This post comes to us from Chattanoogan essayist, Eric Youngblood.


Poor millennials.

Ain’t nobody love ‘em.

18-34 year-old narcissists. Self-absorbed. Motivated by excessive self-regard.

Lacking in motivation. Devoid of commitment. Absent of toughness. Unconcerned with institutional loyalty, unaware of others….an entire sociological tribe characterized by its deficits.

They got too many trophies for no good reason. They played in too many “everyone’s a winner” soccer games. They didn’t realize there was such a thing as a B in school. A whole generation of the image of God, spoiled, ruined and contaminated by grade-inflation, over-active-affirmation, and excessive-protection.

Whether NPR news reports, Youtube parodies, the Wall Street Journal, or Fortune 500 companies, there’s a symphony of voices decrying the lopsidedly indebted, over-educated, under-employed, conglomeration of young folks who have impeccable tastes in micro-brews and fair-trade coffee but no sense of what it takes to live in the “real world.” Even Saturday Night Live has joined in the piling on.

I don’t believe the fuss though. Not entirely. And certainly not uniformly. It seems an odd tact for us to write-off, as somehow useless, a group of developing youngsters, even with their beard-oil and ironical mustaches.

And so I’m not going to do it.

And the wheelchair wedding on Valentines Day convinced me further.


On Cupid’s day of disappointing pressure, I attended my first, and likely last, wedding at Siskin Rehabilitation hospital. On the second floor, a gaggle of congregants filed into a swelling conference room where the back wall of windows revealed a sandy bricked Health Department building and the backside of a dingy concrete parking garage at Erlanger Hospital, all tinged by a dull, gray February sky.

The atmosphere in the shrinking room was anything but gray.

Giggles and handshakes, hugs and how-do-you-do’s filled the room with a radiating warmth that seemed to anticipate what was about to happen to all of us as we witnessed two millennials tethering their lives together by unbreakable-oaths.

Soon, the lonely rows of chairs had welcomed inhabitants, and the walls and entrance were lined with, of all people, mostly millennials, there to take their bonds of friendship seriously.

Handsome lads clad in gray trousers held up by hip suspenders draped over shoulders cloaked in crisp white shirts, and accented with teal bow ties soon stood taut, to escort eager grandparents into this tile ceiling-ed, flourescently illuminated cathedral of the Most High.

This was the sweetest form of people watching.

A gigantic smile loomed, tinged no doubt with relief and weary joy, in the glowing face of the groom’s beautiful mother as she was escorted toward her place of witness. The bride’s lovely mother was likewise accompanied along the aisle, making her careful way to her perch on the same side where her noble daughter would soon swear her fealty to a man who could not stand up.

The bow-tied in sky-blue minister-father of the wheel-chaired groom, gently pushed his courageous son to the threshold of the door, drawing heart-pangs to those who adore his son with him. Thirty pounds slighter than he had been a few weeks ago, this dapperly adorned husband-to-be, entered expressionless but sharp in his sharkskin-gray suit, and bow tie of emerald.


Normally vivacious, gregarious, and cheerfully engaging, the millennial groom being wheeled down the make-shift aisle was accompanied by an ominous, internal inhabitant named Guillain Barré Syndrome. An elegant French-sounding condition with a crude, internal-shrapnel effect an his ordinarily lithe and athletic body.

Disabled by this nerve-attacking marauder, the groom was propped up by kindness and enabled by service of others to get to the correct end of the aisle so he could view the entrance of his stunning red-headed bride who’d been spent the past month of their engagement living in a hospital room, tending to a man who found the simplest tasks a complex calculus problem. Swallowing was organic chemistry. Standing, more complex than classical Greek; speaking, more impossible than mastering ancient Ugaritic.

Yet there she stood, arms linked with her papa. Crisp white radiating from a carefully selected wedding dress. Auburn hair blazing, gentle smile and bright eyes drinking in the magical elixir of the stirring moment larger than the all of us huddled there as we were in hope.

She then walked down that aisle. And after her upright and delighted father had answered the minister, “Her mother and I do” indicating their surrender of their own flesh and blood, and their favored opinion of this new family to be created by covenant, she stooped.

With help scooping her elegant gown to clear the chair placed beneath her, she sat because he did, accommodating the man whose promise she’d wear on her left hand until death.

She would not stand, because he could not stand.

And I knew we were on holy ground. Even with two millennials.

And the temporarily wheelchair-imprisoned son’s father doubling as our officiant began to address the crowd. Bright faced with God’s breath and tear-gleamed eyes, he spelled out Scripture’s reasons for our gathering.

And we sang. “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure…”

Then we watched the words of the song enfleshed.

Because these two millennials, one of whom spoke only with exhausting effort, proceeded to enact a covenant. Smack dab in the middle of his strange sickness which had interrupted their plans, they made new arrangements, life together forever, no matter what.


You see, they were to get married later. But they decided to do it now. While he was most unwell. So she could serve him better.

They, like the Savior (even of millennials?), decided they would declare, each to the other, “I am going to love you in your sickness, and you can’t make me not.” They replicated the story of Jesus’ entrance into the sick-ward of our lives and his physician’s commitment to make us well.

And the boy’s father, astutely noted these nuptials were commencing with a stirring commitment to serve each other, an aspiration that would need resourcing from Another.

He didn’t say, but could have. This is utterly novel in modern marriage. That is why people quit. Why they stop right in the middle. Why their vows which should be super-glue, wind up being papier maché bound by Elmer’s. Folks ask, instinctively, “Am I getting my due?” “Am I happy here?” “Am I being loved well?” They rarely remember they promised not to fuss first over such fruitless queries.

Strangely, few enter this promise-supported relation, demarcated with pomp and pageantry, new dresses and manicures, and with costly confections and streaming alcohol afterward, in a posture of service toward their oath-linked spouse.

But they were consciously beginning, with her ennobling pledge of sacrifice, and his humble acceptance of this grace which he could not yet offer in return. I know, I know. It sounds eerily alike a story we rehearse each Lord’s day, doesn’t it?

Dad, when it was time, helped his laboring son guide the circular sign of his promise onto her outstretched hand. And she took her new husband’s delight and smile on faith, because his facial muscles refused to permit him to reveal the thrilled joy dancing in his chest.

Afterward, our wheel-chaired groom mustered the coordination for their covenant-sealing kiss. We knew his dad had spoken with precision when he offered, “Normally I’d offer a charge to a couple as they enter into this relationship, but today I want to commend them….”

He punctuated his reflective homily with a prophecy of anticipation, “If this marriage is starting like this, we just know it’s gonna be good.”

And I went home heartened and believing.

Those dang self-serving millennials. They’d just offered themselves in a monumental act of self-giving. They’d honeymoon in a rehab hospital.

And after the pronouncement, now bearing his name, and wearing his promise, and he donning her oath too, she wheeled her husband down the aisle in a room full of clapping joy.

Poor millennials. Never thinking of anyone but themselves.