It wasn’t the kind of sacrifice we wanted. But, here we are.
My husband and I have been Natural Family Planning promoters for about 15 years. One phrase that my husband has repeated almost verbatim for every single talk we’ve ever given is this:
“It is good to fast from something good, for a good reason, for a period of time.”
He has spoken these words to thousands of engaged couples, young adults, youth, and those in RCIA who are preparing to enter the Church.
When we talk about NFP, we know that it’s a hard sell. We tell people that we know it is. It was for us, too. But, we endeavored to try it. We were only partially convinced that it would work and we were not particularly excited about it. Mostly, we were just committed to it because we came to the conclusion that among all the choices, it was the best option—morally and health-wise. And guess what? We’re still in the game.
It’s as shocking for us as it is for anyone.
Being deprived of the good things is never easy. It’s not something the world tends to understand. Commercial marketing depends on our natural inclinations to satisfy our desires, even to excess. All you can eat buffets do not exist because we are typically in control of our appetites. And, Lent is a time of real suffering (even if it’s only giving up chocolate) because we just aren’t wired for fasting.
But, the fasting rewires us.
We say incessantly to our NFP students that we did not start out as the poster children for the kind of holiness and enthusiasm one might expect for a young couple embracing Natural Family Planning. We didn’t know anyone else our age doing it. Our endeavor to try it wasn’t in keeping with what were told we should expect from marriage and life. But, curiously, the very practice of the fasting changed us. It had to.
Sacrificing anything. . .”something good, for a good reason, for a period of time” changes you.
We still have miles to go in the holy department. But, there is something about a lifestyle of self-denial and intentional sacrifice that forms you. It teaches you, over time, that you can in fact do hard things. You can actually live without the thing—anything—even a very good thing, for a good reason, for a period of time.
In the midst of this current Covid-19 health crisis, our world is about to figure that out, too. Maybe not because we are super holy or particularly enthused about the prospects of our sacrifices. It certainly isn’t in keeping with what the world has insisted will make us happy. Most of us are doing this because we don’t really have another option—morally or health-wise.
This also wasn’t the kind of sacrifice we wanted. But, here we are.
It will change us. It has to.