After about a week of studying the subject of artificial birth control (ABC) and why the Catholic Church teaches it’s not God’s will, I finally got up the nerve to share what I’d read with Scott.
Why was I so hesitant about sharing with Scott? Well, tt had nothing to do with Catholicism and everything to do with:
1) The fact that the Holy Spirit was convicting my heart about my own use of artificial birth control.
2) Scott had only recently come to terms of with some of his fears about being a father and having children. How would he respond to my new found conviction that God’s plan for sex didn’t include ABC? I really couldn’t see him being open to these teachings on birth control.
Still, I couldn’t hide my heart from him. So, I told him about what I’d learn. I told him I was scared about what this might mean for us. Then I gave him a few articles to read, (which included Scripture verses on the subject and the writings of the Church Fathers) along with some other writings on the subject. I decided to leave Scott’s response in God’s hands. I figured that God has brought us together this far on our journey, He’d continue to lead us. Meanwhile I continued to study the subject and seek God’s will for us in this area of our life.
The more I studied the more God revealed to me the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teaching against artificial birth control. Instead of seeing it as some archaic doctrine or form of control the Church wanted to exact over the Body of Christ I saw it as a beautiful affirmation of who God created men and women to be. We’re created in His life-giving image. We’ve been give the awesome privilege of having bodies that participate and share in His life-giving love.
The gift of sexual union between man and woman was well-thought out by our Creator. In God’s plan, through the sacredness of marriage and the marital union, two become one. Through cooperation with God and through the “life-giving” power of sex, this one flesh, made of two, can create a third being (not just a physical being but a spiritual being). It’s miraculous. It’s a mystery. Kind of like the Trinity–one God in three “persons.” Marriage and the life-giving power of sex are a glimpse of the mystery of the life-giving, selfless love of our Triune God.
Contraception, by it’s very definition, works “against” the pro-creative nature of our bodies. It opposes the life-giving nature of sex and marital love. Which means it’s in opposition to the life-giving image in which we’ve been made. Choosing not to contracept, to remain open to the pro-creative nature of sex, honors God, THE LIFE-GIVER, the image in which we’ve been created.
I thought a lot about this and then I thought about how our world, Satan and our flesh have grossly distorted and perverted the powerful gift of sex and it’s purposes. Instead of honoring all three of the God-given purposes for sex our world has exalts pleasure as the primary purpose of sex, denies that sex belongs within marriage, and it radically opposes the pro-creative and life-giving nature of our bodies. Like a lot of Christians I’d unknowingly bought into that opposition. I believed that it was my right to alter my fertility and the God-given purposes of sex according to my will, my plans, my desires.
I soon realized that what this boiled down to for me was whether I was going to conform to the image of the world or have my thinking about sex, children and my fertility as well as my actions transformed by God. It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that I could no longer, in good conscience, use artificial birth control.
You must remember that I wasn’t Catholic. This was not something I felt guilty about because of some man-made rule or law of some Church. I saw the truth and beauty of this doctrine and I couldn’t ignore it. It was obvious that this teaching was based on love–the love of God for us, our love for God, love for the natural order of His creation, love of neighbor and self, and love of marriage and family. This of course made me wonder, what other doctrines of the Catholic faith had I misunderstood? Could it be that the doctrines of the Catholic Church that I saw as legalistic and controlling were just misunderstood and in actuality were rooted in love just like this one? Those were questions I would have to answer later. At that moment I knew what I had to do. The question on my mind was, “How would Scott feel about this? ”
I have to admit that this whole thing made me shake my head. Only a week before I’d told my parents “not my body.” And now here I was ready to announce to my husband that I didn’t want to use artificial birth control. I gave Scott a couple of days to digest the material he was reading and then sat down for a heart to heart. Given the fears of fatherhood that he had to overcome before having Claire I fully expected him to have some real problems with this teaching. So you can imagine my surprise when he said that he couldn’t argue with what he read, that “it made sense.” I was floored! It was one of those moments when you just know that God had moved. Anyone who knew Scott and “his story” would have never believed his quick assent and response. But, he too couldn’t deny the logic, cohesiveness and Godliness of this teaching. It had God’s fingerprints all over it.
So we made the decision to stop using artificial birth control. Because we had a five month old baby we chose to rely on Natural Family Planning until we were ready to have another little one. This decision was not made without some fear or concerns about God’s plan for our family. It was a decision made despite our fears. We knew it was God’s will for us and so we took a step of faith. At the time I was taking a birth control pill that had to be taken at the same time everyday. My stop watch would go off every day at noon to remind me to take it. When we stopped using ABC I left the alarm set on my watch so that it would still go off each day. But whenever the alarm went off instead of taking the pill I let it be a reminder to pray. Each day I prayed the words Jesus prayed when he submitted his will to Father, “not my will but yours be done.” I’m still praying those words regarding our family and its growth.
I said in my last installment of this story that at that time this was not a “Catholic” issue for us. And it wasn’t. We didn’t stop using ABC because the Church told us to. We stopped because the Catholic Church had preserved the teaching and truth of the Christian faith on this matter and the Holy Spirit convicted us of this truth. Had I never become Catholic I’d still believe that God’s plan for marriage and His creation does not inlcude ABC. In my studies I was surprised to learn that there are some Protestant sects and invidividuals that stand in agreement with the Catholic Church on this subject. But, their numbers are few. If you’re interested in learning more on the subject there are many resources available. Here are a couple:
Life Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn
God sure has a sense of humor. We weren’t even Catholic and here we were choosing to follow what many Catholic couples find to be one of the toughest teachings of the Church. It was only fitting that what He had in store for us next would make us laugh and shake our heads once again…