An Existential Crisis

Sitting on a bench outside with my forever friend, Isla, I posed the question, “What is right and wrong?” With an exasperated sigh, running my frustrated hands through my curly hair, I said, “I think I’m in the middle of an existential crisis.”

“That’s a really big question for a Thursday,” she responded in a matter-of-fact tone, her eyes sparkling with amusement. Over the past few months, she and I have spent many an evening discussing this confusing transition into adulthood. We talk for hours over plates of pasta and tiramisu about this newfound freedom. We mull over the endless possibilities of the upcoming future, dreaming, planning, scheming. Clichéd as it may sound, there’s a world out there waiting for us.

And sometimes, I’m afraid.

Amidst the excitement of making my own decisions, deciding who I will be and forming my own beliefs, I feel a heavy weight. I see things, hear things and think: That’s different than what I know. I’ve never experienced that. It’s unfamiliar, does that mean it’s wrong? I have so many exciting opportunities, and while I want to attain them, I fear messing up. I fear being wrong. Most of all, I fear going wrong and never seeing my mistake.

This is my existential crisis. I must now decide if what I believe, pursue and do is valuable, meaningful and right. And I must decide how I determine if things are valuable, meaningful and right. I am my own responsibility; legally, morally, spiritually, it’s up to me to make the right decisions. My parents no longer act as the filter of right and wrong, of truth and lies. I don’t rest under their protective banner any longer. I shouldn’t. It’s time to grow up, to make these decisions for myself. It’d be silly if I stayed under their protection forever, that’s what they call co-dependence. It’s my responsibility to choose what information I will receive or reject.

It was all so simple when I went to Sunday school and they told me what was right and wrong, and I didn’t have to figure out for myself why it was right or wrong. I trusted their authority. And while I still believe in the unchanging God of my Sunday school days, my questions aren’t always answered with single-sentence verses from His Word. It’s like the day that I realized saying “dammit” doesn’t make you a bad Christian. Or when I discovered that, in fact, you can wear a bikini and love God at the same time. Those earth shattering revelations that challenged everything I thought to be true. If I was wrong about this, was I wrong about other things too? In this season of life, everything looks like one of those discoveries. I feel as though I must answer all the questions, lest I drift into the murky waters of indecision or the dangerous waves of indifference. I must decide now, and these decisions—how I choose to interpret Scripture, where I receive truth, whose guidance I take—affect every action that follows. They're my destiny.

“I want the answers now, I need them. I don’t want to mess up my life,” I whined to Isla.

She, with that same sparkle in her eyes, said, “You need to stop searching and just walk forward.”

You see, faith isn’t always the pull-you-by-the-hand, “here we go”, jump right in sort of thing. It can be, but sometimes faith is just a little nudge on the back pushing me in the right direction. Maybe today I’m the one in front walking forward, and God is faithfully right behind me. He’s there, and I can walk forward in confidence knowing that, if I step into oncoming traffic, He’s right behind me to pull me back to safety.

My inheritance is sealed, and Jesus doesn’t change. If He is who He says he is, and I am who he says I am, then I need not fear stepping forward.