“Ok kids, I want you to write down on a piece of paper the three biggest dreams you have for your life,” I said as I handed out pieces of paper and watched my 9th grade confirmation class begin to write. To introduce the topic of true happiness, I wanted them to think about their own plans for happiness and eventually lead them to the idea that only God can give us happiness that lasts forever.
I looked at my class – mostly from public schools, eight of the fifteen came from broken families, only four professed a strong belief in God, two were atheists and the rest stood somewhere in between. What kind of dreams did they have?
At the end of class, I collected the papers and began to read. Most were “normal” dreams: have a lot of money, travel around the world, be a professional football player. I got to the last paper and my heart froze. In girly handwriting that I knew belonged to Ashley was the only dream she could think of: Have a true boyfriend.
Not have a true husband. Not have a few kids and be a great mom. Have a true boyfriend. Somewhere deep in the human heart is the desire to be loved unconditionally, totally, passionately, eternally. Every girl wants to meet the man who will commit himself to her, take care of her, and love her for who she is. Ideally, this man becomes a husband, because then their love is protected and strengthened by the commitment and bond of marriage.
I have no doubt this desire is deep within Ashley’s heart. But I’m guessing that watching her parents fight, scream at each other, and divorce imprinted in her the message that a lasting commitment of love isn’t real. It’s an illusion. Husbands and wives fight. Then they leave each other. True husband? Forget it. In Ashley’s mind, the best she could even dream about was a true boyfriend. What really broke my heart was that word, “true.” The spark of desire in her heart for a true love hadn’t been totally extinguished yet.
I understand that 50% of marriages end in divorce. I understand that its hard to stay committed to one person for a lifetime. I have committed my life to Christ and these past four years have been wonderful, but there have also been many moments when I’ve had to fight with all my strength to stay faithful to Christ.
But what I do not understand and what really bothers me is the unforeseen consequences of our “hookup with no strings attached” culture. Fourteen year old girls, who naturally idealize love, have already given up hope of finding a love that lasts. Taking that a step further, try to convince them that God loves them unconditionally and eternally when they have absolutely no concept of that from their life experience.
Is it impossible for them to regain the ideal of love? No, of course not. God can always find ways to reach the human heart, no matter how wounded, disillusioned, or broken. After all, his love is the one we ultimately seek. But also He might appreciate a little help from us because our love for each other can be a mirror of God’s love for us.