Steve and Becky Greene, December 14, 2015 (Couple Witness)
We weren’t always on board with Natural Family Planning – it seemed a little pie-in-the-sky at first. As we went through marriage preparation some 10 years ago, we questioned whether this was a reliable method for spacing pregnancies. Sure it’s Church teaching, but is it realistic? We needed proof that the science was sound and that the moral arguments made sense.
We were blown away by not only its effectiveness, but its greater benefits – like achieving conception, enhancing the intimacy of our relationship, modeling virtues of chastity and self-mastery for our children, and deepening our Catholic faith. For us, the Church gained all credibility on this issue, reaffirming our trust in her to lead us lovingly in all other matters of life. As a result, NFP has become one of the pillars of our marriage, integrally defining us individually and as a couple.
The bottom line revealed itself when we took the classes. We concluded we had two choices: trust and embrace the beautiful purpose of our biology as God designed and intended it, or trust a pharmaceutical company to suppress it.
That self-knowledge created a mutual respect for our feminine and masculine dignity and compatibility, and instilled awe for the profound significance of each and every act of lovemaking, especially during our fertile window. We realize that in becoming one, we may not just be witness to, but participants in, a miracle. There is no greater natural dignity bestowed on man than the opportunity to be co-creators with God.
NFP virtually eliminates the possibility of seeking selfish sexual satisfaction because it demands appreciation for, not resentment of, our fertility. Our communication and prayer regarding God’s will for marriage transcends the bedroom – we must talk about everything because everything is involved when sexual union and possible procreation go hand-in-hand.
But we’ve also learned that even when the act does not produce a child, it still bears spiritual fruit. We have the opportunity to renew our wedding vows every time we enter the marital embrace – truly becoming one flesh. That bond resets our intimacy, even as the hectic nature of life causes strain and disconnects.
Because NFP calls us to prudently decide whether to abstain or engage during our fertile time, we’ve been trained to be open to both life and sacrifice – the husband learns how to love his wife as Christ loves His Church, and the wife learns how to receive that love, allowing it to potentially generate new life in her womb.
Yes, we can validate its effectiveness – we successfully postponed pregnancy for the first two years of our marriage, conceiving our first son in our first attempt to achieve pregnancy, and spaced our second and third pregnancies by three years. But more telling of its beauty is not how it worked to help us avoid children but in how it inspired us to welcome them. In surrendering to His will, we became more intimately tuned to nudges from the Holy Spirit.
The gift of children
One night in particular stands out. We knew we were fertile, but with a 10-month-old still waking at night, financial stresses, and the question of whether we were ready to be pregnant again, lovemaking would have to wait.
But then a revelation overtook us, one we would have been deaf to without the insight Natural Family Planning affords.
We profoundly recognized that we could conceive a new life if we entered the marital embrace. If we abstained, the possibility of that life would cease forever – we of course could have other children down the line. But this child would never exist.
Nine months later, our second son – the fruit of that surrender – was born, and he is a daily reminder of the responsibility and empowerment that comes with our God-given freedom. NFP helps us see that children are neither burdens nor rights; they are divine gifts entrusted to us. This was further highlighted for us with the recent loss of our fourth child to miscarriage.
Children puncture the illusion that our lives are our own, and we are in control of them. Parenthood has become the ultimate act of faith, and acts of faith grow our faith. Through practicing NFP, we’ve been invited into holiness. We’ve learned the utter necessity of clinging to Christ in both our joys and our sorrows, genuinely proclaiming, “Not my will but yours be done.”