In talking about the culture and attitudes of emerging adults (i.e., 18-30 year olds), we arrive a critical question: Is this new reality good or bad? Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, along with Patricia Snell, who tends toward the negative in his assessment, still summarizes well both the positive and negative sides of the emerging adult experience in Souls in Transition:
The features marking this stage are intense identity exploration, instability, a focus on self, feeling in limbo or in transition or in between, and a sense of possibilities, opportunities, and unparalleled hope. These, of course, are also often accompanied . . . by large doses of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, disappointment, and sometimes emotional devastation. Smith and Snell
It’s worth noting that Smith’s follow-up to his first study highlights the shadow side of emerging adulthood, as the subtitle makes clear: Lost in Transition: The Dark Side ofEmerging Adulthood.Not all is right in Denmark—or at least with emerging adulthood.
It is, of course, entirely possible and utterly faithful for emerging adults to transform their experience of being “in between,” with its consequent worry, into a radical openness to what God can do. I’ve seen plenty of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds do just that. In that light, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-7 is brilliant:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (The Message)
Notice the displacement of worry with Christ. That’s a powerful image. I’m hoping this generation will take the raw material of emerging adulthood, center it on Christ, and let God do "a new thing" (Isaiah 43:19) in all kinds of areas, including science and faith.