“NFP can have the same effectiveness as hormonal contraception.”
This is a line often touted by NFP advocates to claim our place within the current contraceptive culture. There is one problem with this mindset, though.
We don’t fit in a contraceptive culture.
At a basic level, the definition of contraception excludes NFP. “The use of artificial means to deliberately prevent conception.”
Practicing NFP is a lifestyle and a discipline. It looks very different to practice NFP every day compared to having an IUD inserted and forgetting about it for 5 years. NFP requires commitment, diligence, communication, self mastery, and self discipline. Insert any of the following in place of “NFP,“ and I’m sure you’ll nod in agreement: training for a marathon, graduating medical or law school, winning a national championship, getting a novel published, etc.
Most aspects of our life require discipline to achieve success, and we accept this truth. Sex is the exception. Any discipline exerted over sexuality is considered repressive or prude. Yet here we are, Catholics promoting NFP which requires sexual discipline. And with that, not fitting in amongst society at large.
Here’s the deal, friends. We aren’t supposed to fit in.
Like it or not, we are counter cultural.
At almost 32 years old, you wouldn’t think I’d still have such a middle school desire to simply fit in. At our core, no one seeks ridicule. We desire acceptance. I have quite a few non-Catholic friends, many of whom don’t understand why in the world we’d do NFP. A part of me dreads the idea of telling them about future pregnancies because I’ll inevitably be the butt of a joke about family planning. I wish I could always be confident in my decisions, a witness to truths I believe are beautiful and good. There are days, though, I feel about as confident in my lifestyle choices as I did wearing ultra low rise jeans in the early 2000s.
Then I go to Mass. And part way through, it hits me. We eat Jesus. Body. Blood. Soul. Divinity. The real deal.
Friends, that’s just plain weird to those who aren’t Catholic. Those are some eyebrow-raising beliefs!
With the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, we should not be surprised that exercising our faith would stand out in other ways.
Hold up. Is this standing out just for the sake of being different? Like my friend in 5th grade who insisted her favorite color was brown because she was a contrarian.
No. It’s a natural consequence of living in a world that has abandoned many aspects of natural law. In society at large, objective truth is believed to be non-existent. Relativism prevails where your truth is just as valid as my truth.
The Church, in her acceptance of natural family planning, is simply defending natural law: truth inherent to creation as God made it.
My favorite analogy for this involves chocolate cake.
When you eat chocolate cake, there are biological and pleasurable consequences. There are calories, fat, and sugar which will have an effect on your blood sugar, glucose stores, and eventually your waistline if you eat it too often. There are also pleasurable effects that can be objectively detected. Electrodes on your brain would show pleasure centers activated when eating chocolate cake (or tacos or bacon...).
Same goes for sex. Biological consequence: egg and sperm can meet, fertilization can occur, and conception can occur. 🎶 For the embryology textbook told me so. 🎶
And sex is pleasurable! A brain scan would also indicate pleasure centers activated as dopamine was released.
Now, back to the chocolate cake. (Not a euphemism for sex. Real chocolate cake🍩.)
If you separate the two objective truths, you say “I want to have this solely for pleasure without the biological consequences. I’m going to eat it for the delicious taste and then throw it up so I don’t have the caloric consequences.” Well, that’s an eating disorder.
Yet society at large doesn’t see any issue with separating objective biological and pleasurable natural laws of sex. To be clear, separating these truths the other way, focusing solely on the procreative biological aspect and removing all pleasure and unity from sex, is also an approach that denies a foundational aspect of its design.
We are called to be a light to the world; salt of the earth. That doesn’t mean we beat others over the head with our beliefs. It means we bring them to the truth. Not the truth as a concept; the Truth as a person.
We live life with joy in accordance to the Truth. We respect natural law as God created it and wrote it on our hearts. It happens to be very counter cultural right now, so we embrace that as authentically and best we can
The world is searching for love. Authentic love. We know who He (Love) is. Our society needs a serious reality check when it comes to love. Love is not pleasure without sacrifice.
Yeah, NFP can be hard. Life is hard. When we get right with God so we can open our hearts in a vulnerable way to admit what is weighing us down, we can then entrust ourselves to Him and walk through this life much less concerned with fitting in. As we learn to live authentically, joy can enter our hearts, and joy is contagious. Suddenly we find ourselves not fitting in because the world around us is dark, and we have become a light.