Sex and money. In our abysmal Pre-cana class before getting married, we were told that sex and money are the top two things that newly-weds fight about. They then proceeded to skip over all the virtues and talk about the “love languages” and how those would help us avoid all the sex and money fighting yet to come.
After being married for 3 years, I can see why they would say it. Because those are the two places where we as marrieds are the most unwilling to invite God; our bedrooms and our bank books. But if God is not invited, can the blessings we receive be all He wishes to give?
Last Sunday at Mass, our priest said something that has been turning over and over again in my head ever since: We claim that we are Christians, that we believe in God, but we do not think to ask what His will might be for us before we make huge decisions. This is no where more apparent than in the dismal and heart-breaking fact that around 90% of Catholic women of childbearing age use contraception.
However, what decisions can a married couple make that affect them more directly than (a) how to spend their money and (b) how, when, and for what end to make love? Not many. Not any.
When my husband and I met, I promised myself it would be different this time. After failing to live the virtue of chastity before, I swore to God and myself that this time would be different. In order to be different, I had to act different. So I did.
I knew the only way that I would be able to live chastely would be if I let God change me. If I let Him into my bedroom. So I did.
The very first thing that we did together was pray. On our first date, we prayed a decade of the rosary before we went out for brunch. In that decade, I laid my heart and his at the feet of our Blessed Mother, and trusted her and her Son to do the rest.
We invited God into our bedroom on our very first date. Of course that meant something very different from what it means now, but the intent was and is the same. God is a part of every aspect of our lives together, and He has been from the start.
He would be regardless, because He created us, He brought us together, and He is the lover of our souls. All of that would be true even if we didn’t believe it. However, we invited Him in, and it has made all the difference.
That’s not to say that we have never made mistakes, because we have. We did not make love until we were married. We were learning NFP in order to avoid a pregnancy until I finished grad school. But then we looked at the cycle beginning just before our wedding and realized that I would most likely be fertile during the second half of our honeymoon.
So what did we do? I wish I could say that we willingly sacrificed for each other and abstained while I was fertile. Or even that we simply left it up to Providence and made love anyway. But we did neither of those things. Even though we knew it was wrong, we got some condoms. We closed the door on God and said, “Sorry, but just this once, you are uninvited.”
And it was awful. Maybe it was because we had only made love for the first time four days before, and the memory of sex the way it is supposed to be was still fresh in our minds. Or maybe it was just because we both knew we were violating out consciences and each other, but it was just terrible.
We would rather go without sex than to ever use contraception again.
This same invitation from God, to include Him in all of our intimate decisions, goes for discerning our family size, which is directly related to when and how we make love.
For some reason, people seem to recoil in horror when you tell them that you’d like to have as many children as God wants you to have. Why is that? What is so threatening about the concept of allowing God’s will to play a prominent role in determining how many children one welcomes?
I’m guessing because in this culture of fear in which we live, most people conflate “as many as God wants me to have” with “as many as biologically possible”, which is of course, like saying that a banana is the same as a steak.
We are not called to have as many children as biologically possible. We are called, using prayer and discernment of God’s will, to welcome children, not using immoral means to keep them at bay.
People will look at larger families who practice NFP to space children and say, “Well, it obviously doesn’t work. They have five (or six or seven) kids!” What they fail to fathom is that anyone could possibly want five (or six or seven) children. But for those of us trying very haltingly to live the virtues, we know a valuable lesson for treading this rugged path: we act our way into being.
If we act open to life, we become open to life. Not using contraception makes you not want to use contraception. I have never once since being married thought to myself, “Gosh I wish I was on the Pill so I could do x,y,or z.” And I spent years on the Pill. All it ever did for me was to mask symptoms of a health problem and give me justification for bad behavior.
Being a mother is hands-down the hardest thing I have ever done. It has stretched me, and changed me in ways that it will take the rest of my life to fully grasp. I’ve made no secret of my trials in new motherhood.
I’m not saying “I want to have as many as God wants to give me” as a naive woman who is only up at 3 am when she’s out late with friends. I am saying that as a new mom, who wonders every day if I am doing it right, and if I can ever be worthy of what I have been entrusted. I am saying that to myself and to God, hoping I embrace it more as each day passes, hoping that He will always be invited.