If you already saw this post and then the link didn’t work… sorry about that, this is the real one this time!
I am so grateful to you guys for being with me the past few months as I took the first stumbling steps towards being honest with my writing.
Sharing my fear-of-pregnancy story has been unbelievably empowering, healing, and inspiring. And your comments and re-tweets are at least 80% of that.
So, it’s time for the story to get it’s next step in evolution: I’m coming out! I’d like to invite you guys to visit my “real-life” blog, which I’ve been writing for several years, as I start to come out about my experience being afraid of pregnancy and aligning my life with the amazing Catholic teachings on sex and sexuality.
This isn’t just about pregnancy, though. I’m also coming out as a believing Catholic and conservative to my readers and real-life friends over there, so I’m pretty nervous. There’s not a lot of non-liberal information on the Internet, but I figure I can be one more blogger fighting the good fight with my real name and my real picture.
Here’s my first post in this topic, and I’d love it if you felt it was good enough to follow my journey on this new URL!
And I hope to continue the Twitter gabbing at my real handle, @LifeCommaEtc. I’ll be following you all shortly!
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills and living on Mars. I’ve ready my second article in so many days about a woman who “bravely” left the man she promised to love forever. Both hit home to me: the first is a celebrity with millions of people who consider who a role model (and gave 56K Facebook likes to her “brave” decision). The second is a fellow online entrepreneur who grew a large blog at the price of her 2-year marriage.
Abuse and annulments aside, I just can’t deal with this!
When did it become brave to be selfish?
When did it become brave to lift up the, “Me, Me, Me” banner and wave it over your entire life like a magic wand, undoing all of the promises you’ve ever made?
I can see a few roots. Liberalism, for one, that puts “you do you” on a pedestal. But also the damage we’ve all had done to us by others. In a world without boundaries, where no one stands up for the truth, standing up for something selfish starts to look an awful lot like “taking things into your own hands” and “finally living your real life.”
My heart breaks!
My skin crawls!
Can we turn the angle, friends? Let’s call out some of the #RealBravery we see day in and day out but don’t stop to appreciate.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my parents, for staying married 30+ years despite 6-month military deployments (with my mom alone with four kids at home), serious communication and compatibility issues, and computer addictions.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my husband’s parents, for staying married 30+ years despite infidelity and health and mental health issues.
I’d like to commend the bravery of my husband for staying with me and supporting me through 2 years of therapy and (it turns out) possibly self-imposed infertility even when he wanted children (and countless other flaws I have).
I’d like to commend the bravery of famous actors who put their career on pause to be supportive spouses and parents (Angela Landsbury’s 2nd marriage and Greg Kinnear’s marriage come to mind, but only because I looked them up on Wikipedia recently).
…That’s all I’ve got for now, but I really want to know:
Who do you want to commend for showing #RealBravery?
P.S. Before we get into this big Internet fight, please know one of my closest friends is divorced and going through the annulment process. I’m not saying it’s never okay to end a marriage (especially when it comes to situations of abuse and mental health issues). I’m saying it’s not brave to end a marriage because you aren’t willing to sacrifice your idea of what you want for your life for your spouse.
I am very happy to share that when I sit down to write about being pregnant now, only good things come up!
Connie Ann was right when she commented on my last post: it was a spiritual attack. It’d been going on for the first 9 weeks of being pregnant, and it continues to happen at 3AM when I am on one of my many bathroom breaks through the night.
But the rest of the time?
I can only assume that this is what being lifted up in prayer feels like.
The week we started sharing the news (with 1-2 people at a time, for a total of still a small group) I felt the excitement start to match the anxiety. Then slowly overcome it. Until now, I am so grateful to say, it’s a ratio of about 10% anxious to 90% grateful, excited, and suspiciously hopeful. I attribute it all to the prayers of our friends and family!
Thank you guys for bearing with me!
It’s so hard to struggle with doubts and anxieties when what you’re facing is 100% blessing and a miracle. After all, there’s no doubt in my mind that pregnancy is an amazing thing, a complete mystery, and something that is not guaranteed in anyone’s life. So feeling sad about it puts a massive cloud of guilt over the whole thing: shouldn’t I be grateful? Shouldn’t I be glowing?
But that’s the thing I keep learning and re-learning: everyone’s scars are different, and that’s why we can help each other so much when we’re compassionate.
The people who comment on the blog aren’t afraid of pregnancy (at least, they haven’t let me know they are!) so they can walk with me through this and provide this sense of abiding calm and clarity… that I was utterly incapable of giving myself.
What I hope that means is that I can take my lack of fear about other things in life (EMDR, re-configuring sexual morals, singlehood, among other things) and be strong for someone else.
So, I’ve got to run now, but expect something a little less dramatic/drastic next time I am able to write!
And thanks again!
This isn’t your typical dysfunctional family post (though I have plenty of those). Instead, this is a post dedicated to all of the hard-working, beautiful-but-you-don’t-see-it, self-sacrificing Catholic Moms out there. And I have just one message for you:
You are God’s gift to your children. Act like it.
I don’t mean this in a mean, scolding way. Because moms of all ages and of all family sizes need our support and encouragement over everything else.
I only mean this to help you see that no matter who you are or what your flaws are, God has decided that you are the absolute best parent possible for your children.
So no matter what you think you’re bad at or what you think you’ll regret later… it’s so, so worth it now to stop and reflect on whether or not what you’re teaching your children accurately reflects God’s plan for your life… and God’s definition of godly men and woman.
My mother is a beautiful and lively mother of four. But there’s just one thing — she grew up in a family that was cruel to her about her looks and in a city and state that is particularly superficial. As long as I can remember, she has been negative and critical about her body — even when she looked absolutely beautiful to me, my father, and my brothers.
I am 31, and this week I spent my EMDR counseling session processing a lot of the messages I received about my body through how my mom perceived her body.
Her small comments about how “Everything would look better on her if she were thinner,” and her exclamations that we delete every photo of her that she didn’t find flattering (and guess how many photos she found to be flattering?) were a few pieces of a million-part puzzle that taught me how to measure the worth and beauty of my own body.
Growing up, this quickly transitioned to a fear that her daughter might be fat, so she put a lot of emphasis on what it meant to be a lady and how ladies shouldn’t have too big an appetite (while my brothers were free to hork seconds and thirds at every meal).
And then, you know what, I got fat.
All I felt when I looked at my mom, my food, or my body was pressure. Everything I ate, said, and wore spoke to me about whether or not I was the ideal, normal woman. And as a girl child destined to be 6 foot tall, there wasn’t much I could do to avoid being bigger than most people (and being out-sized at all your normal clothes providers).
Body image aside, the real damage here (and the real power Catholic moms of the world have) is understanding what it means to be a woman. A biblical woman. A Catholic woman.
Because pant size somehow doesn’t come up in the bible. Neither does plastic surgery or height or the ability to have children. None of these things define our womanhood. You know what does (and what was a refreshing realization late last night?)? Our hearts.
Our hearts! A womanly heart. Not a womanly size 12, a womanly svelte-looking arm, or a perfectly crafted face of make-up. A woman is measured by her godliness, her desire to dress herself in good works, and her fear for the Lord.
… and so many families (including my own) didn’t pass that message along.
A woman’s husband has every right to take pleasure in her God-given good looks, but the rest of us (including her father and mother and family members) should be working hard to see what’s in her heart and cultivate a peaceable, tender nature in her soul.
And those are the very things we destroy when we exclusively focus on outward appearance, physical size, and attractiveness.
If the only message your daughter or son ever gets about womanhood is the best way to figure out if she’s hot or not, then you’re setting her up for her own bad decisions and counseling sessions 30 years from now and you’re depriving her of the peace and love that flows from our God.
There’s your message for today: before you consider yourself in the mirror (or look at your overweight or otherwise imperfect child), try to look beyond the surface to see what you see in your and your child’s heart.
PS If you want to figure out what it means to be a godly woman and how you can have an impact on how your children see their femininity in God, What Christians Want to Know has a great Top-10 post.
Are you ready for some Catholic hypocrisy?
I had sex with boyfriends before marriage (unfortunately). I also lived with my husband before we got married (before we converted).
And… it’s something I deeply regret.
Living together before marriage didn’t ruin our lives. In fact, it made some things easier.
We put off “the big day,” which was expensive, embarassing (for me), and stressful.
We put off questions about kids, because no one asks about that until after you’re married.
We also had a free pass to focus on our education and our careers. After all, you don’t have to “work on your marriage” if you don’t have one, right? You just get to spend time with the person you love. You’re two people who choose to be together every day you wake up, and there’s no pressure other than that. You’ve got all the benefits of marriage without the politics and statistics of broken homes or social stereotypes.
What’s not to love?
As it turns out, plenty of things.
Here’s my case against living together before you’re married, and if anyone has a time machine, let me know so I can go back to my 15-year-old self and read this aloud to her:
What’s the Big Problem?
Contrary to what my parents implied while I was growing up, living together before marriage wasn’t a guild-ridden and shameful experience. It felt really liberating and modern. It didn’t cause us to be shunned by everyone we knew because everyone we knew would give us the slow, understanding nod about how old fashioned it was to NOT live together.
But do you know what it did do? It caused major delays.
Looking back, I can see how damaging it was to go through the relationship steps without the grace of the sacrament of marriage.
As an unmarried couple living together before marraige, we were broken individuals trying to love each other how we had learned to love. For me, that meant relying on sexual behavior as a barometer of our relationship (which lead to a lot of miscommunication), and for my husband that meant doing his best and hoping it would work out (and being bewildered when it got uncomfortable).
We also kept secrets from each other, thought and acted selfishly, and experienced incredible stress anytime something went wrong in our relationship or in our lives (AKA “Things aren’t perfect right now but we have a right to things being perfect — ACK!”.
Unlike our marriage now, there was no third person, no Holy Spirit, no sense of grace to carry us through the inevitable tough times.
When you live together before marriage, you aren’t getting away with something; you’re missing out on something.
You aren’t avoiding a bad decision; you’re delaying the best decision you’ll ever make.
You’re also depriving yourself and your partner of an infinite source of love and support.
The sacrament of marriage is a gift straight from Jesus. That means that A) it’s important, so hey, maybe you need it even if you think you don’t? and B) Why would you pass up the opportunity to have that player on your team?
Why Is This Happening?
The heart of the epidemic of people living together is not:
- The old fashioned institution of marriage
- The sexual revolution, modern feminism, or social justice
- Religious hypocrites
The heart of the epidemic of people living together is due to each of our individual experiences of brokenness, shame, abuse, and selfishness.
When I considered living together with my husband, I was escaping a traditional patriarchal view of marriage in which I was to be saddled down with kids and used and abused as a mother for the rest of my life. I was taking love and sex (what society told me were “the best parts”) and leaving behind all the baggage.
When my friends live with their partners (and buy houses with them and go on vacations and join finances), they are taking as much good as they can and avoiding as much of the perceived downside as they can. They are leaving the baby and taking the bathwater, with no idea what joy that (poopy, smelly, screaming) baby can bring into their lives.
The List Goes On
My basic thoughts laid out, here’s a list of the common arguments I hear from cohabitating couples paired with what I’d like to say to them:
- “I don’t want someone to be forced to stay with me if they want to leave.” Will your partner leaving you now hurt any less 30 years from now? If anything I think it will hurt more. You can’t escape pain or betrayal by hiding your feelings. If anything, marriage is a way to clearly communicate the expectations you have for your relationship, thus establishing the boundaries that will help it succeed. You have to re-learn that it’s okay to trust someone and to expect things from someone. You have to learn to forgive and be forgiven within your relationships.
- “We’re already married in our life, so why get married just for the piece of paper?” Clearly if it was just a piece of paper, it wouldn’t be a big deal to you. In this case, it seems like people who don’t get married don’t do so “because they don’t think it’s important,” but because it’s important beyond belief and they don’t think they deserve it.
- “I just want to have fun.” Then you’re too immature to be a functioning member of society, let alone have sex with another human being. Go play laser tag.
- “Sex is about pleasure.” Look at your partner deep in the eyes. Is the purpose of their existence to give you physical pleasure? If someone else was dating your partner and they whispered that phrase to you in a bar, would you stand for it? Or would it sound like they were using your partner as a selfish tool for their own gain. Beyond that, do you ignore or otherwise not care for your partner when you’re not having sex? If you’re trying to make this argument, it’s more likely that you have some commitment and honesty issues than that you don’t think marriage is worthwhile.
- “We’re not ready for it.” You’re a wuss. You’re putting something off. You’re afraid of something in your future, and you don’t want to get started. Here’s a thought: whatever’s coming, wouldn’t you want to face it with this person legally, socially, and spiritually committed to you? And vice versa?
- “We want to make sure we’re compatible.” Ah, the most practical answer of all. How much sense this made to me 10 years ago! But all I can say to this is that if you love someone, if you want to sacrifice the rest of your life to their best health, if you would sleep in the hospital bed with them to tend them when they’re ill, and if you want to help them get into heaven… does it matter if it takes you a year to figure out who takes out the trash? Does it matter if you aren’t “good at sex” and you have to learn about it together? And would it really change everything to learn that they have a weird habit or preference that they need to go to counseling for? Looking back on my excuse, this is the same as “We’re not ready for it.” You’re just a wimp and there’s something you’re hiding from. Embrace it, grow, and make the plunge to either separate or get married!
I say these things as lovingly as possible (though I’m sure I’ll get some sass in the comments about being rigid or encouraging people to marry willy-nilly). I say these things as I wish someone had said to me when I signed my first lease with my now-husband and snuck around the adults in our lives. I say this with love and compassion for how much people are suffering (acknowledged or not) when they choose to live together before they get married.
Attention: Major Delays Ahead
As my husband is fond of saying, if we could go back in time we would never stop slapping ourselves for things we said, did, and thought during college and shortly after. Maturity has a way of replaying events in your life back to you and it’s frustrating to think of how right it felt to you at the time.
To all couples who are living together, I have to ask: if you aren’t ready to make this commitment… then why are you letting your body, finances, brain, and emotions make a commitment?
You’re setting yourself up for a lowercase-d “divorce” by not getting married, because eventually you will separate the family unit you have made and you never even gave it the support it deserved through the sacrament of marriage. Or, you’ll stay together in a perpetual twilight state of “two individuals who decide to have sex every now and then,” and that’s kind of like trying to behave like a toddler through your tweens.
While our culture (including myself at age 24 and many many of my friends now) are content to stop with “What feels right,” I think we all need to take a look at anything that comes to us easily. Today, it’s all too likely it comes straight from Screwtape under the label “modernity” and “getting with the times,” and it leads straight to a personal hell of your own making.
I’m rereading CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and then this forehead-slap-worthy “Trend” came across the screen of my Twitter account:
And I just…. can’t even.
This is such obvious secular nonsense.
How in the world does it being 2016 mean that emotionally broken and damaged people should make up rules about how they treat other people and their own bodies?
Yeah, this is going to be a great year. For treating your body like it’s separate from your mind or your emotions? For pretending sex doesn’t mean anything and it’s fine to get off on other people? For getting drunk and ignoring all the warning signs in your life? ( & this is just according to the trailer I couldn’t look away from during the previews of another movie.)
Please tell me there is going to be a cultural whiplash against this movie… please tell me this is not the height of comedy, entertainment, or “women’s rights.” Please tell me that those who see this movie will be so turned off by it that it changes their life for the better!
I could cut it off here and leave this as a rant, but I’d rather make a tiny push toward making the world a better place. I’d like to take your “It’s 2016 — Make your own rules!” and replace it with these amazing lessons about sex from Simcha Fisher in her NC Register Post, “So What SHOULD We Tell Our Kids About Sex?”:
- Love is a gift of self.
- We speak with our bodies.
- Sex is about babies, among other things.
- The world lies to you.
- Sex forms bonds.
- Chastity is a positive.
- It’s possible to ruin sex for yourself.
- Sex is beautiful and mysterious.
- Premarital sex hurts you both, even if you marry the person you had it with.
- But all is never lost if you’ve gone too far.
I strongly encourage you to click over and read the full article. Like Fisher’s book, “The Sinner’s Guide to NFP” (which is about WAY MORE than NFP), it’s worth reading twice and sharing with everyone you know who has kids!
If everybody who disagreed with the Church about something in their lifetime stayed home, no one would ever be in church. There would be no Catholics. There might not even be any priests.
This is not to say the Church is wrong. It’s to say that we all experience emotional, psychological, ethical, moral, physical, you-name-it undulations throughout our lives. Our moods change. Our feelings change. Our lifestyles and interactions and personal experiences change. To cut yourself off from something wonderful, or to decide that an entire body of possibility is wrong based on fleeting thoughts, prejudices, and disagreements would be incredibly short-sighted.
Let me depart from my regularly scheduled sex-related posts to share this thoughtful quote from Matthew Kelly that perfectly dovetails this topic with the Theology of the Body book:
Catholic Digest: What advice would you give to a Catholic struggling with the Church today?
Matthew Kelly: Explore it. Most people don’t understand what it is. If there’s any issue that you massively disagree with, delve into that. There are answers there. Our personal biases and prejudices get in the way. Most of the time when we’re saying the Church is wrong, we’re just saying it’s inconvenient. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. (Catholic Digest Article)
Then, consider this:
“[When we ask for and receive grace from Christ,] we no longer need the law because we no longer desire to break it. What laws do you still need? What teachings of the Church feel like a burden or imposition to you? Perhaps the problem is not with the law or the Church, but with your own “hardness of heart.” Don’t throw away the law; surrender your disordered desires to Christ and let him transform them.” (Christopher West’s Introduction to the Theology of the Body)
I say this to my 15-year-old self that saw the Church as a hive of hypocrites, my college-aged self that saw the Church as a senior citizen home of shame and boring-ness, and to my present day self who loves the Church but struggles to feel in communion with other people.
(I also struggle with feeling merciful, avoiding anger, and judging others, classic symptoms of trying to follow all of the rules without the help of Christ’s grace***).
I also say this to you if you disagree about same-sex unions, contraception, Mary, premarital sex, or anything else controversial. Take a minute and google the Catholic side of the story. Read a book (just one book!) explaining why the Church sides the way it does. Consider how your life might have set you up to disagree with the Church’s truth and and how Screwtape benefits from the world’s view of the matter now. Consider the Catholic perspective of how it could change your life if you tried out another way.
There’s a world of possibility there that ends with everything working “for your good.”
***Christopher West’s Introduction to Theology of the Body: “Trying to follow all of the rules without seeking Christ’s grace is futile. Those who do will either become self-righteous hypocrites or they will abandon God’s law for a rationalized, watered-down version of the Gospel.”
I’ve never had a photographic memory.
That said, I have two degrees (one a Master’s), I work for myself, and I’ve been known to give some thoughtful advice.
But lately… yeah, lately I feel that kind of going down the tube as my chronic health issues flare into some kind of psychological snowstorm that leaves me feeling a bit less like this:
And a bit more like this:
This all came out in counseling yesterday, and it was really intense. I went down a path of feeling fear for my decline in health.
Not because I’m tired a lot of the time and on a careful meal plan (which I am and have been for a long time). But because after a lifetime on counting on my brain, my mind, and my intellect…. I kind of feel that going, too.
I still feel pretty “with it.” But it’s little things like not being able to remember what I want to say in conversation, or having a tough time rephrasing what I’ve read recently.
Over the years, I’ve always been able to rely on my brain. No matter what was happening, at some point, some how, I would think of a solution and everything would be okay. The idea that my brain might not be there for me, that I might not be able to think my way out of a problem is uncomfortable.
So once I tried to dig a little deeper into that idea, I realized (of course) that it’s a deeper spiritual problem: my rational mind has always been on my team since the beginning. And the rest of “me” has always failed me.
- My emotions failed me when they lead me to endure an abusive sexual relationship for 3 years and then into sexual relationships with the men I dated after that.
- My body failed me 1st when I was overweight as a child, 2nd when I developed autoimmunity, causing me to gain 100+ lbs and struggle with fertility, food intolerances, and chronic fatigue, and 3rd when I panic at the thought of semen entering my body, which, you know, makes it kind of hard to get pregnant.
As a Catholic, this is probably a super weird opinion to have. And, honestly, maybe it’s a leftover from my days as a secular feminist and it’s something I need to work through still. But either way it’s something I’m here on this blog to untangle, lucky you!
Musings of a Michigan Man is a thoughtful blog that I’ve loved reading over the last few weeks. However, one of the themes that comes up a lot on his blog and in his posts (especially the comments of the one linked above) is about how the purpose of marriage is procreation. This is a really common sentiment in the Church and — it seems to me — particularly among men. And I have a problem with it.
Hear me out! I don’t have a problem with it being true (or with Michigan Man, a guy I’d love to call a friend) — it is true. The purpose of marriage is children. The purpose of sex is children. The greatest purpose Catholics have on the planet I think is, arguably, children. But approaching it like that from the start is a little disordered and can be a bit of a turnoff for Catholic women like myself.
Turn-Offs Aren’t Great for Babies
Here’s a true gem from Scott Hahn’s book about the mass, The Lamb’s Supper, that opened this can of worms in my heart:
The various forms of sacrifice [throughout the mass and throughout the gospel] include one positive similar meaning: life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.
For people who don’t have a serious issue with sperm like I do, this might not be a big deal of a statement. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that hearing this (on my audiobook as I walked) stopped me dead in my tracks. I rewinded. I listened again. I rewinded. I wrote it down.
This changes everything and, (if you’ll forgive me for using you as the scapegoat, Michigan Man) it explains why the typical Catholic phrasing about marriage, women, and babies turns me off so much.
“Girl Surrender” Doesn’t Have the Same Ring To It
Growing up in the 90s (and in my formative boyfriend-girlfriend relationship), feminist power plays were the lay of the land. My mom stayed home to raise 4 kids while my dad was deployed, literally giving over her body and mind for the good of her family for years. When she looked to me, her only girl, and reflected on a lifetime of sacrifice, her motto about relationships was more like “Don’t get married!” or “Do everything you want to do in life before you get married!” because of her experience.
In my formative girlfriend-boyfriend relationships, my boyfriend wanted things from me (namely sex) and it was up to me to make the play and keep the guy by fulfilling your side of the bargain (which at the time I was very consensual about fulfilling). The more he wanted me (the more thin, more sexy, more girlfriend-like I was), the more “powerful” I was in that relationship (supposedly).
Later, when the effects of relationships like this began to dawn on me, being distant, using sex as a tool, and controlling or suppressing my feelings was the “power play.” I got really good at it, hence the blog title of Sarcastic Catholic.
Finally, we can pile on all the secular media, headlines, music, movies, and everyone else in my life who said sex was power and it’s time for women to use it. Specifically, “Girl Power!” and now “Girl’s Run the World!”
The result of these forces? A girl who is not about to surrender anything.
I became a perfect example of the modern feminist: highly educated, highly opinionated, unrestrained, and loud about it (after all, “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” right?). I was anti-Catholic, pro-“spirituality and equality” and pretty much toted the party line on everything else.
I was trained to control every area of my life. I planned my education, my career, my dates, and my relationships. I was the one who said “yes,” and “no,” and I had all the power.
So when the moment came to have sex without contraception — to in every sense of the world surrender my body (for the pregnancy itself), my mind (to the pregnancy hormones and postpartum depression), and my future (my career and whatever else that would sideline as I was consumed by children) or even my life (with all those wonderful stories about mothers having near-death experiences or passing away during labor) — is it any surprise that this girl (who doesn’t give an inch in any area of her life) had a panic attack?
I’m Surrendering Now, With Caveats
Naming the problem — that’s the real power. And that’s what I’m doing week by week as I untangle these complicated emotions during EDMR counseling. I’m point-by-point identifying and replacing disordered experiences with the healing love my adult self, who has access to the Truth, Christ, grace, and everything else wonderful.
(And man-o-man can I say these sessions are working? I am nowhere near finished, but I can already see a big difference in my day to day ability to process emotions and in my sex life with my husband).
I’m learning to surrender now, and it’s really showing in my relationship with my husband. I still have caveats that I need to clear out in order to fully submit to God (and I still haven’t worked up to having sex “to completion” yet), but I am heartened by the progress I’ve made in just 5 or 6 weeks of working at this.
Still, at the end of the day, I completely understand why I and other women today don’t want to hear from a man of God that “marriages and women are meant for children,” even though it’s true.
What I want to hear — what resonates with my spirit, even if it’s semantics — is that “Our love will be so overflowing and mutually self-sacrificing that we will be transformed by having children together.”
Side note: We’ve even started replacing how we talk about sex around the house or in jokes or in TV shows with Truth-oriented language, which is so corny but really helps me differentiate between what my husband and I do and the lies that come from the world. For example, instead of “doing it” and “boning” it’s “mutual, self-sacrificing love,” and “making love,” etc.
Because it’s not as simple as “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.” It’s “first comes love, then comes Christ’s love in your marriage, then comes mutual self-sacrifice and self-giving, then comes a baby.”
To leave that part out tells a story of power, not of surrender and transformation; a story where the man has the power and the burden falls on the woman, and that’s simply not true.
There’s so much more to this story, but that’s as far as I can dig into right now without composing a novella. I’d love to hear thoughts from women and men on this topic, because I know I’m not alone and I know there are some who disagree with me!
“If the body and sex were mean to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack? If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for what is most violently profaned.”
Introduction to Theology of the Body, Christopher West
Growing up in the 1990s, my first memory of “The Talk” was when my mom sat me down and told me that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.
Looking back, my mom was clearly trying to protect me from the way the world looks at sex.
But, as you can imagine, my pre-teen self was like:
Unfortunately, talk about sexuality pretty much ended there. I was prepped on the physical side of things (what goes where, and when) and my mom wanted my brothers and I to be open with our questions, but I didn’t get a Catholic perspective on sex except that when you’re Catholic you don’t have sex until you’re married.
Even more unfortunately, that’s pretty much how the rest of society (including myself until age 31) summarizes the Catholic approach to sex: don’t do it until you’re married. And then, silence.
I can’t count the ways in which this is a shame. Not only does the silence create a perfect breeding ground for Screwtape to jump in there and wreak havoc (AKA pornography, premarital sex, friends with benefits, R-rated movies, “explore your sexuality,” “try out homosexuality,” and everything else), but it leaves a huge, sinking whole in the place that should contain the vision of what sexuality is meant to be.
It’s just like our buddy Langston Hughes said so long ago:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Looking out into the world today, it’s clear that the dream of Catholic sexuality died somewhere. Our idea of love, sex, and marriage in the secular world is barren and lifeless. It’s not a safe place, it’s a battle trench. It’s not empowering, it’s a weighted anchor. And it’s all because Screwtape knows how important sex is to living a full life in tune with God’s plan.
The solution? Let’s start talking about how awesome married Catholic sex is! Not in a prurient, secular way. But in a way that affirms that it’s something worth waiting for. That it’s something special, something to be desired, and something that isn’t “bad until you’re married and then suddenly good, but only for babies.”
God made sex, and God made the body. God loves both. But both are meant for the sacrament of marriage. Outside that sacrament, it’s not that sex becomes bad; it’s that it becomes disordered. It’s no longer a sacred gift from God. It no longer is for your good, nor does it have your best interests in mind. Inside of marriage, sex brings you closer to God. Outside of marriage, sex brings you further away.