She scrolled through the list on her phone -- at least fifty names -- one name after the other, along with a description of how far she had gone with each. Most of them she'd slept with on the first date. Longing desperately for love, she wondered if she would ever find it. With confusion in her eyes, she asked why they never came back for a second date.
I can't get her question out of my head. This is not because I don't know how to answer it; it's because this precious young woman is not an anomaly in the millennial generation. The level of lostness, confusion, sexual experimentation, lack of purpose, and anxiety among young women has reached a crescendo that I find deeply concerning. They cannot answer the most important questions: Why am I here? Who am I? What is my purpose? How can I be happy? I am talking about our daughters. Our granddaughters. Our nieces. Our loved ones.
St. Paul spoke prophetically about our times in 2 Timothy 3:1-7:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman...haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it…Among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (emphasis added)
By the millions, young women scroll through their social media feeds, listening to anybody, but never arriving at a knowledge of the truth. This isn't just true of them; this is true of our society.
In his book How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson writes:
When we embrace nonmoral categories to explain away moral evil, we fail to take it seriously,and we fail to constrain it. When we refuse to listen to the true diagnosis of the sickness of the soul, we will not find a true remedy, and in the end, it will destroy us.
In any society, only two forces hold the sinful nature in check: the restraint of conscience or the restraint of the sword. The less that citizens have of the former, the more the state must employ the latter. A society that fails to keep order by an appeal to civic duty and moral responsibility must resort to coercion-either open coercion, as practiced by totalitarian states, or covert coercion, where citizens are wooed into voluntarily giving up their freedom.
When morality is reduced to personal preferences and when no one can be held morally accountable, society quickly falls into disorder. Entertainers churn out garbage that vulgarizes our children's tastes; politicians tickle our ears while picking our pockets; criminals terrorize our city streets; parents neglect their children; and children grow up without a moral conscience. Then, when social anarchy becomes widespread in any nation, its citizens become prime candidates for a totalitarian-style leader (or leader class) to step in and offer to fix everything. Sadly, by that time many people are so sick of the anarchy and chaos that they readily exchange their freedom for the restoration of social order-even under an iron fist. The Germans did exactly this in the 1930s when they welcomed Hitler.¹
My friends, in this regard, we are vulnerable. It is time for us to stop wringing our hands, and go after the hearts of the next generation. How do we do this?
First, we pray. This is not a second-rate action item to be used only after we've tried everything else first. The biggest block to God reaching the hearts of our children is stubbornness and pride. Yes, the cultural myth that faith and science are contradictory has, unfortunately, been taught to and embraced by many of our children. Yes, the difficulty of reconciling a good God and the suffering and evil in the world can create a barrier. Yes, many of them have been convinced that faith in God is just a crutch. All these things get in the way of our children finding God. But if a heart is proud and stubborn, it doesn't matter how much proof is presented. The heart will still resist. And the only one who can get into the heart and soften it is the Holy Spirit. So praying for this softening is critical and the first step.
Second, we cling to hope while taking action. I realize our children are leaving the Church in droves. But how many of them are setting off on this path, hoping for misery? That would be zero percent. They are all searching for authentic happiness, and we know that true, transcendent happiness is found in Christ. It is possible to be fulfilled, satisfied, and clear about who you are and why you are here. There are answers to their deepest questions. But it's critical that we meet them where they are, help them to explore the questions they care about, and give them space to journey at their own pace. You may be wondering exactly how to do that. I have spent the past two years noodling on this very topic with a sense of urgency and passion that I haven't experienced in a long time, and things are starting to become much clearer to me. This is why we are throwing open the doors to all women (ages 18+) for Flourish 2020, our first-ever women's conference on March 13-15, 2020.
We are creating a curated experience that encounters women on their search for happiness, and leads them to the only One who will satisfy. Please join us. Please bring your daughters. I am writing this content for them. I know it isn't easy to work out the costs and logistics for a women's conference, especially if it isn't in your neck of the woods. I know it's hard to talk your daughter into coming to something that sounds religious, but getting yourself and your loved one to this conference is going to be worth the effort. Instead of a birthday or Christmas gift, ask your daughter to give you the gift of her presence with you for the weekend. I promise you, God will meet her there. And He will meet you, too. The deepest desires of your daughter's heart are likely your desires as well. God alone will quench the thirst.
¹ Chuck Colson, How Now Shall We Live (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), 191, 199.
I always knew I would have a traditional Catholic wedding. It was what we did. My parents got married in the Catholic Church. My sisters got married in the Catholic Church. I, a cradle Catholic, would obviously get married in, yup...you guessed it... the Catholic Church. And so we attended pre-Cana, chose the readings, brought the family-friend priest in from out of town, and an incredible Catholic ceremony happened on a beautiful fall day on the Upper East side of Manhattan. And just like that, we became husband and wife.
We were so in love.
And yet, we had no idea what true love was.
Why? I think it's because I always held tight to this one moment in the courtship stage of our relationship. When I surprised him at the hotel where he worked on my way home from my job, his face would light up, giving birth to a smile that stretched deep and wide; I swear, in that instant, I had never felt more wanted for being just who I was. Surely, this was true love. This being seen and joyfully embraced for doing nothing other than just showing up, it was all so easy that it must have been love.
But beware of falling into the trap of believing that love is a feeling.
Be sure to ground yourself in something greater than how someone makes you feel.
It took being anchored to nothing and drifting away to wake up to truth; that love is not a feeling but an intentional action, a choice. That love is not about how much I can gain, but how much can I give. It is not about how much you fill me, but how empty can I be. And because I have chosen to love you in all times, then I will also choose to die to myself and invite Jesus into this relationship without delay, because a marriage without Jesus in the middle is just as good as bringing your boat to dock and never dropping the anchor.
It will drift away.
As did mine.
But because God loves nothing more than stepping into our brokenness, if we let Him. He rescued me from my “quit and stay” attitude towards my marriage. And He didn't lead me down a path of rose petals lined with scented candles. He didn't gently place me down on a soft lounge chair, beachfront, with a tropical drink in my hand. But He took my hand and He walked me to the foot of the cross. He led me to the wood that my own hands nailed Him to, the thorns that pierced His head, and He showed me that…. THIS. THIS is love. The betrayal, the scourging, the beating, the heavy carrying, the nails, the unfairness, all that He endured for me, was endured out of love. And He reminded me that while none of that felt good, while not a moment of it was easy, all of it, every single bit of it, was fueled by love. A love so deep, so life giving, that not even death could not destroy it.
I am still learning about this love. And it has not been through romantic dinners, or exotic getaways that my husband and I have come to know love. It has been by the cross we have been chosen to carry. The necessary hardships we have been entrusted with. The long suffering placed upon us. And it has been by His grace upon grace, that we receive it as a gift; a way to minister and intercede to and for those who walk the same path, who yearn for relief, who have been burdened by a similar cross. And in this sharing and uniting, we get a glimpse of the sorrowful heart of Jesus; the indescribable love that is let loose and takes over; the very thing that by its beating and breaking, miraculously holds us together.
You know, I hear my young girls talk about love. The world is trying to redefine it for them. Music lyrics write love off as an emotion, something you can throw away, a gift that's totally dependent on your looks and body. Social media wants them to believe that without a boyfriend, they are undesirable, alone, never complete. And they chase after this secular love…this lie...and they believe that love is something that will only make them happy, feel wonderful, and will free them of any pain, anxiety, worry, or problems. It is all so wrong and upside down and couldn't be a more inaccurate definition of what true love is.
You see, real love is messy, painful, hard, and risky. I pray that my children, in witnessing how their parents have lived through hard times and yet held tight to Jesus, recognize that the glue in this relationship has nothing to do with the occasional bouquet of roses or heart shaped box of chocolates, but everything to do with the cross. Feeling in love is great, for sure. But if you want to feel great, go and eat a piece of cheesecake or watch Nacho Libre. But if you are seeking true love, run to the foot of the cross. Point your children, who are dying to be seen, known and loved, in that direction as well. Offer Him everything you are and have and invite Him into your heart. Hand Him your loved ones. Trust Him with your very life. Anchor yourself to Him, who is love; to Him, who joyfully embraces you for doing nothing other than just showing up.
With all my love,
Get your copy of Harmony, Part I of the Keeping in Balance Young Adult Series, here!