Hopefully you have seen Blythe's fantastic post about how the Catholic Church's teachings on sex were incredibly important to her conversion to the faith. It's a gracious, intelligent post and it sparked some good comments. One of the questions really stood out to me and so I wanted to respond in my own way and in my own space.
As a Christian who is searching to make sense of the faith I grew up with, I find this incredibly confusing (Disclaimer- I was raised Protestant). I do not mean to contentious but I have a few questions, all coming from a heart of love... I am wrestling through a crisis of faith and the foundation of faith I had built up can't sustain the questions keeping me awake at night. What is the point of this life? Why are we here? Who is God? Really BIG picture stuff.
What does the Bible teach on the topic?
What about women living in third world countries whose babies are starving? I would assume you would suggest they use NFP but that again raises questions for me... What is the difference, big picture, between NFP and and using a condom- preventing a pregnancy. My husband and I have lived and worked in Africa and seen these mamas face to face. The last thing they need is another baby...
What about all the orphans? How can we make space in our families for these children when we keep creating babies of our own? My husband and I are blessed with two amazing little girls who we love endlessly but I feel done having babies, mostly because I believe we are called to love one another, above all this is the big picture for me. We have room for more children and want a bigger family but we feel like we should be adopting sweet babes and kids who don't have a mama and daddy. What are your thoughts on this?
Again, please understand these questions are not meant to be malicious. I so appreciate women of faith being able to have open dialogue about our beliefs and values.
Anon, of course your questions aren't malicious! And I know you didn't ask me - you asked our lovely friend Blythe - but your questions are really dear to my heart and so I wanted to respond. I hope you don't mind me butting in. Thank you for being so genuinely interested and respectful.
The first thing I want to say is that the point of life, why we are here, is to know, love, and serve God. That is the meaning of life, that is what will make us happy, that is what this is all about. The bottom line: to know, love, and serve God. To know Him through His Church, His Sacred Scripture. To love Him through prayer, adoration, worship, and fellowship - a true, deep relationship. To serve Him by discerning His will for your life and then joyfully living it out as a parent, spouse, priest, religious sister, doctor, teacher, volunteer, friend.
God is the Creator of everything visible and invisible. God *is* love. God is a Trinity, three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is our redeemer, our savior, our lover, our Lord. He is almighty and He cares about you. He loves you. I also believe firmly that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church and that the Holy Spirit continues to guide it - despite the knuckleheads and sinners who make it up - so that through the Church we can have the fullness of the Christian faith, the graces needed to live a heroically virtuous life, and the Sacraments through which God gives us Himself (literally in the Eucharist).
Those are the most important things: who is God and why are we here? If we don't have the answers to those then nothing else matters. But on to your questions on NFP.
Well, the Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt use natural family planning under these circumstances to avoid and under these circumstances to achieve and..." The Bible does tell us the children are a blessing and God tells us to go forth and multiply. I would think based solely on Scripture that every Christian should have a quiverful of kids, but that's not what the Catholic Church says. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, wants us to practice responsible parenthood, to only have the children we can care for which may be seven or may be two.
About those babies in Africa: if those moms shouldn't be having another baby then they should not be trusting a condom which could break. If someone really should not be having a child then they really should not be having sex. With natural family planning there are three phases. Phase I is a woman's period. Phase II is when she's fertile; it's the time leading up to ovulation and the approximately four days following ovulation. Phase III is the naturally infertile time after ovulation has happened.
Speaking from personal experience I will tell you that those African mothers are capable of doing the exact same thing I've been doing: abstaining. After my last baby was born my husband and I needed a break from being pregnant. So for seven months we abstained until I had signs of fertility return so I could begin charting. Over the last three months (my baby is now ten months old) we have abstained throughout Phase I and II until my charted signs show that my fertility has passed. During Phase III we can have sex and know that we will not get pregnant.
Is it hard to abstain? Absolutely. Does God use that time when we are abstaining to help us grow in virtues like selflessness, self control, and compassion while he also gives us the graces to persevere? Absolutely.
Finally, about the orphans. I think it is beautiful that God has placed such a call and conviction on your heart and your husband's heart. If He is asking you to adopt then He is probably also asking you to abstain during times of fertility and He will probably be using that time to strengthen other virtues, like obedience, patience, and generosity. It is also possible that He may have you adopt your next child and then bless you with another baby from your womb. Of course, I don't know exactly what God wants of you and how He's hoping to mold you and I hope you understand that I'm guessing a little bit and also projecting from my own life and experiences.
I think that part of the reason natural family planning seems so impossible is because we've been raised in a culture that has told us we can have sex whenever we want. And like Blythe said, some churches have even told their women that they needed to have sex with their husbands whenever the men wanted. To finally have a Church and it's joyful, faithful members say, "Sometimes you just shouldn't have sex," well, how do we wrap our minds around that? Is it even possible? Since middle school people have been telling me it's pretty much not possible, so make sure you have protection. So of course it seems like it's not possible. But it is. Abstinence is possible and it is worthwhile.
Finally, I want to stress something that wasn't brought up by you but I think it needs to be said. Babies are gifts. They are only gifts and they are always gifts. Sometimes they don't feel like the gift you wanted just then, but it does not change the basic fact that they are gifts. Only and always.