between cat ownership and dementia? Debunked.
[Joseph] said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. - Genesis 37:6-8

Why do we only put the bad historical data points in our analysis? And by “we” I mean me. Why? If I’m going to look at historical data points as predictors of the future, why didn’t I look at the correlation between God’s favor and Joseph’s leadership ability? Yeah he was a slave, but he was running the show! Yeah, Joseph was in prison, but he was in charge! Why did I see God’s vision for Joseph’s life as a HUGE variable? Scientifically speaking: jacked up faith. 

Joseph’s life was full of data points that pointed to a destiny of leadership. Joseph was getting on-the-job training for being Vizier/“ruler of all Egypt!” There were signs pointing to this future all along, but if we build our analyses using only tragic historical data points, our predictions will be faith-crushing doom and gloom. 

In all the Joseph scriptures it says: “the Lord was with Joseph.” That turns out to be the biggest variable of all. Everything is dependent on that. So when you’re building the analysis, make sure you build in Jesus’ parting words from Matthew 28:20:

 ...And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”



*This is ridiculously over-simplified. I’m a derivatives accountant, and there is a bit more nuance to establishing the correlation between a hedging instrument and a hedged item...but this is the basic truth. 

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