When my body confused me this morning, I realized I’ve inadvertently perpetuated a lie.
Earlier today, I wasn’t sure what was happening with my body. I became not only confused, but also a little anxious. The confusion was normal; my body behaved differently than I had expected. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being confused. The anxiety, on the other hand, was prideful. I was anxious because I feared I didn’t know my body as well as I thought I did. (I can know everything, right? Oh, the sting of hubris.)
In my enthusiasm for the benefits of NFP, I’ve focused almost entirely on what NFP can teach us. Doing so, however, led me to neglect acknowledging what NFP cannot teach us. While it’s impossible to learn too much about our bodies, it’s also impossible to learn everything about them. I apologize for inadvertently perpetuating this lie.
In a very real sense, our bodies remain beautiful mysteries. And I kind of…well…forgot. I constantly write and speak about how our bodies are mysteries, but when my body acted mysteriously, I was shocked. How hypocritical can I get?
Acknowledging the mystery of the human body is not the negation of science, but rather, the affirmation of beauty. Science is a powerful way to learn as much as we can. Science will continue to reveal more and more about the human body. Just imagine what we will know in 50 years. 100 years. 1,000 years! Science is itself beautiful! But even this truth highlights the fact that beauty is bigger than science. There are some truths about the human body that science can never explain. And this is not a bad thing.
We don’t learn about our bodies so we can be in control. We learn about our bodies so we can participate. Please don’t misunderstand: participation is not some blind and irresponsible acceptance of the unknown in an pathetic attempt to be obedient. Healthy participation requires preparation, responsibility, discernment, and agency. It is this agency piece where things can get a little muddled. What does it mean to have agency over our bodies?
We deserve to have the kind of agency over our bodies that speaks to our dignity. We deserve the kind of agency that enables us to live freely and fully. We deserve the kind of agency that protects us from being used. In contrast, when I was shocked that I didn’t know everything about my body this morning, I was operating under the mistaken belief that my agency meant that nothing was out of my control- that I had dominated my body.
It’s empowering to be in tune with your body and to have a better idea about what is happening each day. NFP can give you this in a way nothing else can and I will sing NFP’s praises until my dying day. But NFP is just a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used improperly. We are fooling ourselves if we follow the rules of our NFP methods in an attempt to develop full control over our bodies. It can’t be done, and thinking it can leads to anxiety, heartache, and a backbreaking amount of pride.
Fortunately, when we forget that our bodies are beautiful mysteries, our bodies have a way of reminding us. Thank you, body, for reminding me.
*This article was originally titled, “When NFP Harms.” I’ve changed the title because it wasn’t NFP that harmed me….it was my misuse of NFP that harmed me! I’m grateful to Christopher West who pointed out my mistake. (How ironic that I titled my article about inadvertently misleading people with a title that inadvertently misleads people, huh? Gosh I need a lot of help!)