Thirty years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart – one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life! 15 years old and a sophomore in high school, I went to the movies with an 18-year-old senior, and the rest, as they say, is history!
I often reflect on our meeting at such a young age and ponder, “What if we met today, in today’s culture, would we marry?” My response always falls on the side of, “No.”
It all goes to the messages a culture gives its young people. I call it, “Kids these days…”
Kids these days are told they can have it all. Truth is, this side of heaven, no one does. Our hearts want bliss, but the fallen world prevents it, and the father of lies perpetuates the myth. Focusing on what is true and just and right will bring the self-actualization that young, in fact all people, desire. Love forms its roots – love of God and love of neighbor. Anything less fails to satisfy.
Kids these days believe that life ends when they get married. Sounds silly, but hear me out: Kids get the message that they should build their careers, travel, date different people, live in different places, etc before they “settle down” or “get tied down”. Life does not end when someone marries. Many choose to live together because in actuality they want marriage; they want the fullness of love and complementarity, but they’re afraid to admit it. Quite a few of my older daughter’s friends graduated from college last year. When I asked one young man if he plans to marry his girlfriend of 3 years soon, at 22 years old he scoffed, “I’m too young.” “I was 21 when I got married. Best thing I ever did!” I replied. How many young people actually hear that from the adults in their lives? We owe it to them to speak those words and to reassure them that “in sickness and health and for better or worse” bring the fullness of love.
Kids these days are afraid of commitment. Too many choices can paralyze us. Studies show that having lots of choices actually hinders our ability to choose. I heard psycho-economist, Sheena Iyengar, speak about a study she conducted where consumers, at different times, were presented with options to taste and to buy jam. One table had 23 different jams, the other 6. Consumers purchased substantially more jam at the table with fewer choices. With too many choices, people often opt out and make no commitment figuring something better might be coming along. What they don’t realize is that putting a stake in the ground actually yields the choice they desire.
Kids these days, by and large, have not suffered. Smaller families, cushier lifestyles than previous generations, and instant gratification leave young people befuddled when they don’t get what they want right away. Many avoid persevering through trials and lack the skills to tackle problems straight on simply because they haven’t had to practice them. Suffering is part of the human condition. Jesus makes us whole through it. Those who know Jesus can make sense of and bear their suffering holding fast to the fact that the Resurrection will follow their Good Friday. Without that knowledge and relationship, suffering can cripple their spirit.
Kids these days have been let down by the adults of our culture. The role models we as adults give to our children speak the loudest to them – role models in our own individual lives and in the media. The media has hijacked the cultural voice our kids hear, which elevates the importance of how we live our own lives and the example we make to the world. We need to call young people higher and risk having those difficult conversations, speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15), with patience, kindness, and charity. Oftentimes, we are the only voice speaking the truth which their hearts instinctively recognize.
We have a responsibility to boldly proclaim the other side of the story, exhorting and encouraging them to be brave and thoughtful about the big picture of their lives. Author, Meg Jay, a psychologist who counsels 20- and 30-somethings, wrote in her book, The Defining Decade: Why Your 20s Matter – and How to Make the Most of Them Now, argues from her years of working with young people, that the happiness they desire actually comes from making commitments. Constraint yields freedom. They are told just the opposite, but the collective lived experience declares otherwise.
My husband is my closest and best friend. I’m so glad I was born when I was, or I would have missed a whole bunch of happiness. Thank you, Lord, for this indescribable gift!
Alleluia! Alleluia! He Is Risen! Anne