Give up… defending yourself when people judge or misunderstand your choice to use NFP
The last place I wanted to be was in the line at the post office with a squirmy 13-month-old in one arm, a package in the other, and a protruding 7-months-along belly in between – but it had to be done. There wasn’t going to be a good time to drop the box in the mail for another week, and that package needed to go.
Just in front of me stood an older woman who suddenly turned in my direction, her face crumbling in horror as she noticed my “predicament”.
“You’re having another one.” It was a statement of disgust, not a question.
“Yeap,” I curtly replied. I steeled myself for what was coming next.
Her horrified expression continued, “Your hands are going to be full.”
“Yea, I’m just glad they’re full of good things.”
She turned her still-horrified face away, and that was that.
I was already carrying more than a literal load because our family wasn’t what we had planned. The close spacing of our children had serious medical risks for me, and was a direct result of our faithfulness in using only NFP. I was in the throws of questioning the sanity of church teaching and the very goodness of God for allowing all of this to happen and found myself thinking, Really Jesus, do you really have to pile on?
I thought about that woman for a long time after, and the many who joined her ranks in offering their judgments on my family. Whether due to someone’s pain or the powerful worldly rhetoric about sex and babies, my very life provokes a reaction. It can be exhausting to have to defend or confront questions and comments every time someone sees my kids or finds out I don’t use birth control.
If I’m honest though, never have I been taught that living a faithful life would elicit praise. Quite the opposite. Over and over again, through the lives of the saints and through the life and words of Jesus himself, I learned that remaining faithful to Christ and His church would incur at least a little mockery.
These derogatory comments about something so personal definitely hurt and annoy. They can come at us out of nowhere from strangers and doctors, even family and friends, and never fail to catch us at our most vulnerable. At best, these remarks make us angry that seemingly no one can see the beauty we possess, or at worst confirm the very insecurities we’re grappling with. It can be so easy to want to get our pound of flesh with a sassy retort, to help people see what they refuse to see, or just to teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.
We must remember that our faithfulness – joyfully and honestly lived – has unknowable value as a witness to others, even if the changes we affect take exponentially longer than we would like.
Week 2 Challenge Question:
What is your interior reaction when people make rude, judgmental or ignorant comments about your family size or planning choices (whether hyperfertile or infertile or somewhere in between)? Do you turn your anger or hurt outwards back where it came from, or upwards for strength and wisdom from God? Why do you think these comments or questions get to you? How can you make an intentional habit of offering these trials in prayer for the very people who doubt, mock or undermine your faithfulness?
Scripture and Prayer
Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.
James 1: 2-5
My Jesus, when you were hanging upon your cross pouring out your perfect love for our salvation, you were mocked by the crowd with jeers and taunts. What a mystery that you would take part in every aspect of our humanity, even in that regard! Grant that when I am ridiculed for remaining faithful to your teachings and the teachings of your Church, I may turn to you in that moment on your cross, and unite my trials to yours for love of those who have injured me.
And once that has been done, grant me the wisdom in the moment to know if my witness will be best accomplished by silence, loving correction, or by the zinger I’ve been waiting to unleash.
Read this week’s Challenge Accepted from Deanna
The litany of statements/questions from strangers seemed to begin after our second child was born. We had a girl and a boy, and people would ask if we were done since we had “one of each” 🤔 (What is this, Noah’s ark?!)
We have been married 6 1/2 years, and we have been blessed with 4 children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 5 years. When I told people I was pregnant with our 4th child, the most common reaction from strangers was a wide eyed look and the question “Are you done after this one?” 😳
Now the comments we hear are things like: “You know what causes that don’t you?” “Don’t you have a TV?”
“Are they all yours?”
I admit it is tempting to reach into my arsenal of sarcasm and shoot back a zinger response to shut down silly comments… (Ex. Yes we know what causes it, and we like it!) 😉 Why are people so concerned about whether or not we have a TV?!
In the moment, there isn’t time to explain our journey with NFP, how we are practicing responsible parenthood… We don’t have time to give them our entire story or reasons for having 4 kids in 6 years of marriage…but we can share our joy.
Lately, when people have asked if we are done I smile, shrug, and say “God knows!” Or “Whatever God wants!” In a culture that is so anti-life and promotes having control over EVERYTHING, it sounds a little crazy to say we are open to the possibility of even more children and may very well need to upgrade to the “Catholic Family Van” within the next few years.
Believe it or not, the most powerful witness isn’t necessarily our story, and our sarcastic responses (as good as they may be) are not going to be what people remember the most. The greatest thing we can offer is to share the joy of our family life and affirm the gift of each of our children, regardless of family size.
Consider giving up being on the defense when people judge or misunderstand your family planning choice this lent. By simply being a loving family, you can change the world!