When Life Gets Out of Control
Justin: On the front page of one of the sections of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal was a picture of a woman and a giant headline “Why I froze my eggs (and you should too).” The article turned out to be a two page article explaining how modern reproductive technology has allowed women to “control” their fertility. It argued that woman can now experience greater freedom because they can overcome their biology, putting off family life or reproduction until it coincides with their desires.
While I empathize with many of the desires of the author (desires rooted in a longing for happiness and fulfillment), my experience of reading the article was that it left me with a great sense of sadness. The author’s mindset clearly viewed children as objects, which could be collected to serve one’s desires. Rather than accepting children as the natural fruit of loving relationships blossoming in their proper season according to God’s plan, they could now be produced and harvested according to our own plan.
The ultimate question of the article was, “Who will I trust to ensure my happiness?” and the author’s response was that she was going to take matters into her own hands.
Sara: As a woman, I think I related to the woman more than Justin did! While in college, I had the perfect plan worked out for my life. I’d meet and date the man I would marry. We’d get married right after graduation, and then establish our careers before we had children. However, God had different plans, and I graduated college without the coveted engagement ring.
Justin: Getting pregnant was a shock to both of us. We entered marriage open to children, but I know that I had many plans. Many thoughts ran through my mind. Just a few more months with a second income could really help us financially. How were we going to pay the medical bills? Was I going to be a good father? It suddenly all seemed beyond my control. Inherent in these thoughts was that same question, “Will we be happy or will the sacrifice be too great?”
Sara: Over the nine months we’ve had Gus, God has really shown me in a million different ways that I am not in control. Just as I didn’t control when we conceived our first child I can’t control his behavior! While I can feed Gus before Mass in hopes of him behaving better during Mass, I can’t control whether or not Gus has a temper tantrum, when Gus gets sick, or if he eats his vegetables at dinner. However, I am happier than I ever imagined I could be during my college daydreams.
Justin: Recently I have been reading “The Real Story” by Curtis Martin and Edward Sri. The book examines the grand narrative of scripture beginning with Adam and Eve through the new covenant of Christ.
If we look closely, each Old Testament story asks this same question, “Who will I trust to ensure my happiness?” Some of the characters get it wrong and some of them get it right. For instance, Abraham is called from his homeland to follow God, who makes three promises. God promises to make him a great nation, give him a great name, and bless all the nations through him. These promises, however, are not immediately fulfilled. In fact, years pass before Abraham has a son and when he does God asks Abraham to sacrifice him (but stops Abraham before he goes through with it) in order to test Abraham.
Contrast this with the story of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (later called Israel). Jacob had inherited the blessings of Abraham, but all through his life he schemes to get ahead by making these blessings come to him rather than waiting on God. And while Jacob would indeed found the nation of Israel, his story is full of pain caused by the deceit of those who surround him and it ends as he moves his family to Egypt where they would eventually be enslaved.
Sara: And it’s so easy for us to “plan” how we can get ahead! In the world of Facebook, it’s so easy to see all the great times our friends are having as they post about their perfect child, great job, or fun vacations. However, ultimately, we have to remember each of us are blessed and entrusted with different crosses as we seek holiness.
Justin: Each of our lives is filled with this question, “Who will ensure my happiness?” It is difficult to give up control. I am often like Jacob whose name God changed to Israel (which literally means “he who wrestles with God”). However, ultimately, we are not self-sufficient. We don’t always know what is best and our desire for control often leads to heartache.