It’s true that many young people still follow the traditional paths of marriage and family. But their numbers are dwindling. According to a recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, by 2016 the marriage rate among the 64-and-under crowd had dropped to a record low of 48.6%; and the rate of never-marrieds in this age group had jumped from 26% to 36% in the quarter century since 1990.
Fortunately, there’s still one group around to tell us what marriage is all about, and why it’s so critically important to us personally and to our society in general: the men and women occupying today’s nursing homes.
In 18 years of getting to know scores of these elderly folk, I have come across four women who never married, and one who had divorced (after lengthy consultation with her pastor) a physically abusive husband. That’s it. All the others in this mostly female population had been married to one spouse for decades, until death did them part.
Which is really amazing, considered from the perspective of this era of musical marriage, sex without commitment and feminism exalting career over family.
I’ve discussed this phenomenon with many elderly men and women over the years. They’ve explained that they view lifelong commitment as more important than momentary happiness, mutual respect as more lasting than fleeting sexual attraction, and raising children as this life's most rewarding and God-approved pursuit.
Most are both perplexed and troubled by the growing lack of interest in marriage on the part of young people. One woman in particular recently asked what seems to be a pivotal question: “What are they living for?”
Did the apostle Paul have it right, in his 2 Timothy 3 description of mankind’s “perilous” end-times character? He said the worldly would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
This sounds about right to me. And I ought to know, having lived the mantra of money, materialism, pleasure and success until I met Jesus Christ at age 48. What's more, I can’t say that I’ve seen anything but an intensification of this self-obsessed drumbeat since then.
Fortunately, the old – and highly biblical – way of doing marriage is still alive today, at least in a remnant of our population. And we can still learn about its beauty and grace from those who lived through the last decades of its dominance in our culture, simply by visiting elderly nursing home residents.
Why not put such an interview on next week’s To Do list? Those you visit will appreciate your interest, and you’re bound to learn some valuable lessons about the institutions that made America great in the first place.