Last week we went to the beach in North Carolina. Annie invited a group of her high school friends to join us.
Every night after dinner we asked each other probing questions and talked about the big concepts of life.
Is there a God?
If so, what is He like?
Does God have a plan for us or are we in complete charge of our lives?
What beliefs and values shape your life?
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
What is faith?
Why do some people have faith and others don’t?
How can someone really live by faith?
Why is it so central to some people and irrelevant to others?
How do you know whether something is true and is there such a thing as truth?
This group of 19-year old college students astound me with their passion for answers to these questions.
They are achievement-oriented and live their lives “on purpose.”
They believe that being their best matters.
They believe in being good people and they know right from wrong. Even though there are many questions on their minds, they are clear about their own ethics and morals. They are true to what they believe even though they are still sorting out what it is they really believe.
They all come from different religion backgrounds and some grew up without any religious influence in their lives at all.
Yet, they yearn to define themselves. They want to stand for something.
Part of me wanted to tell them all the answers to these life questions because after living so many years, I’ve figured a lot of things out.
But part of me relished the conversation, the struggle, the growth that comes from figuring out life on your own.
I enjoyed listening to what they wonder about, what scares and worries them.
I learned their fears and questions aren’t much different from my own, and that while I have a strong set of beliefs and values, I have much to learn from them.
I wanted to tell them what it’s like to grow up and finally have all the answers.
I discovered two problems with that.
First, we only learn by experience and by figuring things out ourselves.
Second, and most important, I still don’t have all the answers.
Even after all these years of forming my own beliefs and relying on a certain set of religious guideposts, I still have a lot to learn.
And I love learning it from optimistic, bright, questioning 19-year olds whose minds are on fire with curiosity.
There is power in their intellectual form of gymnastics as they ask hard questions, and seek inspired answers.
Our conversations reminded me of Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s words: “The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of who we are and what we stand for…This is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, breadth and importance of our own mission…It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences…It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain…It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships…It is a time to nurture yourself spiritually, intellectually and to have no fears, no doubts about your future.”
This stellar group of friends are living up to these words, giving me no doubts about my future because I feel assured that as I age and they take my place as the responsible adults in life, I am in capable hands.