A Better Gateway

Atomized…separate floating islands on their own courses…the loss of community, loss of a sense of family…these are words used to describe some of the young adults of today in a recent conversation.

May I suggest that the real gateway to adulthood is not beginning a career, not cohabiting while keeping your options open, but building a home and family?

Not so long ago, we understood that one sought gainful employment so that one could build a family. The goal is the home and family; the job the means to it. Past generations understood this. They understood that they were part of a heritage in which people appreciated what had been passed to them through hard work and sacrifice, and in turn worked and sacrificed for those who depended on them, and for future people who would come after. They aimed to honor both a past and a future.

Relationships were regarded as permanent and legally bound.

I think my generation was encouraged to think of ourselves, and I think we refined that to an art and taught it to our children. The result? Our young adult children are aging out of a stage of life which is bursting with potential, some still living with their parents and wondering what to do with their lives.They are not children, but they aren’t quite living like adults either.

They aren’t getting married, or building families, or establishing homes.

I’m not blaming them. They want to be driving their own lives, living in their own places. But their obstacles are unusually discouraging.  Just try and start anything in the present economy.

Another obstacle which has been dropped right in their path is the idea that all those grown-up things their parents did don’t have to be for them. Those things are Options in the Someday Maybe category. That there are other ways to be satisfied with your life, as an individual. That finding those things which fulfill me is of first importance, and that I can’t move on until I find them.

And it turns out maybe when you’re only supposed to consider yourself in all those important life choices, the choosing is more difficult. We told them that life is about finding out who you are, discovering your passion, making a difference, and following your dream.  The trouble is that they might pass over many great opportunities because they don’t look big enough. They pass over the seeds looking for the tree.

And we didn’t tell them that it’s their job to turn the seed into a tree, or how much work it takes to help it grow.

When you’re weaned on that Hollywood trope where the unpopular underdog finds his true voice and astonishes the whole world at once with his specialness, it’s hard to appreciate that a life of service and perseverance pays off after decades of faithfulness. And that your truly important work may not be publicly applauded. And we sure don’t teach them to wait for the true evaluation of all things in an eternal context.

When you are presented with one pre-packaged, market-researched, airbrushed life-paradigm-on-DVD after another, it’s difficult to imagine designing your own particular life. Or that achieving that life might be a struggle requiring all the discernment and wisdom you can mine from deep within the earth.

Being an adult was the first responsibility human beings were given–it was what we were to do in an ideal world. The first people were created as adults, and they were immediately given important (not token) responsibility.  Then they were commanded to produce offspring, become a family, and pass on their heritage to future people. (Read Genesis 1.) Do we still need people to do that in a world which is fallen, less than ideal?  A thousand times more.

It might be wise to look at that story again, and consider why the first people were told to work, create a family, and multiply.  Here is wisdom which has entirely escaped our modern culture.  More on this at another time.

Maybe the essence of adulthood is taking responsibility for other people besides yourself. Our young people have been persuaded that it is their untouchable entitlement to avoid having responsibility for other people. And that for sure, to create other little people to have responsibility for is an unbearable burden. This they learned from us also.

I once heard a mother my age liken having a child to being hit by a bus, in a room full of listening teenage girls.

A child is incomplete. A child blooms into an adult. The adult is the manifestation of the person; what a human becomes is an adult.  It is not dependent children, but adults, who pay, build, buy, reproduce more people; teach, disciple, preach, build a heritage. Adults perpetuate the culture. Not loner overgrown teenagers pursuing hobbies really well.

We have promoted the idea that adulthood consists of completing an education and establishing a career identity. At the same time, we have taught our kids that establishing and building a family is one of a handful of options available to an individual in order to maximize his own happiness. It is an optional preference, not a responsibility. They owe nothing to no one. Oh, except money to the government.

What is left for them to do?  They become atomized individuals forever avoiding commitment of any kind, habitually suspicious of joining anything or anyone in any relationship that they won’t be able to back out of. See: The American Family Is a Myth: Why Our National Moral Panic Must Stop.

Where is the vision?  Some of us grew up in home environments which were less favored with intentional Christian guidance, without solid Bible-believing churches for support, without spiritually-oriented families. And yet we somehow found a vision for the future which we acted upon.  Maybe we perceived fewer options, and maybe that was an advantage. Some of us achieved what we’d seen, perhaps others did not.  But the goals were there.

I’m absolutely sure that God is doing His side of communicating with our offspring just as much as He did with us. What is puzzling is that our young seem to be in limbo regardless of the degree of spiritual orientation.  I really have no answer for this.

I feel sympathy for them. Maybe the world we prepared them for is not the one they’re living in. When things don’t happen for them the way we promised, they are left wondering how to get from A to B. We told them that they were special, in a purely material context, but when the dramatic denouement doesn’t happen, they might feel irrelevant. I see a lot of young people who were given every advantage including good teaching still wandering through life unsure where to go, in practical terms as though it doesn’t matter what they do, and as though that is irrelevant.

That’s not hipster-irony, it’s true irony. It is tragic because each person is truly unique and infinitely valuable, and there really is a significant life of things worth doing for each and every one.

Our society has set them up.  We raised them on self-esteem, Disney romances and anime.  There is virtually nothing in their popular culture which promotes adult-sized goals or grown-up relationships. We sent them to schools and colleges where they were taught to design a life of single self-determination, like perpetual teenagers. These schools taught them that there is no intrinsic value in anything, and that the family is a man-made construct which has outlived its destructive usefulness. Why are we surprised that they are uninspired to set goals and unmotivated to reach?

College is quickly becoming little more than an albatross. I’m beginning to think it’s morally wrong to encourage our young people to go into debt to attend college, to cheer them on while they load burdens of crushing debt onto their backs. And that is what we are doing. There are few jobs waiting for them at the end of their college education, and we know it. Some of the majors our children are pursuing literally do not lead to jobs. They are too inexperienced to understand the enormity of the burden they are taking on. We do not describe to them the real-life toll taken on everyday life when one carries enormous debt. It’s difficult for us to visualize fifty-thousand dollars; do our children understand how much money that is?

Huge debt which will take them literally decades to repay. They will owe this money to the federal government now. Welcome to automatic government dependence, every single person who wants a college education!

Why does it matter? How long will young people have to put off  getting married, buying homes or even paying rent because they are thousands of dollars in debt?  How long will they delay starting families? What will be the long-term results of delaying family-building and home ownership? What will be the effect, culturally and economically, on our society?

They are not content.They know somethin’ ain’t right. But for more than one reason, it’s very hard to swim upstream.  Sure, it’s hard work to swim upstream, against the current.  But its much harder to recognize that you are being carried downstream when everyone around you is carried in the same current, and the stream is filled with relentless entertainment. First you have to know there’s something else to swim for.

We ought to encourage them to look at their lives in a starkly countercultural way. We ought to tell them that if establishing a career is your life’s goal, you should expect career outcomes. If you want a family outcome, be honest with yourself about it.  Be intentional and proactive about allowing family to happen.  Marriage is not something which just happens. If you have a goal of getting married and raising a family, you’ll have to act like it’s a goal, not a byproduct.

Creating a home, having children, nurturing a family, building a heritage–these are things we must do deliberately.

Lamentations 3:24-25 says: I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;     therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,     to the one who seeks him;

We should teach them to seek their portion. They are meant to have a place in the world that is their “portion”, their inheritance, from God. And they are expected to seek it, like a thirsty man seeks water in the desert.  Have we passed to them the skills to do that? Have we modeled the desire to do it?

Of course, if you want God’s portion, you’ll need to ask God about the particulars.

By encouraging our young people to pursue life as self-determined single atoms, we are encouraging them to bear burdens too great. Humans weren’t meant to be alone.  We are made for family support, family structure, family responsibility, family love and affection.        

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “A Better Gateway

  1. insanitybytes22

    Oh, amen to this! Today it seems as if we have left many adult children behind, still pondering what they want to be when they grow up….well into their 40’s.

    I feel very blessed to have been so confused or perhaps not confused at all, because what I resigned myself to very young was marriage and family. I say “resigned” because at the time that’s what it felt like and it was contrary to everything I’d been told I was supposed to be pursuing. After all these years however, the unwitting wisdom of that choice really resonates in my life.

    My oldest daughter also decided she wanted a family and children immediately, a choice that really didn’t go over well with very many people, but within months of turning 18 that’s what she did and it’s a good marriage all these years later. My younger children are more education focused, less relationship and family oriented, and less happy.

    It is a tough lesson to learn, but much of our joy comes from giving and sacrificing for others and we’re living in a world right now that is promoting the exact opposite. Even if you do manage to attain your education, your wealth, your status, it all becomes somewhat meaningless without somebody to share it with, somebody to pass it down to.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. madblog Post author

      Thanks IB. I always wanted to be doing exactly what I’m doing. When I met my husband, I knew very quickly what the future would look like…and I was 15. I had no encouragement in my life to pursue being a wife and mother, yet I had been given a vision. My kids have agreed about the value of such a vision but it seems to be more difficult for them to reach it. We hope and pray, and be patient.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Wally Fry

    Madelyn

    Very nice! Good to see you back. Sorry, I dont know what the solution is though. Young men especially seem to be adolescents forever these days. I think maybe lack of necessity causes it. I remember being concerned about things like eating and clothes to wear. Now young men’s biggest concern is how big the data plan on their phone is…just sayin.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. madblog Post author

    Thanks Wally. I don’t know the solution either…I think it’s more than circumstance driving the change. It’s a shift in context that cuts across lots of lines.
    As for being “back”, I have a lot of almost-finished things written, and I will be finishing and posting them as I feel moved. But I’ve made a decision to back off and be more present here in real life.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Wally Fry

      Madelyn…that’s probably a good idea…this can get pretty consuming can’t it? I have disengaged from some conversations…found I was spending time arguing about the Bible instead of reading it…know what I mean?

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  4. lang3063

    I don’t know what the solution is either. We worked very hard to stay ahead of the curves we recognized but the world always seems to have something up its sleeve. “Without a vision the people perish.” Where does a vision come from?

    Like

    Reply
      1. madblog Post author

        Wally
        I know! Part of the reason for my puzzlement is my own experience by contrast. I was a brand-new believer with very little knowledge of true Biblical Christianity. I was a very innocent and naïve 15 year-old; I had started to date, reluctantly, my husband-to-be. I knew nothing about anything. And yet…God gave me a vision for our future life together, a calling, a mate, the whole package. I knew what I knew what I knew. There was no doubt.
        So why are young people who are more self-aware than I was by far, well-grounded in the Word, serious believers… having difficulty finding their place?

        Liked by 2 people

        Reply
        1. Wally Fry

          Madelyn

          I may be the wrong person to address this issue to tell the truth. My wife likes to joke(sort of) that I emerged from the womb a fully formed two and a half pound or so, fully grown human being. She has serious doubts that I was ever an adolescent LOL.

          But, there is a reason for her sentiment. I reference back to my earlier statement about lack of necessity. Maybe I can explain somewhat. Basically, my childhood was your typical inner city scenario. Fatherless boys with mothers working two jobs just to make ends meet…and so on. We more or less just ran the streets buck wild from the time we were all 12 years old. For some of us it didn’t end to well. One dead after years of living wrong, a couple with years of various rehabs for this or that addiction. But, we all grew up very fast running the streets. It ended decently for some of us, those that saw where it was all headed and decided to change the course of events. That meant working real jobs at 14 or 15, scrambling to pay for more education…just trying to wrest ourselves from our bleak future. To say we were poor would be an understatement.

          So, it wasn’t even in my field of view to drift aimlessly through some extended adolescence; I never really had one of those to tell the truth.

          Now, we have young men especially who have no sense of necessity whatsoever. I fear that our desire for them to not have to deal with what we did has, in fact, ruined a generation. Like I said, the young people aren’t worried about their next meal; they are worried about having the latest Smart Phone.

          Here is the funny thing. I lived through all of this with no presence of God in my life whatsoever. That didn’t happen until I was 45 years old. What is funny, is that I am closer to being an adolescent now than I ever was then. The Lord has taught me that I don’t have to be so serious all of the time…He’s got this.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. ColorStorm

    MadB-

    Of all you’ve said here, and rightly so, can i just make one observation.

    U said —–What is puzzling is that our young seem to be in limbo regardless of the degree of spiritual orientation. I really have no answer for this——–

    This can’t be the entire answer, but it is connected to so many other things and it is this:.When i became a believer, the word of God satisfied all hunger and thirst. As a matter of fact, it was impossible to drink too much. (still true today)

    This seemed true of they who I was with, whether in churches, studies, whatever it was, there was a ‘life’ to the scriptures that the young today take for granted.

    Do people today really want to please God, or do they SAY they want to please Him. Your faith probably cost you something, as it did mine. It came with a price because of decisions that honor God. Adversity is not a bad thing, and perhaps it will help them too.

    Anyway, the reverence for the scriptures seems to be on the wane with the younger crowd. That’s my half penny. There is still hope.

    Like

    Reply
  6. madblog Post author

    I’m confused by this phenomenon because it seems to be happening regardless of the serious Christian commitment…certainly the leaders and drivers are those kids who’ve walked away from the faith and made an amalgam of their childish faith and the relentlessly contrary culture. These young people are nearing 30 but still treating their parents like they’re the last people on earth they want to emulate, reactionary 14 year-olds throwing out the baby with the bathwater….BUT the kids who have owned their faith, have become thoughtful and committed believers are ALSO delaying the building of their own adult family relationships. Careers, yes, but families, no. Is it simply that this is the water they swim in?

    Like

    Reply
  7. mrteague

    So well said. Good thoughts. “What is puzzling is that our young seem to be in limbo regardless of the degree of spiritual orientation.” I think this is because so much teaching in the church mirrors our cultural message of self-helping individualism. In other words, the same malady you observe in society also afflicts the church. We do not often tell people to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). When the cross isn’t preached, how can we expect anyone to have real vision or direction?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  8. madblog Post author

    Thanks!
    What you say is true. But I also see it where there is direction, where there are great models for marriage, where there are large-family expectations…it seems the goal of the direction has weirdly shifted to somewhere that doesn’t necessitate getting married and having kids. Even though some of these young people want that in theory.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Wally Fry

      Madelyn

      Ok then..we are full circle back to no solution LOL..it’s all on you now. Go forth, fix the world! Because I don’t have much of a clue, as sadly what you said is true, sometimes even with a compass people still get turned around.

      Like

      Reply
  9. trutherator

    Sign of the times. Last days… Jesus is comin’ soon, to scoop up those who are left alive to join the souls already with Jesus, slain for the word of Jesus, beheaded it says… Then we’ll come back down “on white horses” with him to the real Argageddon.

    Like

    Reply
  10. madblog Post author

    Well, that may be soon, or it may be far in the future…it may be slightly different than we conceive it to be…but in any case, we are accountable to redeem the time we have here. We are to be about the business he set us on this earth to do right up til the end. And for that we can go right back to the beginning: Genesis 1, esp. verse 28!

    Like

    Reply
  11. Pingback: The Crisis of Meaninglessness | Messages from the Mythical

  12. Pingback: The Crisis of Meaninglessness | Messages from the Mythical

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s