Last month, one of the United States’ deadliest school shootings brought many of us to our knees in grief and confusion. The massacre in Florida has stirred Americans, yet again, to question why such violence occurs and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Gun control always dominates news headlines following these tragedies; however, I’ve begun to wonder if our country is missing a much bigger issue at the root of recent school shootings. Perhaps we should shift our efforts toward preservation of America’s marriages and family structure, rather than taking away the right to bear arms.
Family Degradation, Suffering Youth
A quick Internet search reveals quite obvious trends regarding the degradation of America’s families, and the resulting effects on our youth.
The Pew Research Center reported 68 percent of Americans ages 20 years and older were married in 1960, compared to 28 percent in 2008. In 1970, 89 percent of births were to married parents, compared to just 60 percent in 2015, according to the CDC. Plus, as many of us already know, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages today will end in divorce, as reported by the American Psychological Association.
Research also shows children from broken homes are almost five times more likely to face mental challenges and emotional disorders compared to those with married parents. In addition, children with divorced parents are three times more likely to demonstrate a conduct disorder.
The bottom line: divorce rates continue rising, less Americans are marrying, and almost half of births are happening out of wedlock. At the same time, mental illness and behavioral issues plague a growing number of children and teens, to the point that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all young people over age 12 get screened for depression.
Finding these statistics did not surprise me in the least, though it makes my heart heavy knowing kids today face an incredible disadvantage regarding home life. One of their most basic needs, safety and security at home, has been ripped away from them as marriages and families fall apart.
Selfishness and Sacrifice of Family
A refreshing blog post published last month brought up some excellent points regarding the state of our culture. The insightful author wrote: “Everything in post-modern culture points to self-fulfillment, self-celebration, and self-focused lifestyles. Children are thought of as obstacles, instead of objectives.”
I could not agree more. Today’s world pushes individualism and creates a “me” society. People use marriage as a means to achieve their own goals, rather than selflessly giving themselves to another; career moves come before children (or kids are viewed as inconveniences overall); and bringing in money has become life’s main objective. Sacrificing a salary, plus 401k and benefits, in order to stay at home and invest in children is almost incomprehensible in today’s society.
One point our culture has overlooked, however, is that when we put ourselves first in our marriages and families, we are actually sacrificing our marriages and families. What would happen if we worked less, made fewer bucks, and spent more time investing in our marriages? Or, what if we traded that high-paying job for more time spent listening to our children, hearing their needs and feelings, and giving them unconditional love? Maybe we give up that vacation overseas to enjoy a “staycation” at home, eating PB&Js beneath homemade forts while we laugh and play with our loved ones.
Worth the Fight
Marriage was designed to pull us out of our selfishness—to stretch us, to change us, and to make us more like our Creator. Raising children will do the same, but to an entirely different level (or so I hear from my kick-butt mom friends … who don’t give themselves nearly the credit they deserve).
If you’re a husband, love your wife to the point of giving up your life for her (Eph. 5:25). If you’re a wife, respect your husband with a humble, submissive attitude (Eph. 5:22), and give up that yearning for control (Gen. 3:16). If you’re a parent, bring up your children with God’s instruction (Eph. 6:4), loving them unconditionally each and every day as your Heavenly Father loves you.
These principles are simple to state, though incredibly challenging to practice. I struggle with my own selfishness in marriage every day; however, I refuse to give up the fight. I refuse because I know it’s worth it. Investing into marriage and children over my own self-centered desires will bring glory to God, while also bringing this fallen world a tiny bit closer to restoration. Marriage and families will never be perfect on this side of heaven, but I still believe they are worth the fight.
Peace and blessings,
Kat, (semi-professional) insomniac