Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Sex is Complex: Or, Why I Never Write About NFP
I keep having a nagging thought in the back of my mind that I should write more about NFP. More about what it means to an individual, marriage, and family because it effects everyone while at the same time the very inner parts of yourself as an individual. I wish I could write more about the science, because over the past 8 years I've learnt more about the science behind NFP than I ever thought or wanted to, and because the science does matter in the efficacy of methods. I wish I could write about how NFP is great and good but also a cross that impacts every aspect of your life. But I don't because I feel insufficient, somewhat jaded, too deeply mired within the daily complexities of obedience and sacrifice with too little perspective and wisdom.
But I know in not writing about it we make our shared experiences a little less shared and understood. Which is unfortunate because what we need is more understanding and at the very least a little knowledge that we're not the only ones.
And of course, when we really get down to it, when we talk about NFP we're mostly talking about sex. We're talking about how we live our sexuality within our marriage.
I'm just reminded of this lately by reading some really great things about sex, marriage, and in turn NFP going around lately. Hallie Lord recently published an ebook about great married sex and wrote a great article about it here, Simcha Fisher keeps being a sane and wise writer about what sex means and recently wrote about it with great clarity, then Calah Alexander wrote an impassioned article about getting a little support when you're living the Church's teachings about sex. If you notice a pattern through each of these articles it's that it is impossible to break sex from it's consequence -- whether they be great sex, lots of children, how you view the value of another person, how our society treats each other and our offspring; these are all things we deal within a certain context and relationship with sex.
Those of us who believe in the truth about sex proclaimed by the Church believe that it is a beautiful truth that is at a truly unique revelation of God's love for humanity and allows us to participate in his love and creation. It's a truth that never changes, but our lives do and how we integrate our sexuality throughout our lives runs into a lot of hurdles. Even when we truly believe the Church's teaching there is no easy button that makes it is to be obedient to them. We come up against our own weaknesses at almost every turn. Self sacrifice to practice natural family planning, acceptance through difficult times of too-fruitful fertility or heartbreaking infertility, faithfulness in times of marital strife, compassion in times of sickness. Let alone the host of personal issues, relational issues, even issues of how we see and related to God come up when we are dealing with our sexuality in a healthy way. This is because sexuality is part of what makes us human, and just as every part of humanity is called to redemption and grace so too is our sexuality. There is no way around the cross when it comes to our lives, it's how open we are to carrying the cross.
I think what happens all too often though, is an almost "prosperity gospel" idea applied to our sexuality. We seem to think that once we commit to what the Faith teaches and make it to marriage sex will be a consequence free, mind-blowing-each-time party for the rest of our lives. We think it's a biblical promise or something; which probably speaks to our cultural upbringing of entitlement or our fixation on all things sex. We've lost the idea that sex is complex, even in marriage. Since we've lost the concept of marriage as a permanent state, we don't realize the times where sex may not be possible due to sickness, circumstance, marital strife. Or, we often think that marriage guarantees us the magic number of children we want when we want them. We may reject the idea of contraception in pill or condom form, but the toxic ideas of how we should be able to control our lives to live for comfort are deeply ingrained and much harder to rid from our hearts and minds.
For most of us it will take a lifetime of practice to bring our sexuality to a place of integrated holiness. No matter our circumstances, we will always be called closer to God through our sexuality. It's equally important to know that God's truth brings joy, grace, a deep connection with Him along with our spouse, and great sex -- but don't expect that's all God wants to show is in our sexuality. Many of us are living out the truth in varying degrees of difficulty, sacrifice and joy: maybe through living the single life or life with same-sex attraction chastely, maybe through a religious vocation of chastity, maybe through marriage and heroic demands of NFP. I think this is why I so often back away from writing about NFP and my imperfect experiences; because I mistakenly believe that everyone else is already holy. The truth, however, is there is no getting around the fact that God calls us to deeper holiness through our sexuality, which sooner or later always means the cross.
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