I was just wandering through Dollar Tree trying to find the something I needed when I heard the conversation. They were just two twenty-somethings co-workers trying to pass time as they restocked the shelves.
“Oh did I tell you…” one asks the other as if she’s simply going to state some random fact about her exciting Friday night plans or something. But as she continues I realize the news she’s sharing with her friend is anything but exciting.
“… my mom just found out that my dad’s had a girlfriend for like five months.”
“I’m never getting married!”
“There’s nothing anyone could ever say to me to make me believe they actually mean ‘forever’. Forever is a long time.”
And the conversation was over as quick as it started.
My heart broke for these women… probably my age or even a few years older who had just completely given up on the idea of ever getting married because of the hurt they’ve experienced and the simple “fact” that there that there could never be anything that’s “forever.”
I don’t think it would have caught me so much had it not been for a book I’m reading called “In Real Time:Authentic Young Adult Ministry as it Happens” by Mike Glenn. The conversation I witnessed this evening very well could have been an example in either of the two chapters I read earlier today. In one of the chapters, the book was describing a demographic of young adults who have been let down by authority figures in their lives. If those authority figures claimed Christianity, then they soon formed this idea that Christianity didn’t mean much.
“They have watched the way their parents lived out faith and have, by and large, decided it was not for them. They didn’t see a faith that works modeled at home. They saw materialism, divorce, and ambition dealt with in a way that was not significantly different from there secular friends’ families.
Now I’m not saying every young adult had a horrible life growing up or that most parent were bad parents. I know plenty of parents, including my own for whom that is anything BUT the case. But as I interacted with my peers in high school and college (especially as an RA and RC) and as I interact with high school and young adults everyday in my job and hear them talking about their lives and their friends’ lives, I’m realizing more and more that these generations of youth and young adults truly are in general very jaded and broken.
These young adults may have had everything materially or when it comes to opportunities, but feel abandoned.
“So the young adult knows only ‘I don’t want to live like that.’ The problem is you can’t live against. You have to live for. But most of them don’t know what ‘for’ is.
The book goes on to describe the reality for many young adults who missed some crucial affirmation from parents or other significant adult figures and while it truly may not have been a big deal then, as they seek to find identity and a purpose in life, they are left confused and wandering.
“During a child’s life there are several important moments when a parent, grandparent, or significant adult speaks a ‘you are’ phrase to the child. The adult will say, ‘You are smart,’ or ‘you are pretty’ and that statement becomes part of that child’s identity. …
If, however, the significant adult is absent for any reason and the ‘you are’ statement goes unspoken, children begin a quest to find out who they are. … The media is filled with all kinds of messages to a young adult on this quest, but instead of ‘you are’ statements, our culture sends ‘you are not’ statements. The magazines tell our young women they are not thin enough, not pretty enough, not sensuous enough. The epidemic of eating disorders is just one of the tragic consequences of a young adult looking for a ‘you are’ validation, only to hear, ‘you are not.’
Young men… as well hear ‘you are not’ in many ways throughout our culture.
The gospel is filled with ‘you are’ statements. You are chosen, beloved, called, redeemed. … Yet, many people assume, with some justification, that if they come to church, the only message they’re going to hear is ‘you are not.’. You are not ‘doing enough for God.’. You are not ‘good enough.’. Many young adults actually think that going to church will not only not help them but will actually do them more harm. In their minds the church has become another voice of judgment and condemnation, a constant and painful reminder of all the ways they fall short.
So what’s all this mean?!? Why write all this?!?
First, to say THANK YOU!
Thank you Mom and Dad for showing me an example of what it means to be faithful to each other and for living out your faith, even in (especially in) the hard times.
Thank you to all the people who have also done that as well as those who have spoken ‘you are’ statements into my life as I found (and continue to find!) my identity.
Second, if you ever have opportunities to speak words of grace into another human being (no matter what their age)… DO IT! You may be the only positive, life-giving voice in their life and even if you’re not, can you ever have enough encouragement?
Third, let’s make sure as Christians wherever we are, we’re proclaiming the true “you are” statements into people’s lives and strip away any hint of judgment or condemnation that tries to sneak in.
Lastly, I challenge us all to live out your faith in front of each other. Especially those of you who are married… model this for your children (and for people that aren’t your children.) If you’re working through a struggle in life, don’t try to act as if everything’s perfect… Let people see you turning to God in prayer. Let them see you broken and weak and real… needing a Savior. Believe it or not, doing that may be the very thing that could give someone like those girls in the store tonight hope… Hope for a marriage someday, but more importantly, hope in
something Someone who really does mean it when He says “I love you forever!”