Often the need to bond with God grows stronger with age. I am no exception. Hard-won maturity reveals to me that joy and calamity alike are often in higher hands.
Often the need to bond with God grows stronger with age. I am no exception.
Some jokingly say, “Oh, you just want to hedge your bets.” Maybe so, but hard-won maturity reveals to me that joy and calamity alike are often in higher hands. I used to strive for things I could touch. Now I pray for things that I can be – patient, brave or giving – traits that, in my case, are not self-manufactured.
Statistically, spiritual practice increases with age, an insight from the 2010 study “Religion Among the Millennials,” by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which tracked the religious trends of 18-to-29-year-olds and compared their results with older generations.
Though religion is on the decline among the youngest crop of adults, a long view indicates people veer more strongly toward God in their later years.
According to the study, Millennials (born 1981 and later) are not as religiously inclined compared to older groups. The under-30 crowd attends services less, prays less and shows a greater percentage of being unaffiliated with traditional faiths. Of those who belonged to a church, 37 percent answered yes when asked, “Are you a strong member of your faith?”
This question deals with “religious intensity,” and apparently, it increases with age, judging by the comparative responses from older generations, according to General Social Surveys, whose 30-plus-year findings were included in the Pew study. Religious intensity was charted from 1972 through the 2000s.
The Greatest Generation, (born pre-1928) increased from a 49 percent “religious intensity” to 57 percent. The Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) grew from 40 percent to 50 percent. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) rose from 31 percent to 43 percent. Generation X (born 1965-1980) went from 37 percent to 38 percent.
Likewise, the “frequency of daily prayer” increased over a 30-year period among the generations: Greatest Generation 69 percent to 74 percent; Silent Generation 59 percent to 71 percent; Boomers 47 percent to 62 percent; and Generation X 42 percent to 54 percent.
Today, only 45 percent of Millennials described religion as “very important” in their lives as compared to, for example, 59 percent of Baby Boomers. But in a 1978 Gallup poll when Boomers were in that same 18 to 29 age group, only 39 percent felt religion was “very important.”
It takes time to understand that whoever is in control, it’s not us. During my 20s, life was about adventure and self-satisfaction. God was an inconvenient concept because I wanted to do what I wanted to do.
In my 30s, career and family were my focus, and I hailed from the school of “I create my own reality.” The divine was like a magic talisman. If I visualize this, I’ll get that. If I control my thoughts, I control my life.
By my 40s, I was the mother of a teenager and divorced. Ambition and reward didn’t fulfill me the way I had expected. There had been disappointments and unfairness. In turn, I reflected on deeper friendships and perfect love. It ceased to be just about me. My question changed from “what do I want?” to “what is my purpose?”
Today, in my 50s, my spiritual viewpoint is vastly simplified. Creator. Creature. I happily accept my place and long to strengthen that friendship.
But this is an old story. Long before The Pew Forum, Gallup Polls and General Social Surveys, The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible observed the cycles of life.
Its author, King Solomon, drank deeply of pleasures, toil, relationships, riches, advancement, loneliness and more. History’s wisest king summed it up in his old age, “Now all has been heard and here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl.1213)
Whatever your viewpoint may be, statistics tell us that with age, the desire to forge a relationship with the divine increases.
E-mail Suzette Standring at email@example.com. She is the TV host of “It’s All Write With Suzette,” a Milton, Mass., cable program, and the award-winning author of The Art of Column Writing. Visit her website at www.readsuzette.com.