"Trust me," little girls whisper as they extend tiny pinkie fingers in exchange for big secrets under blankets at slumber parties.
"Trust me, it will only hurt for a little bit," pleads a mama trying to comfort a fearful child as she cleans a scrapped knee.
"Trust me, I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you," a young man declares with shaking hands as he places a ring on the finger of his blushing bride-to-be.
With the divorce rate creeping closer to 50% it is imperative all who are married, or hope to one day be married, spend time contemplating what is needed to build and sustain a successful marriage.
Marriage is a road sign to heaven. Each spouse wants only what is good for their partner. They sacrifice and work to lift their partner up in ways that are affirming and good for the person they love. Sometimes one spouse is down and in need of some extra TLC from the other. When one is weak the other is strong - because they must be. They take the extra weight off of their partner and put it onto their own shoulders. They pick up the cross. They do so because they love, and because they trust that when the time comes, the weight will be lifted from their shoulders by the one who loves them in return.
Just as Christ emptied Himself fully, giving His life for the Church, married people are called to do the same for each other. In order to let ourselves be loved we must let our spouse fully know us and we must commit to fully knowing our spouse.
How often do you trust someone with your life who doesn't know you?
As annoyed as I get with the well meaning women in the church pew or the grocery line who make a living dispensing unsolicited advice, I tend to take their comments with a grain of salt. Now - if my best friend or husband calls me out on something it tends to sting a bit harder. Why? Because they know me and I trust they have my best interest at heart.
Who knows you better than the one who made you or the one who vowed to love you forever?
So what happens when we are not willing to give ourselves fully? What happens when we take the focus of our love off of how we can serve God by loving and serving the person we vowed our life to and we shift that focus inward, toward self-service?
Marriages fall apart. Society prides itself on free sex and instant gratification. We live on credit and are told we can define everything for ourselves. We drown in a pool of choices and we call it freedom.
This does not work. I can confidently say it does not work for anyone, but unfortunately, that is currently not very PC of me, but I'll say it anyway. It does not work. I can't wrap my mind around our modern culture's view of "feminism."
Stealing my spiritual gift by pumping my body full of chemicals or "allowing" me to make a "choice" I wasn't created to have to face is not "freeing."
A woman's spiritual gift is motherhood. No, we will not all physically give birth and feed a baby at our breast. But we were born as a women for a reason. God has a beautiful plan for us. Some will spend nights snuggling little ones, some will serve in a nurturing role in the world in another glorious way. These are our gift and one is not higher than another. To change the physical chemistry of a women's body with hormones to suppress this gift by convincing the body it is pregnant so that it won't become pregnant doesn't sound too empowering to me. To create barriers such as condoms and other artificial birth control devices and plant them in the middle of the marital act is not self-giving! It robs a women of her spiritual gifts. It robs a marriage of it's very essence - self-giving love. It is disrespectful to to ourselves and the person we claim to love fully. It is disrespectful to Christ who did not place a barrier between Himself and His love for us.
A self-giving relationship is difficult, humbling and fruitful. It's that last word where couples often stumble. Fruitful. No, this does not mean your last name must be Dugger or you aren't fully giving your life over to your spouse or to God. For some a self-giving marriage rooted in prayer has led to the discernment of a call to a large family. This is wonderful - but by no means does it define a better or holier marriage than the family who struggles with infertility or the couple who has prayerfully discerned one or two children.
Due to many circumstances my husband and I know we are not called to an extra large family. But we have been blessed because we have grown together as we've prayed and educated ourselves in the practice of NFP (Natural Family Planning). We don't pop pills or allow barriers into our marriage because we "know" what is best for us. We continually pray. We have practiced time periods of abstinence. We have grown stronger and learned more about each other through the practice of NFP and the times we were called to abstain.
"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans" is a popular saying for a reason. Just because we will not have 10 children does not mean we will not be called as parents in other ways. We do not shut ourselves off to this. We continue to pray, discern and invite God into our marriage.
This week is National NFP Week. This year's theme is: TRUST God has a plan for your marriage. In our home it is very fitting to celebrate NFP this week for a few reasons. This week in our liturgy we celebrate Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary mother of our Lord. I'm so glad they chose to give themselves fully in their marriage. In doing so, they were blessed in becoming the grandparents of Jesus! Our youngest daughter, Anna, was named in honor of their example of faith.
This week also marks the due date of our 3rd child, Emanuel Elizabeth who we lost to miscarriage over Christmas. I am confident in sharing that without the marital lessons we have learned through our practice of NFP (greater communication, vulnerability, and solidarity to name just a few) we wouldn't have been able to come out on the other side of a difficult and trying time. We were blessed with what we learned about our faith, our marriage and responsible parenthood during the short time I carried that child in my womb. We were able to turn the grief of that child into an opportunity to see the blessings in our loss. The blessing of a new soul in heaven due in part to us giving ourselves fully in our marriage and the blessing of grief has created a stronger marriage. I am a better wife and mother today because I am the mother of a child I will not hold in this lifetime.
TRUST - God has a plan for your marriage!
He really, truly does. I love my husband more than I could have ever dreamed. We are best friends. We have one of those relationships - the kind that makes people sick. That being said, I could not do this marriage thing without faith. I trust we are joined together by God and that He gifted us with each other to help navigate our way through life to heaven. I don't know how other people do it without God and with the addition of man made barriers preventing them from being completely self-giving.
The truth is - people aren't doing it. The divorce rate is astronomical and prenuptial agreements are a normalcy. People are entering into marriage with a fail safe and a heart open to the possibility of failure. With those things on the table marriage will not survive.
If you're never looked into NFP I encourage you to do so. Do a little research and I promise you will be AMAZED at how much you will learn about your body, your fertility and the wonderment of God! That alone is worth a look.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Basic info on NFP
Couple to Couple League
Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)