This is where the rubber meets the road for RJ and I, at least for starters; We have been doing a lot of studying and praying over the last few months, and have decided to trust God with our family size and stop using contraception (or natural family planning) for good.
This journey has been going on well over a year.
When we were engaged, and I researched Natural Family Planning, I was turned off. The Catholic literature all said with such authority and certainty, "God created sex only for union and procreation, and if you use any kind of 'artificial' contraception you are placing a boundary to both of these and having sex for sinful reasons." First I believe that God's purposes for sex in a marriage are more complex than something we can reduce to simple labels. Secondly I failed to see how a pill I took with all my other supplements could put a barrier between RJ and I's unity.
I read first on Jess's blog, Making Home, that the birth control pill can cause an abortion. I started studying, googling and reading all over the web. Obviously if it was even remotely possible that I could be ovulating anyway, and that we could be fertilizing eggs that my uterus wouldn't accept, we wanted to stop taking the pill. But there was more. I saw a whole lot of people out there who were skeptical about us choosing when and when not to have children at all. People were wondering if we were ever intended to make this choice. This is something I had never heard of. I was raised under the assumption that responsible people got on the pill when they got engaged. You don't want to have children you can't care for. You want to get to know your spouse better first. You have to finish college.
We quit taking the pill, but weren't ready to completely step out on faith. My understanding of God's sovereignty is that for the time being, in our fallen world, he has put certain physical laws into motion and they govern things. At the time this included fertility for me. To say that God was active in every conception meant that God would be intentionally creating a baby from a specific act of sex in cases, such as rape, or when he knew the mother would get an abortion. I couldn't reconcile this to my understanding of the character of God. In any case no one had ever told us that the rhythm/calendar method of natural family planning doesn't really work, we ended up pregnant, and were off the hook for a while as far as trusting him with our fertility.
When Efrim was born we wanted to be more careful, even though we were not going to use a pill. I ordered The Art of Natural Family Planning, which everyone says is so simple and easy to follow. Then it comes in the mail, and OH MY, this is like a text book. I really don't think I can, or want to, do all of this nonsense. Mucus is gross, why would I touch it to see how sticky it is? I read the chapter on Ecological Breastfeeding, which sounded great, except even feeding Efrim every hour and a half 'round the clock I never missed a period after he was born. I think this is totally unfair. I was out of ideas until Betsy recommended this little gizmo called a fertility tracker, which we have been using along with condoms when I am fertile or we aren't sure.
And I was fine with this for a little while, until I started reading again. This started around Christmas when we watched Joshua Duggar's wedding special at my mom's house on cable. I sat there making fun- why would God have anything against people using a perfectly natural form of birth control? But, inside, I wasn't so sure. Why did this feel true, even though my brain said otherwise.
I tried to read a lot about Quiverfull thinking. Their highly militarized perspective was a major turnoff, so I was safe. But every time we used a condom, something felt really wrong. Even worse, whenever we didn't, and I knew it was a risk, I was still unhappy because to RJ it would have been an accident. Why did I feel this way. My brain said that what we were doing was fine. Goodness knows it was already a lot more conservative than most of our friends.
I kept reading because I wanted to do what God wanted me to do, whether it was convenient, or sensible, or culturally accepted- even by my Christian family and friends. I kept reading, and this is what changed my mind.
1. Proverbs 10:22 says, "The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it." and 1 Timothy 4:4 says, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving."
Now all throughout the Bible, children are always described as a blessing, and even if we were to get pregnant unintentionally, we would receive the child with thanksgiving. So if these passages are true, when God gives a child, he adds no sorrow with that blessing, and if we would consider he/she a blessing, then we have no reason to reject them. Those who follow full quiver teachings (Psalm 127:3-5), call this "receiving children as unqualified blessings from God."
2. Do we believe that it is us that provides for our family, or God? I believe that the Bible says, and I have experienced, that it is always God who provides for us. Without him all of our works are futile. Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:20-31 tell us that as long as we make seeking God our first priority he will provide for all of our needs. That leads to number 3.
3. When we are afraid that we cannot provide for another child, are we basing this on the world's standard of living or the kingdom of God's? We may not always have everything we want, but maybe we are better off having only what we need. In my experience relationships are worth far more than possessions, any day.
4. Do we believe that God designed sex to create life? I really don't see how we can argue with that fact. So why have we given into a cultural pressure to let it become an act of physical pleasure with no consequences? There are two consequences of this belief. A-back to the Catholic belief that sex is only for union and procreation. We all know that people have sex, and enjoy it, with neither of these purposes in mind, and that married couples can enjoy many benefits other than these from the act. For me the issue is not that this is the only purpose for sex, but that it is the ideal purpose for sex. 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 say, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." I want what is best out of my marriage relationship, not only what is okay. B- Back to the children that are conceived in painful situations, only to be aborted or abused. This was never a part of God's design. These things are a result of people having sex in the wrong place, the wrong time, and for the wrong reasons.
5. Do we believe we know better than God when, inside of our loving marriage relationship, it is best for sex to create a child, and when it should not? This is pride and foolishness. It would be absurd for a professing Christian to actually believe this. Whatever reasons we have; financial, fear for the health of the child, not wanting someone born into a world of suffering, fear that we will be a bad parent, fear that a certain number of children will mess up our plans. Isn't God big enough to meet each of these? Doesn't he know better than we do what is best for us, and for all of the children he has for us?
6. God uses marriage and the family as a metaphor for who he is all throughout the Bible. The sexual things he prohibits are all out of concern for what will hurt us. Things that will hurt us physically also serve as a reminder of the things that will hurt us spiritually (Luke 12:4-5). He requires that we abstain from fornication because he wants us to be pure, because he is pure. He requires that we abstain from adultery, because he is faithful (spiritual adultery is idolatry, funny how they sound the same.) So why would a God who calls himself Father, and who created man out of the abundance of love within his triune being, ever ask that we abstain from our unity bearing children?
Look at it this way- On the one hand you have a married couple who aren't ready to have children because they are just getting settled or feel they are not mature enough, or they don't want to have more children because they feel they have all they can care for already. On the other hand you have a church-married to Jesus Christ. What if the church decided it wasn't ready to give birth to any new Christians, or who decided that it had more than it could care for already. What if we prayed, God don't work through us to bring rebirth to any more people, we just can't take care of them.
Let him take care of them then. This is kind of a silly picture, but it makes you think.
The bottom line to me is this: This is about more than just accepting children, or not doing something God wants us not to. It is about rejoicing in God's beautiful design for our family. It's about realizing that he wants to bless us so much more than we could ever ask or imagine. It's about being a part, in some small way, of the plan he has for the whole world (what beautiful things will he do through the lives of your children?). That is why I want to share this with all of my friends.
But I am scared. Will the friend feel hurt, who is choosing to abstain from children out of fear for their health? Will the friend who has career plans call me self-righteous and judgmental? It is easy for me, who has always loved children, and wanted more than anything to be their caregiver to say that I will trust God to give e as many as he desires, but what about my friend who doesn't care for children, who has always lived a life of affluence, and who has made all of her life plans based on working outside of the home-growing up in a church who said that birth control is okay? I want them to let go of all of their fears and plans, to trust God that what he has is better, but I am scared that they won't understand.