The last several weeks, my husband and I have hovered over our smart phones and iPads, reading every possible article about the HHS mandate and controversy. I’ve seen tweets, read controversial FB status updates, scrolled through interesting blog posts and had engaging conversations with Catholics and non-Catholics. While the controversy still elevates my blood pressure, it also brings me great peace. The subject that so few of us talk about and, not coincidentally, is one of the most misunderstood teachings of the church, has been give its due platform. Hallelujah!
Sixteen years ago, when my husband and I were preparing for marriage, we participated in a Pre Cana workshop where we heard from various couples about subjects important to marriage—communication, finances, spirituality, children and sex. Oh my. I distinctly remember looking at my then-fiancée after the workshop and saying, “The church has ZERO business in our bedroom.” And I meant it. We laughed it off, I got on the pill, got married and headily happily into the Sacrament.
I even had a co-worker ask me if I was “that” kind of Catholic. You know, the kind that takes artificial birth control but keeps it hush-hush. Of course I was! Fast forward several years and an introduction to an amazing couple who practiced the approved Catholic church model for fertility, Natural Family Planning. At first I just thought it was wacky, non-scientific church fluff. And then I listened to their witness and how it strengthened their marriage. Admittedly, I was intrigued.
You see, I’m a convert. I question it all. I want to know the reasons, the why’s and the what if’s. I chose the Catholic church and yet, this teaching eluded me. Why did the church seem so convinced that artificial birth control was immoral? After all, our leaders are a bunch of celibate men. What were they seeing that I wasn’t? I decided to play a little Devil’s advocate and convince my husband to take the NFP class. It wouldn’t hurt to see what all the hullaballo was about.
That was ten years ago. Today, I am the mom of five and four of my children were conceived using NFP. Well, NFP and a few trips to Italy. I’ve suffered a miscarriage and given birth to a preemie. Through it all, I’ve learned this vitally important lesson: pregnancy is not a disease. Life is a gift. And, we are not the makers of that gift, we are merely the instruments. Through NFP, my husband and I have become equal partners in my fertility. Swallowing a pill that manipulates my normal cycle is not normal, it is not a “right” that I must have given to me by the government or any other agency. It is a choice I made several years ago and the one I most regret in life. I didn’t fully grasp what I was ingesting or the long-term effects on my body or on my children.
I finally came to look at it this way. If I really was going to give it all to God, if I was to trust Him with my most important decisions, why was I so protective over the thing in which I had no control? My fertility. It seemed hypocritical to say, “I trust you God…except on the fertility thing. I’ve got that.” My internal struggle was inherently selfish. I wanted to be intimate with husband whenever I wanted. What I came to realize is that the wait is worth it. Our marriage really has flourished through this teaching. My peace about life has come as a beautiful by-product of that faith.
Perhaps God is speaking to you this Lent about a particular church teaching. Maybe today is the day you learn more about how to strengthen your relationship with Him.