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  • Writer's pictureJanet Asbridge

From Existential Angst To Life

Professor Jacobs scanned the class. “The philosophy of the absurd postulates that there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we as humans can give it. We live in an amoral, unfair universe.” He glanced at the clock. “This week, read chapter 2 in your Philosophies of the World textbook, and when we meet again be ready to discuss.


 

As I walked to the library, the professor’s words blew through me like the cold Ellensburg wind sweeping down from the Cascades. I pulled my jacket tighter, but it did nothing to warm the existential angst chilling my soul.

 

When I was a child going to church with my mother, I had no doubt that God loved me. But in high school I’d become jaded and angry. Why would a loving God allow so much suffering in the world? How could Jesus dying on a cross be any kind of answer to anything? It just didn’t make sense.  

 

Besides, I wanted to have fun, not live by the antiquated, joy-killing rules dictated by the church.



 But by my sophomore year of college, nothing was fun. Partying had lost its thrill. Serial dating made me feel emptier still. I felt dead inside and useless.

 

I practiced meditation and learned about other religions, but the void in my soul just yawned wider, emptier.

 

After four years of study, I discovered that even my sociology degree was useless after a search for meaningful employment on the school’s job search system turned up nothing.


 Homeless, jobless, and despairing, I drifted around Washington State searching for a place where I could use the sociology degree that I’d worked so hard to attain.


 

One day, I stopped at a pay phone to call my friend and fellow graduate, Shari, who was staying with her grandma in Yakima. Her voice sounded distant but friendly. “There are lots of jobs in Yakima and my grandma would be happy to let you throw your sleeping bag on the floor of her house. Come on over.”

 

“Great. I’ll be there in a few hours.” As I merged onto I-90, I began sobbing. A job would provide for my physical needs, but it couldn't still the existential angst and fear tearing holes in my soul.

 

When I pulled up to the address Shari had given me, I stared at the house in dismay. By the looks of it, Shari’s grandma could barely support herself and Shari. My meager savings were almost gone, and I had little to offer in return. I sat there uncertainly before going to the door.



Shari opened it with a smile. “Hi. You made it. This is Grandma.”

 

A wrinkled woman in a faded, plaid housedress stood nearby. Her voice was harsh, but her words were warm. “It’s not much, but you’re welcome to stay as long as you need.” She looked me up and down. “We only have one bathroom to share between the three of us. So, you’re going to have to make it quick.”

 

My discomfort and despair increased and I vowed to stay out of her way the best I could. “I plan to job hunt every day and hopefully, I won't be here long.”

 

I was glad to find that Shari was right. There were lots of jobs in Yakima. Right away I got a position as a supervisor for intellectually disabled adults in a group home. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of purpose as I took care of the residents.


But the job didn’t pay enough to support myself and Shari was leaving to go to law school. I couldn’t stay with Grandma much longer.

 

So, I decided to go back to school for a degree in Special Education. A teachers' salary would allow me to support myself, and maybe the purpose I felt in working at the group home would follow me.

 

But as I drove over the desert hills from Yakima to Central Washington State University, the cold empty void of existential angst followed me instead. As I crested the last hill into Ellensburg, memories of my unhappy years there paraded in front of my eyes. Something had to change.



As a child, I had felt loved and secure in God’s care. It couldn’t hurt to call on him again. If he didn’t exist, I was out nothing. I spoke aloud through tears. “God, I give you my life. Help me to make something good of it.”

 

I felt no positive change as I moved in with friends on B Street. But in time, my classes and practice teaching experiences confirmed to me that I’d found my sense of purpose in working with kids who struggled to learn.


I started dating my future husband, Bob. He was a smart, uncomplicated, and sturdy person who made me feel safe.


After we married, we purchased a brand-new house in the country not far from the school in Tonasket WA where I got a job as a special education teacher.


 

As I admired our new home furnished with gifts from his parents, I remembered my homeless days and I felt grateful for all that God had done for me. So much so that when Bob asked me if I wanted to go to church, I agreed.

 

I’ll never forget the day when the pastor called people to the altar. I held to my place as my old doubts and existentialist beliefs swam to the surface of my mind. Yes, God seemed real after all he'd done for me. But Jesus? I doubted him with all my being.


How could a man who died centuries ago make any difference to anyone? It just didn’t make sense. And yet, I felt compelled to go to the altar.


As I knelt there, suspending my rationality was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I prayed, “The idea that Jesus is alive and cares about me doesn't make sense. But Jesus if you are real, I bow my head and give you my life.”

 

Tears of joy flooded my eyes as waves of love, peace, and comfort flowed through me. Experiencing the love of Jesus didn’t make rational sense. But it was real.


After all these years, it's even more real to me than it was back then. Despite the suffering in the world, and the fact that God doesn't always answer my prayers in the way I want him to, I know that Jesus is alive for those who invite him in.


 He is love.




If you like stories about hope in difficult times, click here for my historical novel Atomic Secrets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 comentarios


Invitado
10 mar

Janet. I found your experience something I can relate to. In the past and today. Thank you for sharing Janet. Love you and miss you.


I loved your book Atomic Secrets. I recognized so many parts of the story from our experience living there and my moms stories. It definitely felt like a unique experience as I started sharing with the larger world around me. I think it is true for many who grew up there!

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Janet Asbridge
Janet Asbridge
10 mar
Contestando a

Hello Guest, I'd love to know who thank for this. Yes, living in Richland back then was a unique experience. I'm glad you enjoyed Atomic Secrets.

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fulya
09 mar

What a wonderful testimony Janette, I read through your story with tears in my eyes... very encouraging and inspiring. It is never too late to make the correct turn on that road!

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Janet Asbridge
Janet Asbridge
10 mar
Contestando a

Thank you, Fulya!

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