I knew of Tamara Hill Murphy because I’d come across her blog once or twice. That was before I moved to Austin the same week she did, before we met in the same church on a Sunday morning, before I realized her humor or her wisdom or her willingness to think deep on the hard things and laugh about about the surface ones. I’m grateful we got to live near each other for a season. And I’m grateful to share her with you. (PS Add her blog to your blogroll, okay?)
One good phrase quip: You trust God to keep you safe at night, but you still lock the doors.
My parents’ parents didn’t talk about sex. My parents began the conversation, but either they weren’t speaking above a whisper or I wasn’t listening. I managed to have my first son three days shy of nine months from the first time I ever had sex. When he was born I still wasn’t sure I’d ever had it. I didn’t care. I flew the kite of that beautiful baby boy for all the world to see.
We have a history of honeymoon babies in this family. It’s pretty much legendary now. Possibly all this hushing up about sex has something to do with it. Three or four days into our marriage (when it was probably already too late), I called my mother-in-law, the medical professional, from my honeymoon hotel room. Maybe it was time we should know something about birth control, we thought. Brian and I had spent about a half hour discussing it once during our engagement. He’d heard somewhere that the Pill could be dangerous so I blundered my way through my first ob/gyn visit and left holding some oddly-shaped doo dad that I was too embarrassed to let the family doctor know I hadn’t understood the first thing about. (that thing is supposed to go where?)
Through the next six years, as we gave birth to four sweet babies, I had my first experience with mixing theology and sexuality. Experience is probably a gentle word. More like got bashed over the head by it. At that time in our lives we knew a lot of burgeoning Christian families who seemed like they had their act together. They loaned me books that instructed us in a lot of theology (choosing to limit offspring equaled something like murder) but not a lot about the biology of procreation. I took their word for it and felt like I’d stumbled into the highest of all possible family ideals.
But idealism about family planning doesn’t mean a speck when you’ve spent the day laying aside your every need as a human being to meet the needs of the arrows in your quiver and the nights sleep-walking from marriage bed to crib to toddler bed, only to end up slumped over a nursing infant and waking up thankful you didn’t smother it to death. Idealism did not last through the storms of reality for me. And then I had baby number four. I’d been married six years. I was 26 years old. We’d been making a real salary for less than a year. I was tired.
So we, Brian and me, got interested in biology real quick-like. The information was easy to come by, even before Google. We covered Theology, too. It consisted of getting sage advice wrapped in euphemisms from the family matriarchs. The same women who didn’t talk about sex were quick to speak up when they saw me teetering on the edge of the looney-bin. I am grateful to them to this day.
You trust God to keep you safe at night, but you still lock the doors.
I was more than relieved to agree that this must be true, even if it wasn’t terribly deep. When you’re teetering on the edge, sometimes a quip will do.
To this day I don’t know where that phrase originated or what other great truth it might have been intended to convey. We took it to mean that while we trusted God to give us as many children as He wanted and we’d embrace them with open arms, we’d also “lock” the biological doors.
Really, though, the words became much more than a witty proverb helping us move beyond our family planning indecision. The words ended up representing our real-life schooling in the most beautiful theology. Amidst our blundering, bumbling and stumbling through what it means to be grown ups in charge of a family, we came to know deeply that God is sovereign and full of grace and mercy. That it’s not our wisdom or understanding that brings out His best for us. That God’s expectations for us are surpassed by His delights in us.
On our best days, we make plans, try to be in the right place at the right time knowing the right things to please Him and care for each other. Brian and I will probably never be invited to share our expertise on family planning, but at the end of the day, we share our home and our lives with these four divinely-created images of the one true God — Andrew, Alexander, Kendra and Natalie. These human beings who came down to us as lights from Heaven when we barely knew how they got here.
Best we can do now is laugh at the holy absurdity of it all.
Tamara Hill Murphy writes at This Sacramental Life where she encourages her readers to see God’s presence through daily practices of art, liturgy and relationships. Born and raised in the Northeast, she now lives in the bright city of Austin, Texas with her audacious and often-homesick family: two daughters, two sons, one husband.