One of the things I tell couples I teach is my goal for them is autonomy. Autonomy in NFP is about making choices with full understanding of what the outcomes could be. To me, it means, by the time you've been with me for a six months or so (or even less for those veteran NFP users just switching methods), you should know what's up with your body, given that you've really invested in yourself and this learning process.
You understand :
How your fertility works
Where in your cycle you usually ovulate
Understand the signs of fertility
And most importantly, how to apply the method correctly according to your discernment. Discernment... what is that, exactly?
Discernment is about intention. What is our intent as a couple this month? Are we growing our family, or are we working on our relationship, on growing in intimacy outside of the martial act?
Discernment is an on-going process. It isn't something we decide once, but needs constant and consistent reevaluation. Why? Because, if we are living in communion with our spouses and Our Lord, communication is important. What we do with our bodies, specifically within marriage, matters. And using NFP is not the same as contraception. It is always an act that is intrinsically open to life, even if our discernment is we are avoiding intimacy during fertile times. God is not bound by the laws of nature, and this is how we end up with "perfect use method failures," i.e. pregnancy we did not anticipate because we followed the method correctly to avoid.
But...IS it failure? Or is it just our timeline is not conformed to the Lord's, and so, in the moment, it "feels" like failure. Maybe this baby is coming about a year, or three, sooner than you anticipated. Maybe you feel like God is messing with your "plans," and you grapple with a sense of lost "control" over the situation. Newsflash: You never had control to begin with. So...how about a story? Once upon a time, there was a Marquette Method instructor, who was fully aware of her cycles, could pinpoint subtle shifts in her fertile signs and make discernments based on those signs. The Marquette instructor had a 4 year old and just barely 2 year old, and with her husband, had discerned avoiding pregnancy for another year or so. Well... one night in September, when all the house was blissfully quiet... the Marquette instructor and her very cute husband got caught up in the "heat of the moment," as the saying goes. The Marquette instructor knew she was fertile and would ovulate in only a few days' time - i.e. prime, baby-making time. And as SHE remembers it, she made that clear to her very cute husband. The way HE remembers it... he didn't quite catch that until afterwards. Only in Heaven will we know the truth. So, after the Marquette instructor and her very cute husband discussed what this "breach of protocol" meant for them this month, they decided a baby wouldn't be unwelcome. The Marquette instructor, knowing this was kind of a done-deal, she simply trusted that whatever the Lord gave, she would receive. Less than two weeks later, those little double lines popped up on her test strip. And there was peace. For a time. Inevitably, amid toddler temper tantrums, a COVID outbreak at her job, and inevitable heated "discussions" with her very cute husband (who is also very good at "discussions"), the Marquette instructor had her fair share of doubts, of, "What, O Lord, were You thinking?! What was I thinking?!"
The Marquette instructor is all about authenticity with the Lord.
She doesn't beat around the bush.
That's part of NFP, of life - being authentic. Being real. Not only with ourselves and our spouses, but especially with God, who loves and desires our good. We can tell him unequivocally that we don't really like his plan at the moment, but authenticity also means we are vulnerable. And vulnerability means trust. To trust God is live a life that is not all our own, but that is for him and for others.
Enter June 2021.
Augustine Matthew was born to that Marquette instructor and her very cute husband in a scenario she wasn't expecting. There was no water birth at the fancy hospital 40 minutes away, or even a natural birth like she had planned and hoped for. But...it was good. It was very good.
Gus is now 17 months old and all I can say is I cannot imagine life without him. It's been a crazy year and a half with lots of laughs, and lots of tears. Tears of joy, frustration, fear, sadness. Nights where I have laid in the dark of my closet begging God to make it all better. Or go away. He's been so good to not "make it all better or go away." He has, instead, dried my tears and helped me stand up again. He's strengthened me to keep running after him. Because that is what this is all about: pursuing God. Following him, allowing him to lead and trusting that his way, his plans, his desires for my life are far better than the small, narrow ones I have concocted on my own. As I learn to hand God more and more of my heart, I am learning to love my family in ways I could not before. I am more patient, more gentle, more merciful. I have a long way to go, but the Lord will complete the work he has begun. It's my job to just say yes.
So, what about you? What will you do with the life God has gifted you? Will you cling to it, grasping at control, trying to keep flailing through the waves of life? Or... will you let go? Will you look up, and see Jesus walking on the water, over and above the crashing waves? Will you consent to the life he desires to give you, the abundant life he wants to fashion from your weakness?
Say yes. And then keep saying yes.
Look up and see him - your God, the Lover of your soul- reaching down to pull you up so that you, too, can walk on water.