03 May 2012

Two to tango

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. 


Angela said...

Yes. And well written to boot. Thank you.

Cathy said...

Thank you for this, it is very good.

Rebekah said...

Interesting. I am fairly certain that my own husband would throw an "Acts 5:29! Acts 5:29!" at this. I have never known what to make of such counsel.

Pr. H. R. said...

Hey now, context, context. Sometimes Acts 5:29 is right on called for. And sometimes life is messy. Gauntlets has, whether knowingly or not, reproduced exactly the current ethical suggestions of Rome, who, for all her faults, has done the best in holding up the traditional Christian line in these topics.


Gauntlets said...

My original draft contained a paragraph that ran, more or less: the more husbands out there who state frankly how completely uck prophylactics are, the easier it will be for other men's wives to speak their own hearts on the matter.

So, you know, as much Acts 5:29 as it takes. But I think for the sake of the wife it does better coming from other husbands.

Untamed Shrew said...

Yes. And during those months (in our case) where the wife is convinced that all bc is ungodly but the husband is not, the conversation goes something like this:

W: I don't want you to wear that thing. It burdens my conscience.

H: Well, it's only affecting my body, so your conscience should be clear.

[the next week. . .]

W: again? Don't you want more kids? This is really costing me sleep. IT BURDENS MY CONSCIENCE when you use prophylactics.

H: And it burdens my conscience not to. The memory of your most recent birth is still fresh in my mind, and you're a sleep-deprived wreck. You are neither physically nor emotionally healed.

W: But that's why babies take 9 months to come!

[more abstinence]

Maybe that's why it only took him a few months to see my point of view. :D

Anonymous said...

Hi Ladies,
I am so happy to have found your blog. We are allowing God to bless us with children, and it stresses me out a lot. My husband doesn't stress about it at all. We are also LCMS, and it is refreshing for me to hear other LCMS women believing in this way. I would love to meet you all in person!! But this blog is helping tremendously! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The real trick lies in submitting to a husband who wants to submit to you on this issue!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Gauntlets, times 2! This was precisely what I needed to hear. Thank you!!!

MooreMama said...

Pies. Who knew?

MooreMama said...

And, could you send me that paragraph about husbandly peer pressure?

mz said...

So, is it really bad if I just point the finger in DH's direction while inwardly breathing a sigh of relief? Sweet ambiguity. Wouldn't it be great if babes came without a year of lingering insanity?

greatgaunts said...

Gauntlets, thanks for finally putting this up. :)

Good point about husbands speaking up. Leaving the last word to Jim Bob Duggar isn't very...effective. ;)

Anonymous said...

Quick Q from a full supporter:
Are you sure you want to lump spermicides in with hormonal abortifacients like the pill? Or is there something I don't know? Because, not to be too explicit, I thought spermicide happens naturally to every little swimmer that doesn't make it to an egg, especially if the enviroment is especially unfavorable (when the woman is not fertile . . .or if she goes to the bathroom . . .)

Gauntlets said...

Anon: I hear what you're saying. I'm certainly no expert, but it's very difficult to know where to draw the line. Birth control is birth control, whatever its means, and all birth control uses unnatural means to affect its desired end. Really, the distinction we make between abortifacient and non-abortifacient birth control is somewhat artificial. But because spermicides introduce a foreign chemical (normally, nonoxynol-9) into a woman's body and do plausible harm both to her and to anyone who might be trying to make a living in her womb, I say spermicides are more out than plain prophylactics. And again, I'm not saying plain prophylactics are "good." They're bad. They're just a bad with which we can be patient.

Katy said...

I know this is ancient history, and probably no one will read it, but thank you for this post. I've been studiously avoiding this blog for years lest my mind be changed about NFP. Well, my mind got changed anyway, but my husband's hasn't, and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one in this predicament. Thank you for leaving up the blog even though you're no longer updating it; I will be perusing it.

Marie M said...

Again, I realize this is way old. And hopefully no one will even read this comment.Just wanting to write down an idea somewhere for posterity. (Dawn's link from the FB Simple Trust group brought me here again. I so miss these blog reflections!) Someone above commented wondering if it is wrong to defer to a husband's choice if the husband choosing to delay/stop children, and the wife "feels" she shouldn't contracept, but really would like a break. It seems to be that this is a self-resolving problem (eventually). The Bible says our wombs will want children:

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’ Proverbs 30: 15-16

Though a woman truly wants a break, I think eventually reality sets in, and she will want children again. This is often even reflected by women who are bold to insist that they are "done". (They probably are only announcing this to have others soothe their conscience by telling them they are right, stoking their egos, and glossing over their own guilt.) And whenever anyone brings a baby into a room, lots of women hover to get a "baby fix". So, even though a woman might feel guilty for taking her husband up on a "break" of having children, I would think, eventually, she will again bring up the subject and desire more children. For what it's worth, which is probably not much!