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By Kara Storey
My husband and I just finished teaching another marriage-preparation course yesterday. Every month for the past two years we’ve had the opportunity to talk to young couples about sex and natural family planning.
There’s nothing like 40 pairs of eyes staring straight back at you with the look of, “You guys are out-of-your-mind crazy.”
At least we have their attention, right?
The fact is, as I stand in front of them and start mentioning the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of natural family planning, I see in many faces a light switch being flipped. Heads start to nod. Hands start taking notes. I am striking a chord, something is resonating in their souls. Their hearts know truth when they hear it.
When I first began teaching the course, I would agonize over the NFP session and exactly what I said or did not say. Did I leave something out? Did I make it sound too easy, too perfect and forget to talk about the frustrations? Or did I scare them all away with talk about mucus, daily temperature checks and the irony that when avoiding pregnancy it’s precisely when our bodies most desire sex that we can’t have it?
Thankfully, I’ve come to peace with the fact that my witness will never be perfect. If I forget a detail here or there, it’s OK. Those details they can learn about later. But the most important thing I must convey to them is that living a life of total self-gift is a life of joy. I want them to see the freedom and happiness that comes from living a marriage that’s open to life.
But I’m not just able to witness this joy to them based on my own experience. No, I am able to witness to them because I, myself, have been witnessed to. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI wrote that “among the fruits that ripen if the law of God be resolutely obeyed, the most precious is certainly this, that married couples themselves will often desire to communicate their own experience to others.”
I admit that I live a spoiled life when it comes to being supported in our choice to use NFP. Most of our friends and family are also NFP users. Yet each of their experiences are different. For those with regular cycles and a longer-delay postpartum before their first period, being open to life can be relatively easy. But some couples we know find frustration in hard-to-read signs, some even changing methods more than once. For others facing infertility, NFP can be a cross and constant reminder of one more month without an answer to prayer.
Whether it’s successes or struggles, triumphs or frustrations, all of these couples share one thing in common: when both the husband and wife embrace being open to life, it brings joy to their marriages. Even when things don’t turn out perfectly (or do!), deep down there’s a profound peace that “all will be well.” That although they may have to sell all they own to buy that pearl of great price, it is a pearl of infinite value and worthy of sacrifice.
This is the witness my husband and I strive to convey to those living in this world who have no idea there is another way. But it’s the witness of those around us, living in various circumstances and yet still open to life, that allows us to say with confidence that no matter the struggle or sacrifice, this will bring joy to your marriage. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday you will be thankful you chose to live a life of total self-gift.
Kara Storey and her husband, Adam, live in Des Moines, Iowa, with their three children, Gabriel, Cecilia and Gemma. She is a member of the Couple to Couple League and a regular contributor to I Believe In Love.
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