NFP is about Relationships by Sheila St. John

January 27, 2023 Article by  

Duh. Of course NFP is about relationships! Respecting and integrating our fertility and freely giving of the entirety of our self in the marital embrace is at the core of the marital relationship, and NFP.

But I am talking about the importance of relationship in a broader sense, when it comes to sharing the good news of NFP with others. With our outreach being statewide, and especially over the last few years, often we are encountering each other remotely, via phone, zoom, text or email. While not ideal, it never ceases to amaze me how deep and lasting connections can be formed from such interactions. I have been blessed to experience close relationships, formed from intimate conversations and sharing of this NFP journey, many with people I have never even met in person!

Nevertheless, nothing replaces the connection we experience, of being with each other in person. It is why it is such a joy to actually be able to meet in person, friends we have only known through social media. It is why we relish the real live experience of being with others at a sports event, concert, or conference, even when given the option of viewing remotely or by video. It is why, though we treasure being able to stay in touch with far away family or friends via letter, phone, zoom, or facetime, that does not compare with the joy of being with them in person.

The thing is, it can be so much easier, to just communicate via technology. I confess, I am tempted sometimes, to go the easy route. Each time I lug a projector and case of materials to a local parish to offer an NFP Intro, or drive across the state peering through boxes packed to the ceiling of my car, spending hours loading and unloading and setting up to share NFP at an exhibit, or trudge through an airport dragging a suitcase of NFP books and flyers, praying it will be within weight limits—I wonder, is this really worth the effort? Could I have just done the Intro virtually? Will many people attend the talk? Will I reach people with this exhibit?

Visit CANFP Booth #518 & ask for your FREE Parish Packet at LA Religous Ed Congress, Feb. 24-26. Want to volunteer to staff an IN PERSON shift? Contact Prefer behind the scenes? Sign up for set up or take down!

Then it happens. I encounter the people, and I remember why it IS worth it. I sit with the couple who has struggled to find support and compassion and HELP on their infertility journey. I listen to the visitor to the exhibit, and no one is more surprised than she as she unloads her frustration trying to learn NFP on her own, with this woman she just met—because it was the first time she actually had met in person another NFP’er. I am inspired by the priest, who is eager to find resources and ideas to bring NFP to his parish. I get a hug from the mom I just met, who wanted to explore how to support her daughter on this topic. I swell with excitement at the difference the encounter might make, when a young medical student leaves the table armed with resources and contacts for mentors as she navigates a challenging professional path. And the times I may treasure most—when an unfamiliar face introduces themselves to me, and I am meeting in the flesh for the first time, someone I have known only from sharing our NFP journey over the phone, and our bond and friendship is deepened by that in person encounter.

Do I get discouraged that for every one who engages, 10, 20 or 30 might pass by? Sometimes. But as long as I continue to have that ONE conversation that really mattered, with that ONE person—I will keep showing up in person. Because that one person, is worth it!

Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning, coordinating the non-profit’s education and advocacy efforts throughout the state. Initially attracted to NFP as a healthy, effective method for planning families, drug, device and surgery free, her passion for NFP has grown over the last 42 years as she has journeyed with the over 900 couples she has personally instructed in its use, and been privileged to witness its role in overcoming infertility, women’s health, and the transformation that occurs in lives of men, women, and families, when we embrace God’s design for love and life