• Jack

The Importance of Being Wrong

One of my interests (besides languages, of course) is the space program. Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by space travel and the people that send rockets out of the atmosphere. I love learning about the early days of space exploration when everything was new and they were venturing out into this great unknown.

But I also love keeping up with what they are doing now! We watched live with the kids as NASA received transmission back from the Mars rover earlier this year, and we're keeping up with the helicopter that's about to fly on Mars! This is crazy stuff!

One of the stories that has been exciting to follow is SpaceX, who launched the first commercially-funded, manned mission to the space station. They are also the ones that land their boosters on a drone ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or have their boosters "simply" turn around and land back on the launch pad! (That's incredible, by the way, in case you missed the tone of that statement.)

The kids and I got to watch a night launch of a SpaceX rocket while we were in Florida!

But here's why I bring all this up.

One thing that SpaceX is known for is being super up front about their failures. Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, has frequently said that failure is the key to innovation and actually the key to making forward progress in whatever you are doing.

If you can know why you failed in some area, you can know how not to fail the next time (at least in the same way).

Believe it or not, as we think about language learning and Bible translation, the same principle applies. In August, we'll be moving to Switzerland to begin French learning. Then, when we move to Côte d'Ivoire, I'll be working with a language group to help analyze and document their language. This is a lot of language learning ahead of us!

And the best thing we can do is make mistakes.

Let me explain. If I were learning English and said something like, "I like pizza," I would be grammatically correct. So I would start to experiment a little with the subjects and objects. "I like hamburgers." "We like pizza." "They like pizza." "You like hot dogs." All grammatically correct!

Therefore, I come to the conclusion that the verb "like" only ever appears in one form, and it works for all sorts of sentences. But then I say this: "He like pizza." And my language helper says that that's wrong! What!? But I know the rule!

I have two choices moving forward. I can get angry with the language helper and quit in frustration because English just doesn't make sense! (True, by the way, but not the point here.) Or, I could figure out why I made that mistake. Instead of sticking with my original opinion, I need to amend it to accurately portray the language I'm learning. To be technical, English adds an 's' to the end of a verb following a third person singular subject.

The best thing I could have done was to make that mistake, so I know where my current theory is flawed and can make changes to move forward in the right direction.

And when I am willing to acknowledge my mistakes, it conveys to the people that I am working with that I am willing to learn. It's the start of a humble approach to language learning!

This is a simple example, but it can be much more complex, and our current ideas can be much more entrenched.

When we get to Bible translation, we can run into this all the time. As we work with local language helpers, we're trying to come up with words that are as equivalent to the original Greek as possible. If we find that we've been translating a word wrong, or that the word has multiple meanings, we need to be able to adjust. This may even mean going back and changing weeks and weeks of work to reflect the knowledge we've gained. Unless we make that mistake that shows us where we've been wrong, we might never see our error!

This truth applies to much more than language learning and Bible translation, though!

In any area of life, it is necessary to measure your current beliefs or practices and confirm whether they are right or wrong, even what we believe is true about God. So, be willing to test every belief you have against the truth of Scripture. I promise you, the Word of God can handle it!

Imagine being alive in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door. How would you have responded? Would you have held staunchly to what you had been believing your whole life? Or would you have been willing to admit you were wrong and see that Luther's defiance actually lined up with Scripture? For those that joined the Reformation, it took admitting that they had made a mistake in their theology and being set right by God's Word to move forward in the right direction.

It's a position of humility to admit that you have made a mistake in the way you have been thinking. But this is exactly what God wants from us. Is there any belief in your life that you need to test against God's Word?

"He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way." Psalm 25:9

Without a constant realignment to God's Word, we can start to stray off course. It is a humbling thing to let God set you back straight.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

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