One of my favorite shows is “Mayday,” a documentary which recounts stories of plane crashes or near crashes. My favorite episodes are the ones where everyone (or most) survives. Survival often depends on the skill and precision of the pilots and flight engineers. I find it fascinating just what can bring a plane down and what can also save a plane.
It dawned on me when I was flying back from Chicago last summer that it takes tremendous trust to get on a plane: trust that the pilots are trained to fly the plane with precision, trust that the builders created a solid, well-performing plane, trust that the mechanics have serviced the plane properly. After all, which one of us wants to be 20,000 feet in the air when a mechanical problem happens or when a pilot encounters a situation he’s not trained to handle?
Of course, the same can be said for any situation. We trust our doctors, food companies, school bus drivers and many others. On a daily basis, we are called to trust those who are human and have the potential of making mistakes.
Consider how most couples “trust” with regard to their fertility. They take pills, get injections, apply chemical patches, insert devices, consent to operations. Instead of working with their fertility, they try to destroy it. Instead of embracing their fertility, they fight it. They “trust” that by using contraceptives, they will be able to “control” their fertility.
Newsflash: none of these chemicals, devices or operations are 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. No method, except for complete abstinence, is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. And yet millions of couples put their “trust” in contraceptive methods on a daily basis. If the methods “fail,” and a child is conceived, many will resort to abortion.
So what does this have to do with Advent?
Well, a lot. When told that she would be the mother of our Savior, Mary replied, “Be it done to me according to your word.” That took tremendous trust in God’s plan for her. She didn’t say, “Hmmm, let me think about that for a few weeks and I’ll get back to you.” Without her trust, without her yes, we would not be preparing to celebrate Christmas.
Admittedly, the times I’ve appreciated Our Lady’s fiat the most have been when I was expecting a child during Advent and Christmas. I loved being pregnant and feeling the movement of my babies. It definitely helped me to be more empathetic to what Mary went through: nine months pregnant, on a donkey and making a long journey away from home. It was equally difficult for her to give birth in a stable, surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals. And yet Mary trusted that this was God’s plan for her and accepted it without question.
So what is God’s plan for us especially regarding our fertility? I can tell you what it is not: God’s plan is not for us to destroy the gift of our fertility with devices, behaviors, chemicals or operations. This “trust” that many couples place in contraceptives can sometimes result in an unwanted, permanent loss of fertility and can lead to numerous other consequences as well. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life, 1968) talks about one of the most common consequences of contraceptive use: “A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
God’s plan is for couples to embrace their fertility and to be generously open to life. Does that mean that God wants us to have as many children as possible? No, it doesn’t. God gave us the gift of reason and he also gave us a built-in natural method of avoiding pregnancy that works with fertility and not against it. God, the Author of life, wants to be part of our decisions regarding our fertility.
What about us? Who do we trust with our fertility? Is it God or is it a device, operation or contraceptive behavior?
Couples who want to trust God with their decisions will trust Him with all of their decisions, including the beautiful gift of fertility. When couples have serious need to avoid pregnancy, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a moral way to do so. NFP uses no devices and works with God instead of against Him. Wives who use NFP seldom feel used by their husbands. NFP also works well to achieve pregnancy. It’s healthy, effective and safe. NFP encourages good communication and strengthens marital relationships.
Advent is the ideal time to rethink who we trust our fertility with. Do we trust a chemical company? Do we trust a condom manufacturer? Or do we trust God, the Author of Life?
Learning Natural Family Planning nowadays is as simple as turning on your computer. My husband and I teach NFP online through the Couple to Couple League. For more information on NFP classes or NFP in general, please comment below or email me: fullquiverpublishing(at)gmail.com.
Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach 2014