It doesn’t take long when first discovering the world of natural family planning to realize that most couples have a love/hate relationship with NFP. The reasons to love it are obvious and the reasons to hate it are obvious. It is a strange mix of sweet and sour that many couples struggle to find the balance between. But if we allow it to, the sweet and sour combination of NFP can be far more satisfying than our favorite sweet and sour candy or savory dish. In order to fully appreciate the sweet, however, we have to be willing to embrace the sour.
Embrace The Sour Of NFP
The first step to embracing the sour is recognizing it and calling it what it is – sour. And truly, the sour elephant in the NFP room is undeniably abstinence. When it comes to sour, this component is as sour as it comes – especially when you consider that, if you intend to postpone pregnancy, you will be choosing to abstain during the wife’s most fertile phase of her cycle. And trust me when I say that couples who have been practicing NFP for a while will be the first to tell you that abstaining during a fertile phase is significantly more sour than abstaining during a non-fertile phase. What can I say? God’s design for unity and procreation is pretty incredible and goes hand in hand with His command to go forth and multiply. In fact, the design was so well thought out it turns out, that it makes it rather difficult to not go forth and multiply.
So, it’s clear that abstaining is one of the sour aspects of NFP but it’s also not difficult to find the sweet that balances the sour in this strange but satisfying combination. If we allow it to, abstaining can lead to happiness and contentment within marriage as well. Though it’s undeniable that some couples find this sweet aspect easier to come by than others, the truth about the idea of finding and maintaining intimacy with your spouse during times when you have chosen to abstain from physical intimacy is a sweet, sweet thing. All we have to do is look at the relationship between Joseph and Mary to understand that truth. Is there anything in the world more sweet than the Holy Family? Of course, there isn’t! The Holy Family is the epitome of sweet. Joseph and Mary chose to dedicate their lives to God to an extent that meant they never joined in physical intimacy and yet they are the true model of what marriage and family are supposed to look like. When modern couples choose to do likewise and embrace the sour of abstaining when they are doing so to follow Church teaching and show their dedication to our Lord, they will inevitably find the sweetness to balance it.
The Work Of NFP
Another sour aspect of NFP is the work. Depending on the individual couple in question, the work can be difficult to keep up with at times. It’s all thermometers, monitors, charting, tiny little plastic cups…the list can feel never-ending at times. And let’s face it, when tiny toddlers run away with your thermometer and you don’t realize it until you are forced to get out of bed the next morning in search of it and subsequently don’t have enough information charted to confirm ovulation…well, that’s pretty sour. Or when the contents of your tiny little plastic cup get accidentally spilled before the dip can occur and you are forced to clean it up and worse still, miss peak…yep – sour and more sour still.
Finding The Sweetness Of NFP
But the sweet can be found in these moments and in the work of NFP as well, if we allow ourselves to step back and appreciate it. The work that goes into NFP is extremely educational and we get to learn a lot about our bodies or our spouse’s bodies and how they work. That design that was mentioned before as being pretty incredible? Well, it’s a pretty amazing thing to understand that design in a far more profound way than you ever learned in health class. It gives you the opportunity to really understand the intricacies of God’s design and further still, understand to a pretty substantial degree that new life truly is a miracle! So much goes into the process of creating new life and if learning NFP methods which yes, do demand some extra work from us, can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves and of the miracle of human life overall…well I think that’s pretty sweet.
And as far as the tiny toddlers running off with thermometers and cups being spilled, these moments have the potential to be sweet as well. For one thing, the beauty of the family can be found in the chaos of having a family. The little toddler hands that stole that thermometer? I’m pretty sure that even in moments like these, we would have to admit that those little dimpled hands are extremely sweet. And one of the truly beautiful aspects of utilizing NFP to postpone pregnancy is that in those cycles when unexpected things happen and you aren’t able to accurately determine the fertile period, it gives you the opportunity to take a step back and reassess.
As a couple you are able to take moments like these and prayerfully consider if God is calling you to embrace sweet new life in your marriage and if not, you are able to choose to embrace the sour taste of abstinence as a beautiful sacrifice for God. Either way, it’s not too hard to find that the sweet balances the sour beautifully when we can manage to keep our focus on God.
Find The Balance Of Natural Family Planning To Make It Work
The balance between sweet and sour when it comes to NFP can be difficult to attain at times but the examples of potential balance between the two are endless. NFP can be, and often is, difficult (sour). That is the simple truth. However, NFP can also be, and often is, beautiful (sweet). That is also the truth. Couples can learn to be loving, giving, and selfless through the use of NFP in their marriages – if they are willing to embrace the sourness that will inevitably overwhelm the senses from time to time.
So try not to focus only on the sour of NFP or of any challenging aspect of your marriage or faith life. And while that is far easier said than done, when we can keep the perspective of faith, marriage, and NFP (which all go hand in hand) on God, we will find a level of sweetness in Him that somehow makes the sour pleasant. Our commitment to following His Will and His Church gives us the graces necessary to appreciate the sweetness all the more.
God is love. He is beauty. He is the embodiment of sweetness. And because He is all of those things, even though not a single one of us deserves it, He takes the sour in our lives and makes it sweet in Him. So embrace the sour and offer it to Him. Perhaps you will find that not only do you more fully appreciate the sweet, but that you also have a newfound appreciation for the sour – because it led you closer to Him.