Part I: Whose are We?
In an article published in October of last year, The Harvard Crimson explored the ramifications of a new study from HMS Professor Cindy Hsin-Ju Liu. A national survey conducted by Liu and her colleagues found that 20% of college students reported suicidal thoughts, 25% reported diagnosis or treatment for a mental health disorder in the previous year, 20% reported self-harm, and 10% reported having attempted suicide.
These are sobering data, and it is obvious that mental health must be addressed with greater commitment and zeal on college campuses. The wellbeing of students across the country is at stake, and we, the staff of the Harvard Ichthus, believe that our own campus is no exception. Here at Harvard, we live and work in a high-pressure environment. We know from experience that it can be brutally difficult to take care of ourselves when anxieties and responsibilities of all kinds–social, academic, financial, spiritual, and more–accost us from all sides.
In light of this plight in the world of mental health, we want to offer a three-point reflection from a Christian perspective. To be clear, this is not by any means a “solve” for mental health issues. It is, rather, a reflection on who we are as children of God, and how that Gospel message might impact our experience of emotional anguish, mental suffering, and crises of self-image.
Our prayer is that, through the grace and power of God’s most Holy Spirit, this reflection may be of use or comfort to our readers here at school or abroad. This, our first reflection on the topic, is called “Whose are We?”
…You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…
Hear the Lord speaking to the people of Israel in the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, and remember that by the Incarnation of Christ Jesus, we too are grafted into that sacred community. We are made and held by a God who loves us, who has not given up on us, and who will never let us go. We are God’s beloved, and God is our beloved, and it is God alone who will bring us evermore into the fullness of life through the life and death of Christ. Jesus seeks relentlessly to gather us in under his wings of love. Jesus abides in us, and calls us to abide in him. This is the Divine Story. This is whom we belong to.
Imagine how our lives as students would change if we always remembered this Truth. Imagine the liberation we would experience if we more fully internalized that it is the Triune God of Love alone who can quench every thirst and disperse every darkness. It would probably put our other responsibilities–many of which, at Harvard, are serious sources of anxiety–in perspective. We do not belong to our discussion posts or our p-sets. We do not belong to our final exam grades or to the essays we slave over. We do not belong to our transcripts. We do not belong to our shortcomings and our failures. We do not belong to any of the raucous din that pervades our world and shouts, “You are not enough!” We belong to God, and nothing, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,” will stop God from loving us.
If only we could remember this, and allow our work to be transformed so that God’s light shines resplendently through us–even in our mistakes and our mess!–not for our glory, but for the Glory of the Almighty One. If only we could remember this, and know, as the great mystic St. Julian of Norwich knew, that despite the rampant darkness of our world and of our hearts, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
If you take nothing else away from this piece, we pray that you take this: you are already enough and already beloved of God. The validation of the world, whether the world of Harvard or the world at large, has nothing to do with that. Hear God speaking to you: you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. No matter what.
From The Ichthus staff, written by Aidan Stoddart ’21