Teaching has revealed to me a certain bitterness in today’s youth that has many sources. They watch movies that taint their outlooks. They are, like most generations, regularly encountering peers that are willing to put them down in order to build themselves up. Even in the “Bible Belt”, many of the teens I meet are disconnected from any true practice of their faith. They have friends that have committed suicide, died from car crashes, moved away, or betrayed them. But perhaps the largest source, as you would expect, is their parents.
Trust me. I know that there are parents out there fighting to model a real marriage to their children. Just last week we had dinner with members of our community group and Katie and I marveled at the way they led their home and loved one another and provided a model of Christian love. It was really such a joy to see.
And I know that I’m on the very precipice of my journey with Katie. Our marriage is young, and most would see it as immature or even naive. I know that. But last year I found myself stunned by the model set and the beliefs held by my teenage students. We were having a heated discussion about trust. Who can we trust? Who deserves trust? Why is trust important? I lobbed these questions up to my students and let them run with them in conversation. The room almost unanimously agreed that you can’t trust anyone. They were stunned that I trusted my wife. They called me foolish for sharing a bank account with her. Why were they so jaded? What’s happened to have them believe that you are the only one that you can trust?
I don’t have any generational solutions for generational problems. But my hope and my call is to show my own children and my students that there are trustworthy, flourishing, and joyful marriages in the world. So my challenge would be, to all the guys out there: pick one thing.
Your one thing doesn’t have to be save the world. And having one thing doesn’t excuse you from loving your wife by doing the dishes or picking up your clothes (my struggle, oh my struggle). But pick one thing. Find a way to love your wife that is visible and honest, open and real. Pick something that will catch your children’s attention and give them something that is tangible and worthy of imitation. I could have made this into a list of obvious things we should be doing as men (don’t talk bad about your wife to others, realize she’s different than you, realize her opinion is valid even when you don’t get it, etc.) But I’m choosing to suggest that you try to be original with one thing you do to love your wife.
My one thing is notes. During the school year, I wake up a lot earlier than Katie. As I wake up to ESPN and eat my bowl of cereal, I try to think of something to write my wife. I pull a slip of paper from a miniature Mead journal and write her a note. She always drinks coffee, so I leave it there. Pessimists would say that my habit will die out. After all, life gets busy, doesn’t it? The paper will run out. The quotes will feel less original. Won’t they?
No! I hope that my children get to see the little notes I leave their mom. I hope they see that one thing that I always do to say that I love her. I hope that it gives them high expectations for their husbands or wives. I hope it reminds them that five minutes and google can make someone’s day. I hope… that they have a different glimpse of what marriage is.