antonetti_sherryOne day I hope to give a talk where I get to start with the opening line, "Hello, my name is Sherry. I'm a mother of nine, and I'm here to talk to you about NFP."

Then, I'll really talk about it.  Not because I'm an expert on it, quite the contrary, but because I understand why people are afraid of it.  Understanding the method or the charts or the temperatures or the rhythms, that's all the how of practicing NFP, but what makes people chose to practice it or try, is not the how, but the why.  Why chose this imprecise method when there are countless methods out there via modern science that take all of the thinking, the submission, the obedience and the trust out of the situation?   Precisely because this process requires all the thinking and submission and obedience and trust that the other methods prevent or minimize.

Children are the easiest way by which God expands our hearts and He seeks to make all of our hearts like His.   The instant there is an other, our body submits, taking calcium from our teeth, affecting all other systems to sustain this new person.   But the heart and the mind of the mother, I know, sometimes take longer to acquiesce, to sublimate.  We are made for this, we are made for loving others, but our fallen nature makes all of this always harder to bear.  Because I've never sought children, every time I discover that we are expecting, I go through the same great mental wrestling, how will we manage X number?  I can't manage X-1?  And I stress about all the countless things I can anticipate and not fathom and all the things I can fathom and not fully anticipate.   At mass, in prayer, sometimes in the past at adoration, I've complained to God about how He keeps demanding I keep surrendering, I cry about how I've been good and it is never enough.  Haven't I taken one for the team?  Haven't I shown my stripes?  When do I get a break?  How come everyone else gets a break?  How come when I have all these dreams and desires and hopes, I'm still here changing diapers for the 17th year with at least three more to go?  How can you ask more of me?  Why are you asking more of me?

It is more like a howl, not of anguish or despair but the crusty fight of pride. Whatever scabs have taken root over time as I been about the business of mothering has led to just enough thinking, this isn't so hard and I'm pretty good at this and maybe I could ...instead, to put up a fight.   Those sins resist being pried open and pulled away.    The great line of "I'"s line up, they've all shown up each time, waving the Ph.D. I don't have or the book I haven't written in front of me, the school I don't run and the classes I don't teach, all the glory that isn't and might not ever be, acting like phantoms taunting me with their non existence.  If only....and I sit there frustrated because you would think I'd have let this go by now, that maybe I'd have licked it but I haven't.  Sometimes, I withdraw from the world, allowing myself to do less, nursing my emotional wounds rather than pouring myself out as we are all called to do.  Eventually, there comes the moment where the self I am becoming is less and less pleasant and prayer is harder and the love of my family and grace of God finally forces me to admit what is the crux of why I struggle:  I'm afraid.

I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I'm afraid.

And I think of Peter sinking, God asked him to walk out on the water, and as long as he trusted Jesus, he could and thus I know the only reason I am sinking.  We are supposed to trust in God, to be willing to freefall in our faith with Him on a moment to moment daily basis.  Like the people who shun NFP, like Peter, we all want our safety ropes, our bungee cords so that we won't really have to trust.

How can God ask us to love infinitely? How can He ask this again? How can I live a life with this unknown always ever present?  What God gently reminds me of is 1) the unknown is ever present because there is just so much I cannot know and 2) with the long hard process of the nine months of waiting, is "Yes, I want you to love infinitely, but only one second, one moment, one minute, one day at a time so stop fretting already and 3) Trust me, I love you infinitely.   Now, walk out of the boat."

So I want to talk about NFP in part to explain that all the charts and temperatures and measuring and notations in the world will tell you only so much about Natural Family Planning. These things are all important and they're all the method.  But what you are choosing, what you are asking for by being obedient and by allowing your marriage to be open to God's power and presence, is to live a pre-fall existence in that part of your marriage.  The funny thing is though; God always expands outward and never stays just where we put Him.  If we allow God into our marriage via our willingness to be open to life, God will work to teach us how to love as God intended, infinitely and openly and unafraid.

My final pitch will be to remind everyone that because God loves all of us despite our fallen state, He does begin this process in the comfort zone of our marriage; just as Christ began molding Peter on the boat by helping him to catch fish.

Only eventually, after teaching and revealing ever more to Simon, does Jesus invite him to walk on the water.  Being open to children is being willing to accept the initial invitation to cast out your nets.  Being blessed with a child is the invitation to walk out on the sea.  And even then, we can be not afraid, He will hold onto us even if we stumble in our faith.

Now, consider NFP as your invitation to contemplate walking out of the boat.

Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti