Abortion, Contraception, Culture of Death, Family Life, Marriage, NFP

Let’s be Done

March 25, 2014

I so want to throw my hands up and yell ‘enough’ to the beneficent creator of the universe who has seen fit to send three bouncing bundles of joy our way in a little over 4 years. Especially after days like today. Especially after bedtime pretty much every night. 

Even now, as I sit here convalescing in the family room, I can hear faint wailing coming from the back corner of the house as the boys resign themselves to the cyclical horror of pajamas and comfort objects in their black-out shade darkened bedroom. Evie is also starting to whimper, because 45 solid minutes of nursing wasn’t sufficient to quench her raging bedtime thirst.

With no small amount of effort and resentment I heave my weary body off the couch and pad towards the kids’ rooms. I hate this part of the day, and yet I am so very aware of how fleeting these frantic years of littleness really are.

It’s also moments like these when I most closely empathize with our contraceptive culture. Because dammit, this is hard.

If that were the end game, keeping life relatively uncomplicated versus taking up one’s cross and following…well then sign my doctor’s name on the dotted Rx. I can completely understand why a couple would choose to limit the madness, to shut the door on the possibility of further complications, and to issue an indefinite ‘no trespassing’ mandate to the God of the universe, posted in plain sight on their bedroom door.

But that’s not the endgame, is it? 

Our mortal toil here on earth is exactly that: work. A lot of it. No matter the circumstances or situation of one’s life, nobody gets out without putting in some hard time. And children are a lot of work. In fact, they’re kind of the perfect means by which those of us called to the married life can work out our salvation with fear and potty training. 

But they’re more than just work, however ardently popular culture – and tired mommy bloggers like me – might try to convince you otherwise. They’re also immortal souls. Little images of the Word made flesh, Who dwelt among us. And they deserve to be seen as more than accessories or add-ons to an otherwise ‘perfect’ and ordered life. 

Children are not something you ‘do’ in marriage once you’ve bought the house, landed the job, and signed the second lease agreement for the fancy SUV. They’re actually the point of marriage, the other half of the twofold equation for ‘the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring.’

Surprised? Anyone in this culture would be. After all, how many times have we heard otherwise, been instructed otherwise, even heard preaching that insisted otherwise?

Children, our culture would have us believe, are optional upgrades at best, and life-ending impediments to happiness at worst. This is the fruit of contraception, and its evil twin sister, abortion. Children have become, in our minds, the enemy. The enemy of happiness. The enemy of productivity. The enemy of comfort, wealth, and leisure. And in making them so, we have aligned ourselves against God Himself.

“Whoever shall receive one of these children in my name, receives me: and whoever shall receive me, receives not me, but him that sent me.

We can easily forget, in all our planning and charting and discerning, that we’re not ultimately in control. Even when science purports to tell us otherwise. Even when our hearts desperately wish we could be. Life, despite our best efforts to manipulate, frustrate, create, contort, and confine, is not entirely under our jurisdiction. To believe and to act otherwise is to live a lie, to mistake a charade for reality. 

Contraception has become one of the greatest charades in all of human history. It offers us the ultimate illusion of control: control of life itself.

Honestly, the Church doesn’t condemn the practice of contraception because she wants more butts in the seats. She isn’t trying to corner the market on future human beings, and she certainly isn’t attempting to chain women to the cookstove with dozens of children, keeping her happily at home and tucked away from the public square. Couldn’t be further from the truth.

She condemns the practice of contraception because of what it does to the person, to the marriage, to the potential children in question. It’s all for love, and whether or not modern man can wrap his skeptical mind around this, it’s the truth.

In his new pastoral letter, released today, Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska tells us the following: 

“God… created marriage to be unifying and procreative. To join husband and wife inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new. Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities.”

Isn’t that wild? It’s the very opposite of what we’ve been sold by media and marketing and hollywood andinsert blame here. In many cases, it’s the opposite of what we’ve heard at church. 

Contraception doesn’t make us responsible adults; it renders us sterile adolescents, unable to grow in our faith or in our relationships

Bishop Conley goes on to quote soon-to-be-saint John Paul II:

In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote that our culture suffers from a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and… a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment.”  Generous, life-giving spousal love is the antitode to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.

What the what? An obstacle to personal fulfillment? Hell, I feel like that every morning at 6:45. My children are deeply, endlessly opposed to my deepest means of personal fulfillment: sleep.

So you see, even my pew-warming butt needs to hear a message like this. Over and over again. And to re-read Humanae Vitae with a discerning heart and open eyes. 

Children are not some kind of marital accessory, a means of ‘leveling up’ to the next developmental stage of a romantic relationship. They’re something new entirely. And at the end of the day, God forgive me for forgetting this over and over again. I am the foremost of sinners in the arena of marital love and charity. It’s part of why I’m so deeply, painfully grateful for a Church who helps rehabilitate me daily. Hourly, some nights.

But perfect love casts out all fear. 

Fear of failure. Fear of bodily destruction (hellooooo stretch marks and extra 30 lbs). Fear of ridicule by a culture utterly opposed to what we are doing with our lives. Fear of loss, even…because the more you have to love, the more you have to lose.

Perfect love. It’s the antidote to fear. And the antidote to a culture so utterly self absorbed that the very notion of delaying gratification or suffering for love of another is regarded as pathological.

Fear is at the root of our enormous distrust of life and our hopeless misunderstanding of love. We are a culture rich beyond belief, unprecedented in all of human history…and yet we live like anxious paupers, scrabbling around in the dirt for our daily bread when the One Who created us wants to lay a banquet of unfathomable riches.

I am the foremost of sinners. The most anxious pauper, scrabbling around for a scrap of security or worldly regard, worrying constantly about how things look or feel. Thank you, God, for illuminating my darkened intellect with the Truth of Your good plan for human life, for human love. Though I rail against it internally almost daily, my stubborn will consenting over and over again not my will, but yours, be done.

And that’s why we never say never. We never declare, with any certainty or advanced knowledge that we’re ‘done.’ Because who knows? We might overcome our deep-seated natural tendency toward selfishness again at some point in the future. And because we’re not intentionally frustrating the procreative power of our married love, there might very well be a name to go along with that momentary lapse in selfishness, 9 months down the road.

Let’s never be done living God’s plan for our lives. Not until the final curtain call. 

(Read Bishop Conley’s entire letter here. It’s beyond good.)

34 Comments

  • Reply R2P2 March 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I currently only have the one baby, but adding to our fold is on my mind a lot. I wonder about how I’ll be able to handle it when some days it feels like I can barely manage one. Or if I will be able to accept new little ones if it’s at a time when it doesn’t feel “convenient.” This was a good reminder that we are called to so much more than my ideas of convenience and comfort!

  • Reply KK March 25, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I am due to have #4 any day and my oldest is 4.5. I forget all of this all of the time when I am overwhelmed and freaked out about how we will handle another baby when the day is already overwhelming and very full.

  • Reply Kaitlin @ More Like Mary March 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Oh Jenny. I can’t even begin to tell you how timely this is for me. And I’m sure for countless others. This post would have been amazing of you had stopped after just the first few paragraphs. The fact that you kept going and kept quoting and kept preaching makes it truly the work of the Holy Spirit and a wake up to tired moms like me everywhere. Thank you. A million thank you’s. This raised my desire to crash the Austin party just to hear you speak to a whole new level.

  • Reply Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas March 25, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Well done!

  • Reply Elizabeth March 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    This post was like a refreshing wind through my cluttered mind this afternoon. Thank you so much for your honesty, your vulnerability, your faithfulness! Thank you for your “Fiat!” And happy Solemnity of the Annunciation!

  • Reply Hannah Gokie March 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Bishop Conley is pretty awesome (we in Lincoln are pretty darn amazed with him, even after how awesome Bruskewitz was). But you took his greatness and ran with it. Thanks for the post – with my first coming this was a good reminder for our future “plans” after he/she gets here.

  • Reply Kathleen March 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Bravo!

  • Reply Micaela Darr March 25, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Needed this today,Jenny. Excellent stuff.

  • Reply Kelly Halverson March 25, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    go Bishop Conley, go! I haven’t read it yet but live in Lincoln and I am excited to read it.

    And I’m glad for this reminder. And I’m glad I’m not alone in my desire for easy and selfish and it is sometimes an hourly, or minute by minute thing, giving myself to them over and over.

  • Reply Cecilia Street March 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    This hit me in the heart today… thank you SO much for writing it. I have my third baby (in four years) due Friday and I have been very, very fearful about giving birth again. Yet all week, the phrase that has been playing over in my mind has been from our wedding vows “… accept children lovingly as a gift from God… accept children lovingly as a gift from God.” You took that concept and put it into context so beautifully. Thank you! Praying you receive many blessings for posting this.

  • Reply Sarah Harkins March 25, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Yes! Thank you! I gets so frusterated with the lie that moms should be the happiest people in the world because they have the best job. I feel like thereis a peer pressure to feel this way and if you don’t there’s something wrong- like you must be a bad mom or something. After 4 kids spaced close together and homeschooling thrown in the mix; I am hardly the poster child for mommy bliss. Its hard. Hard is not fun. But that’s ok. There are times when it is fun- but God forbid the rest of the world sees the hard times on your face! Ugh. Anyway say hi to my bro and sis in law. I hear you know them.

  • Reply Ashley March 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I needed this so much today. Thank you for speaking what I know in my heart, but sometimes have a hard time remembering. Being a mama is HARD, but exactly where I’m supposed to be.

  • Reply Laura Aileen March 25, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    This is perfect. After both of my babies, I have hit a point of sleep deprivation and overwheming fear where I say “that’s it! No more babies!” even though God continues to show me that He will always take care of us. To paraphrase a saint (I’d love to look up the exact quote and saint but….toddlers need lunch…) “God always gives me what I want because I only want what God gives me”. I want to live by those words! Thanks for another outstanding and insightful article…I will be sharing this at my parish’s moms group.

  • Reply Michele Chronister March 25, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Jenny, this is fantastic! Thanks for this important reminder.

  • Reply Eliese March 25, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Brava! I loved Bishop Conley’s letter (love love LOVE him) and when I read it, I actually thought of you and sending it to you… maybe that is weird since, ya know, we don’t know each other, but you always have great points to make that dovetail with his message. So I am glad to read your take! Now I should probably go see what they are destroying, with accompanying shouts of “BANG,” up in my mom’s closet. Bless ’em.

    • Reply Eliese March 25, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      They = my boys. And the answer is each other. NBD

  • Reply Rochelle Galeski March 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    All I can say is…you are so very correct. Thank you thank you thank you for your words of wisdom.

  • Reply Erin March 26, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Thank you do much for writing this. Your timing is perfect for me.

  • Reply Hafsa March 26, 2014 at 4:06 am

    Sent over here from Bonnie’s blog and it was worth the link click. You have an amazing talent and these words struck me. Thank you for writing this!

  • Reply Agnes March 26, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    This is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! holy crap! Beautiful. AMEN.

  • Reply Cindy Cordeiro March 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Wow! As the ladies before me have said, thank you for the reminder. It was a beautifully written kick in the pants for me. I needed it. 🙂
    Have a wonderful day with your 3 bundles of joy!

  • Reply Emily Cihlar March 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Yes, yes, yes!

  • Reply Carolyn_Svellinger March 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Loved this so bad. I shared all over Facebook and it’s stirring up trouble, and I hope, opening up hearts. When people as how many children we plan to have, my husband and I always say: All of them.

    • Reply Lauren August 19, 2014 at 5:00 am

      Best. Answer. Ever.
      Bless you!

  • Reply froggingit March 28, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing your wise words & insights in such a beautiful & humble way.

  • Reply Kate @ Daffodils March 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    What a wonderful post! We have 3 boys under the age of 5 and started having children young. So many people judge that decision because of all of the things we didnt ‘do’ first, but to us, having a family was exactly what we are called to do. You put these thoughts into words perfectly. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Jennifer S. March 29, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Oh my goodness with the night time routine… you are exhausted from a long day… all you want is a break… all they want is your attention. And some days I feel like I can barely handle two– would everything absolutely fall apart if there were three? Then I look at my sweet son, peacefully nursing/sleeping, and we wouldn’t have known him if God had not intervened and said, “It’s time.” So when I think about doubting God’s plans I simply look at my son and thank God for blessing us with him– you win God– you were right, and I trust You.

  • Reply Paul Cugini March 29, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Very good sentiments. My goodness am I the only man commenting on this, LOL? Anyway I would just make the point that the Church says it is acceptable to space your children and limit the number of children you have, provided that you use natural family planning and not artificial birth control. So if you want to have children back to back I do think it’s great, however it is not necessary to do this in order to not run afoul of Catholic doctrine. Also, with financial realities being what they are, most couples are simply incapable of providing for more children, beyond a certain point. Most of us, of ordinary financial means, will reach this point before we get old enough to become naturally infertile. So once this happens I would think it becomes necessary to utilize natural family planning methods.

    • Reply Jenny March 30, 2014 at 3:03 am

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Reply Jenny March 30, 2014 at 3:04 am

      Great clarification. We do use Creighton, but we’re short a grave reason, at the moment. Well, at least we were when #3 was conceived.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Lea Singh April 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I have had days like this regularly, thinking this is just too hard! Not long ago we had three under three, and it was really tough at times. Finally now, things are getting a little easier as our oldest is turning 5ve next month. I am celebrating that birthday even more than her, I think. Alleluia!

  • Reply Suzanne February 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I remember the days of having 3 or 4 little kids running around. I’d say life was the toughest with the first 3 in under 4 yrs. But now I am the very happy, much calmer, mother of 6 and life is good! Everything changes when you have some older kids, more able to reason and understand! “Be not afraid!”, if you already have 3 little ones, you are at the hardest point! It really truly does get easier after this! God bless all of you young moms who are open to accepting new life!

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