Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

4/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Let Go Of Your Fear

While teaching Natural Family Planning, I realized that fear really needs to be addressed. Often we have lovely, young couples register for our course to fulfill a marriage preparation requirement. Or sometimes they've attempted to self-study and feel the need for more instruction. Patiently they sit through our witness talk and intently they follow along with the training, but sometimes I can see it in their faces or detect a hint of it in their questioning. The fear, the fear that they are not smart enough or vigilant enough to learn and apply the method of fertility awareness so as to prevent an unintended blessing.

Highlights

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Natural Family Planning, NFP, fear, fertility


ZEBULLON, NC (Catholic Online) - Typically a coward of heights, I never dreamed of spending my days balancing atop an extension ladder, but the chipped and peeling exterior of our house begged for attention. My dutiful husband is a jack of many trades from fixing appliances to building chicken coops, but he proclaims a particular aversion to painting; therefore, the task of revitalizing the outside of our 1920's home fell squarely on my shoulders.

After choosing the perfect hue of buttery yellow, which my neighbor equated to the color of "cheap vanilla yogurt," I commenced the jobs of scraping and repainting the easy-to-reach portions.  However, it didn't take long before my arms-reach, as well as, my three-step ladder were insufficient. Lacking the superhero trait of Mr. Fantastic, I had to engage some problem solving skills. Without the gift of stretchable appendages, a ladder seemed my next best option.

It took a little self-hypnosis of sorts to talk myself up that first ladder, but work awaited and the time of a busy, home school mother is fleeting. I let go a little and convinced myself that a fall from a standard ladder couldn't inflict too much damage.

Now our lovely little home was built on a downgrade, so while the front door was a mere three steps from the solid ground, the rear was two-stories above stable earth. That standard ladder only raised my stature to the lower heights of the our home's backside and painting only half of the house didn't appear sensible. An extension ladder became unavoidable.

As far back as I can remember, heights have posed an unwelcomed challenge. I was the kid who scaled the jungle-gym only to become paralyzed at the summit and tearfully beg for rescue. Ferris wheels are totally off-limits and even today escalators require a mental strategy.

Ratcheting the extension ladder far above my comfort-level, I offered myself a pep talk. First I attempted flattery, telling myself how brave I was and how beautiful the house was going to look. Next, came reasoning, if we couldn't afford to hire a painter, I simply needed to finish the job I'd begun and set the right example for my children. Lastly, disillusions of Supermom grandeur flitted across my brain, but they were too readily refuted by the reality that I'd never been able to scale a tall building nor race anything much faster than a speeding toddler headed for an open outlet.

Step by step, paint supplies balanced in my right hand as my left hand secured its death grip on the metal side rail, I inched ever higher toward the firmament. Positioned at the ladder's apex, I briefly dared to look down, a long, long way down. The flattery suddenly flattened and that reasoning seemed less, well, less reasonable. My previous risk estimations made from atop the standard ladder somehow didn't ease my mind because from this height surely parts could break that might not be mendable.

Surrender and prayer were my last and best resorts. "Let go," I persuaded, "let go of the fear." Fear constrained me to the ground, but surrender could loose its hold. Reciting a prayer, I offered up my terror and released myself to the care and keeping of my guardian angel.

It's amazing how fear has the potential to overpower in some cases or to protect in others. Years ago I read a book by Gavin DeBecker called The Gift of Fear. In it Mr. DeBecker gave real life examples of how people's natural-born fear mechanism or intuition set off red flags and sirens in the presence of serious dangers. Those who listened typically avoided entering the danger zone or quickly fled before a perpetrator could inflict harm. Those who over-rationalized away their instinct generally paid a painful price. In those cases, fear was a gift bestowed on the individual, a signal by which they could gauge a circumstance or assess a stranger's unspoken intent.

While teaching Natural Family Planning, I realized that fear really needs to be addressed. Often we have lovely, young couples register for our course to fulfill a marriage preparation requirement. Or sometimes they've attempted to self-study and feel the need for more instruction. Patiently they sit through our witness talk and intently they follow along with the training, but sometimes I can see it in their faces or detect a hint of it in their questioning. The fear, the fear that they are not smart enough or vigilant enough to learn and apply the method of fertility awareness so as to prevent an unintended blessing.

The simply admonishment, "Be Not Afraid' would do little to help alleviate their worries. Instead the first step is to help them face their fear, to understand what misconceptions it may be tied to. Quite often the newly engaged or married women have been controlling their cycles through the use of hormonal birth control or contraceptive devices. These "outside forces" have led to the perception that fertility, or at least its suppression, is the responsibility of some "thing" not the individual woman.

Under the supposed control of a contraceptive, a woman may feel relinquished of her role in her own "healthcare" beyond the routine exam and prescription refill. If an unexpected blessing comes along, she can "blame" the little one on a contraceptive failure. Our current culture has led her to surrender herself to doctor's orders, so she typically never feels obliged to consider the risks (unfortunately too often doctors don't even bother to disclose the very real risks).

Here we, NFP teachers, are describing the difference between more fertile and less fertile, fertile mucus. Calculating 4/10 temperature shifts while determining the position and firmness of the cervix. Observation, charting, cross-checks, and prayerfully discernment are all necessary steps to becoming naturally aware of the signs and wonders of the female fertility cycle. NFP can scientifically claim an effectiveness rate of 99%, among other benefits, but it does require personal responsibility.

In the words of Spiderman's uncle, with great power comes great responsibility. The power to plan a family is definitely great, a great honor, a great blessing. But, our culture isn't much interested in personal responsibility, especially when profit can be made off of the notion that power comes from a pill or injection.

Fear, in the case of our students, isn't a helpful natural instinct, but an emotion fueled by a man-made distortion. Truly, the effectiveness rates of NFP are equal to the best contraceptive rates (though that doesn't mean they are morally or ethically equal). If a couple discerns a serious call or reason to postpone a new pregnancy, they are able to apply their knowledge to figure out what days of abstinence are required. Every couple is smart enough, every couple can learn to be vigilant enough to achieve their goal of postponement when necessary.

What is really at stake is the fear that a baby, an eternal soul, will be conceived and that they will not be able to care for or welcome the new member of their family. Like the extension ladder, they realize they might need to ascend above their comfort-level. They must accept total responsibility for their marital embrace, it must become something more than a carnal pleasure alone.

Yes, they should set their ladder on stable footings by learning how to accurately read the woman's bodily signs of fertility and infertility. Indeed they'll have to map out the location by communicating their dreams, and plans and needs. They'll raise their spiritual ladder by praying together and seeking God's Will each cycle. And ultimately, they will need to step up by assuming responsibility individually, through self-mastery of their sexual desires, and together, through a unified commitment to remain open to life.

At times they may need to surrender themselves, to surrender their fears, to surrender their man-made plans. Because often God will change a couple's heart. He'll challenge their limited notion of happiness. But while a fall from the height of my extension ladder had the potential to inflict fatal harm, a careless slip in NFP can result in the gift of a brand new life.

-----

Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of seven living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede (and a little soul expected to arrive in August). Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, a fish, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog "Blessings In Brelinskyville" (www.http://brelinskyville.blogspot.com/).

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More Living Faith

Spiritual Childhood and Contemplative Prayer Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

One of the greatest joys in this later chapter of my life is an unexpected gift, his name is Noah. He is my grandson. He calls me Poppi. He is seven years old and so very wise. Noah continually confronts me with the utter simplicity, trust, openness and beauty of ... continue reading


How to Avoid Sliding into Pharisee-ism Watch

Image of Christ Before the High Priest, by Gerrit van Honthorst (1590-1656) hangs in the London Museum of Art.  The painting depicts Jesus, standing before the High priest - with His holy hands bound. The Priest, who at the time I thought was a Pharisee, is looking up with an arrogant demeanor and a pointed finger.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

A priest friend once reminded me that not ALL the Pharisees were so blinded by their self-righteousness that they failed to recognize that the One whom they so often sought to correct was God Incarnate. And, of course, he was correct. The Pharisees were a genuine ... continue reading


What every catechist needs but few have

Image of A complete library of books for catechists should feature the USCCB's full collection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If you're a catechist, then you're aware of the importance of your role. You provide the core of Catholic education to our youth and adults who are entering the Church. As such, you are familiar with the teachings of the Church and can probably answer most questions ... continue reading


DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS: Up to 50 Iraqi Christian refugees sleeping in areas the size of bedroom Watch

Image of Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq, is now completely empty of Christians as is Qaraqosh, a town dating back to 1,000 years before Christ and inhabited by mostly Christians for 2,000 years.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mattresses scattered around church altars. Up to 50 people sleeping in areas the size of a single bedroom. Church grounds dotted with makeshift tents in 105-degree heat. This was just a few of the deplorable conditions a delegation sent by Melkite Catholic ... continue reading


Pope Francis briefed by envoy about deteriorating situation in Iraq Watch

Image of Cardinal Filoni spoke to the Pope last week. The cardinal had just arrived at the Vatican following a visit to Iraq on August 13-20 as Francis' envoy to besieged minorities there.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Back from a fact-finding mission on the deteriorating and ever worsening situation in Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filoni said that Pope Francis "was really taken" by his description of Christians and other minorities who have been forced from their homes in north-western ... continue reading


Will Suffering, Struggle, Failure and Pain Make us Bitter or Better? Watch

Image of Because of his close communion with Jesus Christ, the Risen One who had called him in the desert, Paul cultivated an interior strength which made it possible for him to walk through the pain, to even embrace the pain, and to experience failure itself as a path to the Cross where he found comfort in the wounded side of Jesus the Savior.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

St. Paul was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Christian. An Apostle, raised up out of the ordinary course, he accomplished great things for the Lord as he eagerly responded to His calling to build the Church and, through her, to help change the world. A ... continue reading


What Pope Francis said to make millions think again about abortion Watch

Image of On Saturday, August 16, 2014, during the apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis made a loud statement. However, he did not use words. He did not have to. His prophetic action brought to mind a saying attributed to his namesake, Francis of Asisi - I preach the Gospel at all times, but sometimes I use words.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When Francis began his service from the chair of Peter, much hoopla filled the media about some alleged softening in the opposition of the Catholic Church to what are dismissively referred to as complicated "moral issues" such as abortion. Sadly, even some in the ... continue reading


DEAR CATHOLIC ONLINE: Keep it free, keep it going

Image of Keep it free, keep it live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is heavily invested in bringing you world class news delivered from the Catholic perspective. This service is provided for free and we intend for it to remain free for the foreseeable future. However, it comes at a cost and right now, we need each ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Baptized Christian Has a Vocation and Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


Friendly overtures to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with mixed response Watch

Image of LCWR presidents welcome the approximately 750 members to the assembly.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR is comprised of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The group represents about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the U.S. However, relations between the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 128:1-2, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents] How blessed are all who fear ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:27-32
27 'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 27th, 2014 Image

St. Monica
August 27: St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter