I just read an article on medium.com from the Heritage Foundation on young adults’ attitudes toward marriage today. While it is true that findings of some research quoted in the article may not necessarily expand to the general population it pointed to a secular realization of a spiritual reality regarding marriage.
As we learned in our interviews with over 100 young adults in a mostly white working-class town in Ohio, most young people are neither adamantly opposed to marriage nor completely supportive: They are conflicted about marriage. They hope to get and stay married, providing for their own children the family stability that many of them did not have growing up.
Young adults today are conflicted about marriage. As the article goes on to explain, they are not opposed to marriage. To the contrary, it seems that they believe marriage is the ideal and it is unreachable. They desire for themselves what they believe marriage should be: long lasting, totally committed (perhaps sacrificial?) love for one person for the rest of their lives. They just don’t think they can attain that given all they have heard and experienced in their personal lives.
So much of that resonates with the state of all vocational discernment today. There are many men and women today who look at the priesthood and religious life and see so many unhappy, unfulfilled men and women. They might also recognize that there are even more who are joyful and satisfied, but they don’t trust that they can become one of the vast majority that is happy.
I believe this mindset is a symptom of not having a personal relationship with our Living God. The truth is, that the more one commits to his relationship with Jesus Christ and dedicates his life to giving it to the Lord, the more likely it is that he will be able to give himself entirely to his spouse (whether that is the Church herself or his wife). He will understand and will have already experienced what it is to think of himself second and want only what the one he loves wants of him. He will have understood that even when much is expected of him or when it seems like he is being put to the test by the one he loves so dearly, it is not for lack of love that he is being tested, but because it is another opportunity to choose to love and to recognize just how much more he can love. In this relationship with God, we learn what it is to trust, to have faith, and to truly love!
Marriage is not something one should have as a goal in life, but it is something into which one is called by God. “Who do you want me to be and how do you want me to serve you?” These are the first questions we should all ask God as we begin thinking about our future. If the answers to those questions lead us to marriage, then it is only through the relationship we have already built with Christ in exploring the depth of those questions that we can take the leap into marriage with confidence.