God: He's In Your Bedroom

[ 13 ] February 6, AD 2012 |

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.

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Category: Columnists, Life, Married Life

About the Author ()

Sarah Babbs is a married mother of a toddler girl, writing from Indiana where she moved for love after growing up on the east coast. Sarah and her husband, a lawyer, lead marriage prep classes for their parish in addition to daydreaming about becoming lunatic farmers. During stolen moments when the toddler sleeps and the laundry multiplies itself, Sarah writes about motherhood, Catholic social thought, and ponders the meaning of being a woman "made in the image of God". Her website is Fumbling Toward Grace.
  • http://www.theguidinstarproject.com Leah

    I SOOO appreciate your honesty Sarah. In my past life, I worked as a Catholic Campus Minister on a public university campus. I always struggled to find voices willing to speak out on their experiences of growing in trust of God’s will and choosing to follow a path different from what they have been doing. So many young people think it is simply impossible to make changes in areas of both sex and money, but especially sex. I always said that God can work with any level of willingness, you just have to be open. I love “we act our way into being”. Wish I had used that years ago!

  • anna lisa

    Yes, thank you for your honesty. I think it is because we live in a post puritanical culture that we “compartmentalize”. I would say that prayer in the bedroom is not only called for, it makes physical love far more fulfilling. Trumpet that reality far and wide! I also can’t say enough about DAILY prayer with one’s spouse–morning and evening–foreheads touching! As for parenthood, try to remember that as the family grows, an actual community takes shape. Having two or three who have not yet attained the age of reason is tough, maybe the hardest stretch of the road. I have eight now (I never actually wanted a big family)! The oldest is 24, and the youngest is almost three. It is such a pleasure to see so many people at different stages of life, interacting, and loving. Our “baby” has so many people who love and dote on her, it makes me laugh. When people scold the parents of “many” for being neglectful of individual needs, I marvel over how little they understand of what it means to be a member of a big family!

  • http://catholicnewlywed.blogspot.com Mandi @ Catholic Newlywed

    What an incredible post! Sometimes I feel so alone in today’s society, it’s wonderful to read something by another Catholic wife and mother with my same convictions. And I hope this post helps to open other women’s eyes!

  • http://twitter.com/2myhomewarddove Alicia Therese

    As a single woman, I want to thank you for your honesty!! It is so hard to find couples who are living it out the way you are. I liked how you talked about the balance between being open to how many kids God wants to give and not going the 20 kids+ road. This is an important issue to talk about when managing how many kids, etc.!

  • http://virtuouspla.net/ Anna Williams

    Awesome post! Seems like sex and money are the most personal/intimate decisions, but as you write, that’s all the more reason to let God in.

  • http://www.catholicland.blogspot.com SWP

    My wife and I are teaching engaged couples right now, and I hope that we are not being perceived as ‘abysmal’ when we talk about the stats and the love languages.

    We have found it very challenging to address a room full of people, and talk about being virgins on our wedding night who practice NFP faithfully, knowing the stats reveal that the vast majority of our peers cannot relate.

    But we can’t imagine sex any other way! I once mentioned to my wife that using a condom during her pregnancy would not be contraceptive, and she said it would still be immoral- not to mention gross, because we’d be financially supporting a product that is immoral– and it would be like having sex with saran wrap. I don’t know how I got so lucky!

    Anywho- I appreciate your honesty in this post. We try to convey to our marriage prep pupils that allowing God into the marriage bed and making sex sacramental will bring the most joy, because when you make a gift of yourself to the other, you can receive gift from God. In matrimony, 1+1=3!

  • Lori

    Ahhh! What a refreshing and pertinent post! Knowing TOB forwards and backwards, loving and sharing NFP with those around me, and surrendering it all to God has not made chaste living any easier…I am so glad you posted about this :)

    We shouldn’t make decisions, then ask God to bless them as we so often do. We need to be open to His promptings, then obedient to them with our whole hearts…and, man, when the rubber hits the road, that is REALLY difficult! But, through the mercy and grace of God, somehow, we always come out on top!

    Again, thanks for the wonderful post!

  • Rob

    I spent the better part of the last year studiing what the Catholic church says about birth control. I was raised catholic but am attend a protestant church now. I have heard every pat answer about why contraception is wrong. I still don’t buy any of it. I do not agree with the pill that is a personal thing. And I am not trying to find a loophole for my wife and I are past child bearing.

    I believe that God has give man the knowledge and the discernment to regulate when and if a women gets pregnant. How many stories have there been about women getting pregnant while using some sort of contraception? If God wants you pregnant he will make it happen.

    Folks point out natural law and say that we should not mess with it. Well when nature causes problems with our bodies we are quick to go to a Doc to see if we can change the way it is.

    I could go on for much longer but I will stop for now. I have banned from many catholic websites for expressing my views and may be so on here also. Most Catholics do not like to be challenged they just want to be right.

  • http://www.theguidingstarproject.com Leah

    Hi Rob.

    I want you to know that I, and really most every Catholic I know, completely agrees with your statement, “I believe that God has given man the knowledge and the discernment to regulate when and if a women gets pregnant.” He certainly has given us minds that are capable of understanding how to avoid pregnancies and plan our families with wisdom and good judgement. That is a good thing, no one disagrees with you there. The problem with birth control is not that it makes it somehow easier to achieve that end, but what we are saying to one another by choosing that as our solution. Natural Family Planning honors and accepts one another’s bodies completely. We can fully accept and embrace one another in the sexual act without fear of what that means. I love my husband, and I love his fertility. If I were to insist on using condoms I would essentially be saying, “I love most of my husband, except for his fertility and ability to be a father. That part I’m not cool with being in our relationship and my body.” But, I don’t want to become a mother every year for the rest of my fertile life, so I ask that he honor my fertility and occassionally not have sex at times when that would be the outcome due to my changing fertile patterns. If he cannot accept that my body changes and is not willing to learn enough about me and this very natural part of me, what is he saying to me? “I love you when you meet my needs and would prefer to not have to deal with that other part of you.” Keeping our marriages and sex free of contraceptives allows us to live not only with unprotected sex, but more importantly with unprotected love. We LOVE one another with our bodies, without holding anything back.

  • http://catholicnewlywed.blogspot.com Mandi @ Catholic Newlywed

    Rob, I’m not going to refute all you say, but I will say this. Yes, if God wants you to get pregnant, you can get pregnant while using the pill (well, I not you specifically, but you know what I mean). Are you aware, however, that the pill is an abortifacient, which means that if a woman does become pregnant while taking it, the baby may be killed by the birth control. That is, in fact, one of the reasons that the pill “works” – not just by preventing pregnancy, but also by elminating it if it does happen.

    I understand that you don’t agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church and it is your right to do so, however, why are you admittedly trolling sites about this particular teaching to refute it? Do you feel that you are spending time refuting an “evil”? If you don’t believe that this teaching in itself is bad and against God (while you don’t agree with it, I can’t imagine that you think it is doing harm, or do you?), then maybe you should spend your time working to change the true evils in this world. Why not unite with your fellow Christians to do good instead of bicker with them about what you don’t agree with?

    I’m sorry you feel that “Catholics do not like to be challenged they just want to be right.” Of course we want to be doing those things that are right and just in order to serve God. Isn’t that what you want to do as well? And please don’t lump all Catholics together. I do not mind being challenged, but there is a time and place. Being challenged about my faith has led me to learn exactly why the Church believes what she does and has made me even more strong in my beliefs.

  • http://fumblingtowardgrace.wordpress.com Sarah B

    Hi Rob,

    I don’t have much to add to what both Leah and Mandi said, but I will add this: the position you take, that if God really wants you to get pregnant, you will, even on the Pill, is really a terrible way to be in a relationship with God. It’s akin to building a brick wall with God on one side and you and your spouse on the other. Then you say, “Ok God, if you want to give us a baby, you better break through this wall we’ve erected to keep you out.” NFP, on the other hand, is about discerning with God on how to plan a family. God does not have to thwart the barriers we’ve put up against Him, because we haven’t put any up.

  • anna lisa

    Most importantly, many of us have learned the truth the hard way. By struggling to achieve the purity God calls us to, we have found that the reward is a deeply enriching intimate life. What I see in society, is broken hearts and bodies, bored, disillusioned spouses and the ultimate victims–the children. God “doesn’t remember” if we screwed up along the way and repented. He wants us to experience “God love” which our tired and cynical world can’t even hold a candle to.

  • Pat

    Thank you for sharing. You always put new thoughts in my head, ideas and thoughts that I would never experience if I did not read your writings. Thank you. Your writings enrich my life.