An academic fraud? No way!
Fear no longer had a grip on me during my college experience.
Several months ago, I watched a 2016 interview with American comedian Conan O’Brien conducted by the then-president of Harvard University, Dr. Drew Faust. O’Brien is an alumnus of Harvard, and when he spoke about his insecurities as a student there, it struck a chord with me. He said that although he’d received a good public high school education, he’d felt very insecure as a student and feared he might have made a mistake in going to the university he had chosen. Most of the students came from a social, economic, and educational background different than his, and he wondered if he really belonged there.
I, too, had been a good student in high school. But in making the transition to college, I felt lost. Like O’Brien, I believed I would be discovered as a fraud. It seemed possible that at any moment the professors would determine that I was not up to their academic standards, and I would be asked to leave.
In retrospect, it’s unclear where this fear originated. While I did not share my concerns with anyone, I was living off campus in residential housing with other Christian Scientists. This living situation proved to be a haven for me throughout my college years, supporting my prayers and my deepening study of Christian Science and helping me to feel more confident academically.
During the first term, in a class called American Thought and Language, we were given an assignment to write a paper that compared and contrasted two famous historical figures. The subject seemed baffling. The assignment seemed too vague and the possibilities for choosing the subjects and determining an interesting way to compare them too broad. It required not simply answering a question posed by an instructor but rather creating an original observation about two unrelated historical figures.
Prayer was a natural first step for me in resolving the impasse I faced in trying to come up with and develop an idea. I knew that God is all-knowing and that every prayer for help is answered. In Christian Science Sunday School I had learned about seven synonyms for God given in the Christian Science textbook, one of which is Mind. This textbook—Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy—explains, “Mind, God, sends forth the aroma of Spirit, the atmosphere of intelligence” (pp. 191–192). Understanding God as the only Mind, the source of all intelligence, creativity, and order brought me peace. And then it brought inspiration: an idea for the paper.
I felt more confident that God was on the scene and that I couldn’t fail.
This type of writing and analysis was outside of my experience, but all the necessary components of the paper nevertheless came together rapidly and freely. The writing process was not a struggle and was free of fear. I was filled with gratitude for feeling so connected to, so at one with, divine Mind. The truth is, we are never disconnected from God, because we are eternally Mind’s reflection. Science and Health explains that man is “the compound idea of God, including all right ideas; the generic term for all that reflects God’s image and likeness; the conscious identity of being as found in Science, in which man is the reflection of God, or Mind, and therefore is eternal; that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker” (p. 475).
In the coming weeks I felt a greater awareness of the presence, power, and efficacy of the divine in my experience. In fact, the day the professor returned our papers, he called my name and asked me to identify myself. He then distributed copies of my paper to the class as an example of how to compose and structure a paper of this type.
I have to admit that the professor looked surprised when I raised my hand after he called my name. During his classes I had sat in the back row, never asking questions or volunteering to answer them. This was a transformative moment for me, as well as confirmation that the ideas in the paper had originated with and been organized by the one, all-loving intelligence, God.
This experience broke the mesmerism of fear about my academics, and fear no longer had a grip on me during my college experience. Even when other academic challenges followed, I felt more confident that God was on the scene and that I couldn’t fail. And that proved to be the case—I successfully completed all my classes and graduated on time with high academic standing.
My class assignment, rather than exposing me as an academic fraud, helped me see that it is the Mind that is God that provides inspiration, order, and clarity of thought. Every one of us reflects this Mind and has the God-given ability to prove it.