This is one of those posts that will likely make no one happy, but I promised it to someone so here it is. Sorry, folks. Remember, I’m neither your doctor nor your mother; I’m just some blame fool on the Internet.
Here’s a crazy notion: A Christian wife’s fertility is best managed by her Christian husband, because he is her loving lord and her appointed head. The approach any given husband takes in managing his wife’s fertility—which is a gift to him from his loving Lord and eternal head—is a matter of faith for that husband.* Additionally, the wife does well to recognize that her body and its life-giving capabilities are gifts, and to submit to her husband as to the Lord in childbearing.
Not all Christian husbands choose to manage their wives’ fertility like my husband chooses to manage mine. Each man has his reasons, his circumstances, and his conditions, and I don’t presume to know anything about his life or his crosses.
That said, there are women in our congregations who have encountered upsetting information about the Pill and its kin, and yet are still “on it” because it’s what their husbands insist that they do. There are women who trust that it is Christ who opens and closes the womb, and yet these women use prophylactics because their husbands do not desire more children, or because their husbands are not convinced that now is the right time for more children.
And sometimes a Christian sister, plagued by her conscience and/or the chaffing of disagreement with her husband, approaches a CSPP and asks something along the lines of, “What do you think I should do?” This is what the CSPP has to say to such a question: “God bless you, honey, you have to obey your husband. I’ll pray for you both.”
Because what else is there to say? When a woman is given in marriage, she promises to submit, to obey, to be a wife to her husband in sickness and in health. Physical sickness or spiritual sickness. The Christian husband who falls short on the matter of contraception is not equivalent to the abuser or the drunkard; he merely suffers the infection of the age. Sarah was not given to pack up and leave Abraham, who had his fair share of marital fumbles. Neither did harassing him do her much good. Sarah was given to wait and to pray. We are Sarah’s daughters. It is given to us also to wait and to pray, whatever our circumstances.
However, there is one caveat, and it’s Portia’s: while Shylock has a right to his pound of flesh, he may not shed a single drop of Christian blood in getting it. It is excusable and correct for a wife to refuse abortifacient forms of birth control, which is to say, pills, patches, rings, herbs, foams, jellies, injections, implants, and IUDs. When and where the universe has misinformed the Christian husband, the Christian wife is encouraged to help her husband become aware. I’ve no scruples about telling my Christian sister that she can pitch her pills. Just do it. OK?
But prophylactics and true contraceptives are a different deal. As these devices are not deadly to newly conceived children, and as they do no salient harm to women, their use in Christian marriages is difficult for contemporary Americans to condemn outright. Don’t misread me: the use of such things is problematic, but those problems are more difficult to discern in our day’s prevailing darkness. And while wives everywhere find such things humiliating and otherwise sad-making, well, what are we going to suggest these dear sisters do? Make a mess of their marriages? No and thousand times, no. Again, a husband’s stance on such things is a matter of faith for that husband.* Better for a wife to keep the peace and work gently and lovingly to change her husband’s heart. Such change takes time. And, like, dozens of pies.
So it goes for the modern woman. Turns out being a modern woman is pretty much exactly like being a woman at any other point in all of human history. We’ve come so far as not to have gone anywhere at all. But the news is still very good: We wives, whether suffering from inflicted barrenness or no, are given to lift up our heads and open our hearts, for Christ is coming (the signs abound!) and it is He who is the perfect Bridegroom, who makes us to be the perfect Bride, who gives to us the countenance and the fortitude to flourish within our marriages. To be married is gift in itself, for thereby is each woman given a companion to comfort her as best he can as she waits for Christ’s return. Take heart! The duty of the wife is to submit; in doing so her conscience is clear. Bide your time, sister. He works all things to the good of those who love Him.
*Yes, dear anonymous, you’re right; it’s not a matter of saving faith. A man need not ever conceive a single child to merit the righteousness that Christ freely imparts to His people through His cross. Nonetheless, “be fruitful and multiply,” a law spoken to all people by the one true and triune God, is accepted and enacted by people through faith in that God. You know: did He really mean it? But how much did He mean it? But does He still mean it? OK, but does He mean it for me? That sort of faith. Just so we’re clear.