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Healthy on campus

From the March 14, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

It was a busy day! I had a lunch meeting with the Dean’s Office of the large university where I was taking post-graduate classes and working. Following the meeting, which included some students but mostly religious leaders at the university involved in interfaith work on campus, I needed to take an exam in my Asian Religions class. As I hurried from the meeting to the exam, all I could think about were the mounting concerns about the flu on campus. 

Over that lunch meeting, the Dean had spoken about the university’s campaign to prevent a possible outbreak. Temporary health centers were created to provide vaccinations. Faculty and students received frequent e-mail updates about the situation. We’d also been given small tubes of hand-sanitizer with the university’s logo on it. Certainly it was one among many efforts to inform and safeguard the community, but it felt almost paradoxical that this trendy-looking tube of hand-sanitizer could be a kind of panacea for such an ugly epidemic. It’s not that I really thought these efforts were in vain or insincere, but a true antidote for the shock waves of fear seemed to be missing.

Whether we’re faced with something that feels like a big deal personally or in the community, it’s helpful to remember that God is not intimidated.

More than the spread of germs, the root problem seemed to be the hype and speculation surrounding the flu. Many wondered, Would the whole university shut down? Were there enough vaccinations of the right sort available? And as these speculations gained momentum, it seemed pretty daunting and bleak.

With all this talk of a possible epidemic, I felt, in a way, obligated to be sick—as though this was just something that I should go along with. But was it inevitable for me or for anyone to acquiesce? 

And so, as I rushed off to class after that lunch meeting, I remember pausing to think: Wait a second, I am not “obligated” to be sick! Even though many people around me are swept up by this fear, my spiritual practice of Christian Science invites me to challenge fearful compliance. Instead, I look to the qualities of God to determine health. Because God is Life and I am proof of God’s vibrancy, I have a vital space in creation. Because God is Soul, I know that who I am is so much bigger than a body, but a flow of creativity and blessing. 

I love how specific, and yet vast, those ideas are. It’s been my experience that when I am conscious of absolute truth that comes from God, instead of just relative truths or human speculation about health, my body can’t help but surrender to the presence of God—the source of all well-being. I quietly prayed to reclaim a mental stillness and awareness of God. But things still felt so turbulent and my prayers felt feeble, so I called a Christian Science practitioner for some additional help.

She shared a simple idea with me. She reminded me that good is continuous. The good health—really the clarity of thought that we desire—begins with understanding God and God’s presence. It’s hard to imagine that the all-loving and ever-present One would be overwhelmed.

Whether we’re faced with something that feels like a big deal personally or in the community, it’s helpful to remember that God is not intimidated. There aren’t moments when we have to pray harder to make God be more present. God is already present. God’s laws of health trump even the most reliable news sources. If anything, we can relax and trust this continuity of divine good to move us out of “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). We don’t have to camp out there!  

Finally I felt peaceful, knowing that my health and the health of my community were God-authorized, God-inspired, and God-maintained. 

With that, I was ready to take the Asian Religions class exam. It went well. And as the days proceeded, I continued to pray when headlines or conversation about the flu came up. It wasn’t easy, but I thought about not being afraid. For me, that meant carrying on with my normal routine of going to class and working. When someone was coughing, I tried not to be critical and think, Who let them out of the house? or, Will I be sick because they are sick? Instead, I found it helpful to be proactive and embrace the whole community in my thoughts and prayers, affirming that the only thing that could be transmitted was our genuine care for one another. When the warmth of divine Love is present, thoughts of criticism, fear, and sickness cannot remain.

The continuity of good and freedom from anxiety that had helped me during the exam helped me trust that God was perpetually caring for us all. We can’t be faced with a challenge in life and be shackled with the fear that somehow God will be absent.

In the end, the university didn’t have to shut down. On an individual level, I felt a growing appreciation for the people around me and for the good things happening at school. Prior to this time of prayer for the campus, I’d felt overwhelmed by such a large student population and skeptical that the administration could care for each one of its students. But now I was able to see that the care the university demonstrated was really a microcosm for the great love that God has for us all.

Ginger Mack is a Christian Science practitioner from Madison, Wisconsin. 

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