Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Contraception

I have heard people say, "If God really wanted you to have a child (despite you being on birth control) he would give you one." I'm sorry, but that's a bold-faced lie. God CAN do whatever he wants to. But he doesn't. It's the basic Christian principle of free will. He created us to love him and serve him, and he wants us to give ourselves freely to him as he does to us. God doesn't force anyone to do what he wants them to do. 

God could have stopped me from making a snide remark to my husband, but he didn't. It's not because he doesn't want me to have a happy marriage, or because he doesn't want to protect my husband's happiness. He absolutely DOES want those things, but he will not force me against my will to do the loving things that will make it happen. 

God, in his deep love, allows us to sin. Why? What is sin? Sin, at its heart, is rejection of God. We look at him and say, "I hear what you're saying. Don't eat that fruit. The thing of it is, I know you're infinite and all-knowing, all-good, all-holy, but you don't know what's best for me. You're wrong. The fruit IS good, and I'm going to eat it. I don't have to listen to you. I refuse to give myself completely to you, and in doing so, I refuse to love you." In this action, the action of sin, we reject God. He doesn't force us to love him, and so our relationship with him is severed. The flow of grace stops. Until we repent and ask for forgiveness, we have our backs turned on God. 

So again, if God really reaaaallllly wants something, NO, he will not force it against your will. In fact, God really wants us to live in virtue, that's why he gave us his commandments. Yet people cheat on their spouses, lie, steal, kill, and deny him with their actions every day. People curse the name of God. Every day. He allows this to happen because love is a choice. He beckons each one of us to follow him but the CHOICE is ours.

This idea that God will give you a child if that is what he really wants, despite the use of birth control, is based on the fact that, sometimes, people who use contraceptives become pregnant. A Christian might attribute this to God's intervening will. But God's will also involves the proper use of our reason. And reason would dictate that you look at the failure rates of contraceptives. They are not 100% successful. Birth control fails. Some methods have as low as a 95% success rate. If you had a gun that only fired five percent of the time, and you aimed it at someone and killed them, would you say it was God's will that they died? Absolutely not. If you keep firing that gun at people, knowing that 95% of the time it will not fire, you know that some people are bound to get killed. The same with contraception, sometimes it fails. That is NOT evidence of God's intervention against our wills in the act of procreation. You know which birth control method never fails? Abstinence. I guarantee you that if I use abstinence as a way of avoiding pregnancy, God will not bless me with a child, no matter how greatly he might desire it.

Nature was created by God, in fact it is His first way of revealing himself to us in time, before giving us His Word. Nature has rules, this we call science. Science is a gift God gives us that allows us to make sense of the world around us and to come to discover who He is. These rules of the world tell us that without sex, no pregnancy can occur. Again, God shows us that we must freely choose to obey him, because there is no other way. You cannot get pregnant by mistake or by chance. We must make the choice to work together with God in the great miracle of the creation of a soul by exercising our free will.

This false rhetoric, that "If God wants me to have a baby, he will give it to me," is nothing but an excuse by Christian men and women to avoid the hard work of doing God's will. We can avoid the idea of personal responsibility altogether by saying, I don't have to do what God wants, because He will do it for me. It's an excuse to say no to God. In using contraception we tell Him, "If you want it so badly, feel free to do it yourself." But we say this with a false confidence, assuming that he won't because we KNOW that he does not force us to obey him against his will. We are not inviting God to give us children if he truly desires it. What we are really saying is, "NO."

The reason why we say no is because we are scared of children. They are hard work! We know that sex is for marriage, we know that sex results in children, and therefore marriage results in children. The reason why children come from sex is because this is the way God designed it. God does not design something to be a certain way unless it is his will. He could have made children come into this world by another method, but he did not. So clearly it was God's will that sex creates children. Clearly it was his will that children would come from marriage. In fact God wills it so greatly that he made sex so pleasurable that people would choose to seek it out despite their fear of children.

People avoid children because they are burdensome. God never said that to follow him and obey him would NOT be a burden. But the burden of children we should gladly bear, because Christ says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." He also tells us "Take up your cross daily and follow me." Never did he tell us that we should follow him only when it was easy. But he does tell us that if we choose to follow him we will be given every grace that we need, in abundance. Despite the hardships that having children can and does create in our lives, the Bible tells us with no uncertainty that having children is GOOD. The Bible speaks of children often, and in every context refers to them only as a blessing and a gift. God gave us the COMMAND, not the suggestion, to be fruitful and multiply, when he blessed the first marriage in the creation of Adam and Eve.

Through our fertility, as with every aspect of our lives, God is calling us to TRUST Him. We have to believe that he knows what is best for us. We have to trust in Him, to obey Him, even when it is scary. Even when it is burdensome. We have to let go of the false sense of control over our lives and know that if God blesses us with a child, so also will he give us the grace needed to raise that child up for His kingdom. In asking us, as married couples, to be faithful, God is asking us to cooperate freely in the creation of an everlasting soul whose purpose, much like our own, is to love and serve God on this earth and ultimately to be with Him forever in heaven. God is asking us to allow Him to create a unique and infinitely worthy human person for him to pour out all of his love and all of himself into, that they might reciprocate this self-giving and offer themselves back to him, as imperfect as they might be, and yet perfected through Christ. This person does not belong to us as parents, to be given birth to or not depending on our own whim. In prayer and humility and obedience to the will of God, we promise to raise up the children God loans to us for a few short years so that they too might be with him forever.

He does not expect us to have as many children as possible past all reasonable means of caring for them. But he does call us to be faithful and to trust in him. How many of us that have said to ourselves, "God will give me a child if He really desires it, even though I use contraception," have also said, "God will give me the means to care for his children if he really desires it, even though I do not have the means to do so myself"? If we trust in God we have to trust that he will give us the means necessary if we but follow him. When we say no to God, we deny the extraordinarily beautiful and miraculous existence of a soul whom God intended to love for all of eternity, for the sake of fleeting material comforts here on Earth.

To think, "God will give me children if he really wants it," is a very silly idea. Of course he really wants it. That is why he created man to begin with. That is why he commanded us to be fruitful and multiply, that he why he gave us the institution of marriage, that is why he made sex pleasurable and desirable, and that is why he made babies so darn cute! He so greatly desires human souls to be with him forever in heaven that he sent his Son to earth to create a new and eternal covenant, so that we might all be saved despite our fallen nature. And all he asks us to do is trust him and say YES. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Feast of Saint Christopher

My husband's name is Christopher so obviously we needed to celebrate this feast day big time. And by big time I mean making his favorite dinner and baking a cake. The kids were both very excited all day Saturday since I hyped up the cake to them and made it seem as though it would all be a great big surprise. We couldn't manage a surprise because Chris needed to spend all day studying for the Virginia bar exam which he is taking this week, so we needed to schedule in the party. 

The kids had a great time helping me make the cake. By helping I mean watching me mix the batter and tasting probably handfuls of raw batter while my back was turned. They especially loved the blended butter and cream cheese for the icing which I'm sure tasted amazing since I hadn't mixed in the sugar yet. Lenny was a bit disappointed that the cake was green, though. After watching my brother and sister-in-law's baby gender reveal, he is dead set on making a cake "the color of the baby." (I just keep imagining a fleshy translucent cake full of veins.) I guess once we figure that out we'll have to bake a cake together. He wants to surprise daddy and is very upset with me for being so adamant that Chris will be coming to the doctor's appointment with me and will already know. I guess he'll have to "forget" so we can surprise him anyway. 

Chris's absolute favorite dinner is Thai chicken which I learned from a slow cooker cookbook I got as a wedding gift but now I always make it in the oven. It's ridiculously simple and so good. You mix a cup of salsa, 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and a heaping teaspoon fresh ginger. Then just pour it over chicken and bake. So good with rice and broccoli. We even had it when we did the whole 30 diet, just swapped almond butter for peanut butter and fish sauce for soy sauce. I really wish I had a picture to put here but maybe you can just imagine the rich and chunky dark red sauce on top of chicken and rice. It's just a little spicy and sooo good. I literally can't even ask Chris for dinner suggestions because he will always and forever only say Thai chicken.   

This cake was a new recipe to me; thanks, Pinterest.  I am completely obsessed with fruit flavored desserts so I was all over this key lime cake when I saw it. I just swapped the Orange juice for lemon juice cause I didn't have any. It was the bomb dot com. And since I weirdly do not have round cake pans I just made it in a large rectangle and less work for me so yay. I also added lime zest on top which was not a hit with Lenny who demanded I take off the onions before serving him a slice. 

Something about making a fuss over someone just makes days like this feel so special. We talked all day about how great daddy is and how hard he works for us and loves us. Lenny and Carolina were so excited and even though the only thing different from our regular routine was the cake, we talked it up so much that they couldn't help but feel the joy of celebrating someone you love! It's things like this that I want them to remember- the way we always did something special on feast days and asked our patron saints to pray for us and how we always celebrated each other. I'm sure they will also remember the way they drive each other crazy and how I was always forcing them to do chores and how they didn't get to see certain movies or stay out past 9 or whatever. All kids remember the negatives. I read once that it takes ten positive moments to override one negative instance. So for our kids I want the fun to outweigh the day to day, boring stuff that is the same for every family. I want them to remember how our family is different- how being Catholic is different in such a good way, that we love our faith and had fun living it out and not just on Christmas and Easter but all year long. I want to make Sunday the best day of the week and family prayer, if not fun, at least bearable. (I still remember trying to keep from falling asleep while kneeling on the cold kitchen tiles at a hard wooden chair praying the rosary right before bed. Not my fondest memory ever.) 

Kids who don't celebrate their faith grow up to be adults who lose their faith. Yeah, it's asking a lot to expect a dinner and a cake to safeguard my children's faith for life. I obviously know that it will always be between them and God, my job is just to show them how joyful living your faith can be. So I'll try. I'm basically a miserable failure so far because the cakes and fun are few and far between the frustrations and chores and bedtimes and broccoli. But hey...