Obedience and NFP

I expect obedience from my kids. Not “Let me take ten minutes to explain to you why it’s necessary for you to turn off that Xbox.” More like the “Turn it off now, please, or you won’t see those remotes for a week.” I know that’s an unpopular parenting philosophy today, seen as authoritarian and overbearing, but I don’t care.

Behold, our woefully oppressed offspring.

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We encourage questions and conversations from them, and we value their opinions and preferences. But we expect them to do as we say first, so that we can talk later.

Yesterday my 3-year-old was running in front of the house. “Please walk!” I told her. Then told her again when she didn’t listen. And a third time, more forcefully, after that.

But why should she obey? She’s outside, isn’t she? She’s not in the street. Her sister is running. Why can’t SHE run? Surely she can just trust her own judgement and exercise her will. Why not?

Well, because she’s three. She didn’t see the sand on the driveway and put it together with the fact that she was wearing slippery shoes and that she’s the most accident prone of all of our children. Of course she didn’t, because she’s three and I do not expect her to reason like a tiny adult. If she had just stopped I could have explained about the sand and the shoes, but she didn’t, so she found out the hard way.

Lesson learned right? Sure, two skinned knees and a skinned hand might be a good logical consequence. But what if she had been about to run into the path of an oncoming car and disobeyed when I told her to stop? Letting children learn from consequences is all well and good until the consequence is getting hit by a truck. And what if you have more than one or two children. Say….six? If two children don’t obey your rule to stay by you in a parking lot, you can grab one with each hand. But if six children disobey the same rule, you’re kind of screwed. Better be prepared to make a split-second decision about which one is your favorite so you know who to run after.

Around here, most rules are about safety – physical and emotional safety. And obedience in the big things starts with obedience in the small things. My kids have freedom and choices. I definitely pick my battles, or I would all day be playing Evil Overlord to the crew. But you can bet that when I pick my battles I am going to dig my heels down deep. Resorting to “because I said so” every once in a while will not stifle their personality, kill their spirit, or leave them vulnerable to brainwashing. I don’t expect my children to “obey” themselves right into the back of a kidnapper’s car. That’s why we teach safety too, and right and wrong, and why we build parent-child trust with them. Quick and trusting obedience to your loving parents is not the same as blind obedience to anyone who tells you to do anything ever.

Which brings me to the trickier part: Do I apply this to myself?

Do I trust that God’s “rules” are meant for my safety – physical and emotional? Body and soul?

Shouldn’t I, as a child of God, obey my Father just as I expect my children to obey my husband and me? Shouldn’t I listen to Him instead of to the voices of those whose love is NOT unconditional and all-encompassing? Shouldn’t I listen even when I do not understand? Even when I disagree? Even when I do not see the whole picture – that sand on the driveway?

Sure it’s easy to be obedient when you think that obedience to God means just being nice most of the time.

But what about the harder stuff?

The Catholic Church  (and every Christian church up until the Lambeth Conference of 1930) teaches that artificial contraception is a grave moral evil. This is a clear teaching, not one open to interpretation.But still, a great many Catholics ignore this teaching, or do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify their use of contraception or convince themselves that they are the exception to the rule. And I understand – I’ve been there myself.

Like my daughter running with her slippery shoes, I heard the command but decided it did not apply to me. Why should I obey something I don’t agree with?  I knew the reasoning behind it, but it’s amazing what your mind can dismiss when you’re set on keeping your head in the sand.

So what changed? Well that’s a story for another day, but it can be summed up with: a novena, Adoration, and very special people who demanded I hold myself up to a higher standard.

St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides.”

So basically I said white and the Church said black and I kept believing I was right, until I realized I was not. Because to fully live out my Catholic faith I had to let go and trust that if the Church says black, then it’s black. So I obeyed, even though at first I didn’t want to.

I obeyed anyway.

It was scary. Obedience is not easy, especially in this climate where this particular teaching is seen as antiquated and ridiculous;  this world where casual sex is no big deal and children are an inconvenience or a punishment or disposable,  and people seem shocked – SHOCKED – that it is in the natural order of things for sex to make babies.  It’s not easy and it’s not a one-time victory over temptation. Every once in a while I’m tempted back into those thoughts that say “Nobody follows that teaching” and “I know better” and “I’m the exception” and “God forgives anything”. And He does forgive any sin, if you’re repentant. But what if you’re not repentant, and instead hell-bent on justifying your sin, hugging it tightly and pridefully to yourself instead of trying to leave it behind?

So I obey, even when it’s not whole-hearted. I walk when I would rather run, because I trust He is keeping me from slipping on that sand on the driveway. And when it’s difficult, I talk. I talk to God through prayer, I talk to friends who I know are in the same situation, I talk to my husband. And while I know it’s something I will continue to struggle with – because simple does not mean easy – most days I am at peace with it, not just accepting but embracing it as the fulfillment of God’s plan for marriage. Humanae Vitae makes so much sense once you commit to reading it with an open heart – especially the eerily accurate predictions of how society would be affected by widespread contraception. I encourage all Catholics struggling with teachings on contraception to read it.

Maybe you have no interest in learning about natural family planning methods, or you already use NFP and are completely at peace with it, all of the time. But whatever commandment, teaching, tradition it is that you are struggling with, I encourage you to question, reasearch, talk and pray. But while you’re doing all of that, obey. Trust. “Seek first the Kingdom of God” and you might be surprised at what is revealed to you.

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I Used to Be Religiously Pro-Life

 

 

I used to be religiously pro-life.

Or rather, I used to be pro-life because I am religious.

I’m still pro-life. And I’m still devoutly Catholic. I just don’t necessarily believe the former is dependent on the latter.

Being pro-life merely because your religion dictates it puts you in a dangerously tempting position – a position to say “abortion is wrong for me, but not everyone shares my beliefs, so it is not wrong for everyone” much as you would say “It is wrong for me to miss Sunday Mass, but not everyone shares my beliefs, so it is not wrong for everyone”.

Many people I know acknowledge the tragedy of abortion and would never choose it for themselves, but simply do not feel that it is their place to make that decision for others. Of course, this “personally pro-life” position is basically the definition of pro-choice. I understand the appeal of this position. It is a comfortable position to be in (moral relativism usually is), but you can only remain in this position if you don’t think too deeply about whether or not abortion is a victimless action.

Greg Koukl proposed that “If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate.”

Because of my religion, but also because of biology and logic, I believe the unborn are human. Deep down, I think most people know this to be true and just need to follow this knowledge to its logical conclusion.

If you think abortion is sad, horrible, difficult, and/or serious, you are already halfway there.

If you think there should be some limits on abortion, regardless of what those limits are, you are already halfway there.

If you are “personally pro-life”, you are already halfway there.

If you think abortion is “a necessary evil” or should remain “legal, safe, and rare”, you are already halfway there.

If you’ve ever treasured an ultrasound image of your child, you are halfway there.

Why should abortion be rare? Why is the decision so difficult? Why would you never have an abortion? Why don’t you like it?

Why?

Because abortion destroys something that has instrinsic value.

Why do we say it’s okay for you to “choose” to destroy this, but we need laws to prevent you from destroying that?

What determines our humanity? Is it size? Location? Age? Independence? Circumstance? Being wanted?

Is a teenager’s life worth more than a toddler’s because the teenager is bigger?

Is a newborn’s life worth less than that of a 10-year-old’s life because the 10-year-old is more independent?

Is a professional  athlete’s right to life greater than that of a woman in a wheelchair?

Is the child of wealthy parents more worthy of legal protection than a child who frequently goes hungry?

Can a mother kill her son because as he grows he resembles and reminds her of an abusive ex-husband?

If a young girl wanders into your house uninvited, are you allowed to kill her? What if asking her to leave would endanger her life? What if you called the police and they told you it would take them nine hours to come collect the child? What if it took nine months? Could you kill her then?

We cannot draw arbitrary lines at points in human development or changes in circumstance where we go from “I don’t know if you can hurt him. That’s up to you” to “No. You do not have the freedom to intentionally cause harm to an innocent human.” A person’s value does not increase by degrees. It is inherent, intrinsic, and not up for each of us to determine according to our opinion.

This is why my pro-life position is not determined solely by my faith. My faith does inspire and embolden me to speak on this difficult topic where I am usually a very non-confrontational person, but I believe abortion is as much a human rights issue as it is a religious one.

My hope is that in the future we will think about legal abortion they way we think about slavery today. So rather than accusing me of imposing my view (be assured that my wimpy blog and I do not have that power), instead understand that I am proposing that you think about it. I can’t change a law, but maybe I can change a heart.

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