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Advice to a Shy College Student
Get out of your
That's what I would say to my college-aged self if I could. In college, I spent too much time cooped up in my dorm room. I'm an introspective person, and Christian Science is a religion that focuses on entering into what's called a "prayer closet," a term first used by Jesus and later echoed by Mary Baker Eddy. But I've seen, in myself and others, that sometimes that prayer closet can be less about genuine prayer and instead can become gradually, subtly, more about hiding.
But what I've seen in studying Christian Science is that neither Jesus nor Mary Baker Eddy were very prone to timidity. Jesus promises that each of us are the light of the world, and that when you light a candle you shouldn't hide it under a bushel, but rather you have to hold it up on a candlestick so others can see it! Rather than promoting acedia, Christian Science is a religion with a strong emphasis on overcoming fear.
The story most illustrative of this point is that of Jesus walking on the water found in Matthew 14. When the disciples see Jesus literally walking on the water, they're terrified. They think they've seen a ghost. What's the first thing he does? Calms their fear. Jesus reassures them that it's only their beloved teacher and there's nothing to worry about. They still doubt this, so they put him to the test. Peter, the disciple, asks if he can join him on the water, as a litmus test for whether he was the real deal or not. Without any hesitation, Jesus agrees, thereby helping assuage his students' fear.
Then we see the most inspiring and instructive part of the story: Peter runs out on the water to meet him. For a few brief moments, he has no inhibitions about this. Peter too starts literally walking on the water. But as soon as he notices the storm going around on him, he starts to doubt and consequently starts to sink. And as the Bible says, Jesus "immediately stretched out his hand and caught him." And the storm subsided, too.
I've learned to love that story more and more. Because what Jesus was doing in that story was teaching us about how the Christ operates in our lives today. When we're frightened by unknown surroundings, the Christ is there, calling out to us, reassuring us that we're in good company. When we doubt this, we can put it to practical tests, which the Christ does respond to. And when we have the boldness and conviction to do what is asked of us, we see that same Christly nature reflected in ourselves, perhaps in ways that seem remarkable even to ourselves. And even if we stumble, we can trust that the Christ is there to catch us without hesitation.
But in order to see any of this put into practice, we first have to have the willingness to step out of the boat. If not literally, then at least figuratively! Remaining in the boat represents trying to stay within a very narrow comfort zone -- perhaps a college dorm room -- which in fact isn't always all that comfortable. In the middle of a storm that comfort zone can be rocking back forth and even become waterlogged. The choice we have to make is whether we want to be like one of the eleven disciples who aren't really mentioned in that story, standing still and perhaps a bit seasick, or if we'd rather be more like Peter, willing to take a risk and try something new at Christ's calling.
My advice? Try things! There are so many opportunities in college, in life, anywhere you are. Don't be afraid to try something new. Christ will be there with you, always.