A lot of my friends have been talking about a recent online article that describes why generation Y “yuppies” are unhappy. The author contends that for a perfect storm of socioeconomic and cultural factors, many American young people born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s have drastically unmet expectations about how their lives are supposed be turning out. Their hard-working baby-boomer parents told them that they could do/be anything they wanted to be and so they expected to embark on wildly successful careers that fulfill their passions. They are depressed when this isn’t the case and are unconsciously taunted by facebook image-crafting of other people’s lives.
I like the article because it is sympathetic to how young people have been set up, in many ways, for this kind of let-down. The let-down is real, as I see it, and gen-Yers high expectations and delusions of grandeur aren’t the only problem. We no longer live in a baby-boomers economy where hard work can almost guarantee worldly success. Most gen-Yers are saddled with significant college and consumer debt. The 40-hour work week is becoming a thing of the past; many gen-Yers work around the clock. They got sold a promise by the American media that isn’t panning out. And the evils of racism and cycles of poverty still plague us, perhaps more than ever before.
In the midst of this perfect recipe for disillusionment and paralysis, our church is led by gen-Yers. Let me tell you what they’re doing.
They’re not putting too much hope in the government or even in their career identities. Instead they’re using ancient Bible wisdom and experience to discover that we are eternal and God is the reliable Source of life, liberty and the pursuit of “happiness” that abides. They’re discovering that love–the power of God—is strong enough to change and enable us to make a difference in the world. The journey is fraught with danger and struggle, of course, but they’re going for it.
In what ways are they escaping the disillusionment and paralysis of their generation? These gen-Yers start thrift stores that give away hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to relief and development efforts here and around the world. They start compassion teams that connect that care for the sick, homeless, and those in prison. They put libraries in public schools that don’t have any books. They clean up and farm empty lots. They raise awareness about gun violence and work for peace. They pay down one another’s debt. They start businesses that put money back into their neighborhoods. They take care of their families and open their homes and their lives to others. They are normal people who are taking their disillusionment and paralysis to God, and being transformed.
Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Truth! I’m so relieved to trade my lonely yoke of self-reliance for Jesus’s shared yoke of love. It’s so much better than the slavery to unmet expectations and delusions of grandeur. I see my gen-Y friends finding peace and joy in humble service to God and it is actually grand. We are plowing up neglected fields and watching things grow.