Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper

An old friend of mine first mentioned to me that she was reading the new book on marriage by John Piper called This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. I was intrigued and was happy to nab a copy. I read it a few weeks ago, back when life was calm and sane and my husband and I were living together under one roof. (Don't worry. We're back under the same roof.) I read this book when I had the worst flu bug I have ever experienced and my husband had rule over everything. I read it before I left for Texas for three weeks to be with my dad who was dying of cancer. At that point in time, Jonathan and I had never been apart from one another for more than three days. Three weeks was our longest stretch and we'd like never to break the record, thanks much. We like being married and we're thrilled to be a family once more.

So -- I've had three weeks to think about this book before writing a review of it. That's a bit unusual as I tend to read, complete, and promptly sit down to review. This one has had some time to 'simmer in the pot' if you will. It is a book that has come to mind often over the course of the last few weeks.

Written by John Piper, the introduction to the book is given by his wife, Noel. Piper asked his bride what she thought was the greatest truth of marriage that ought to be shared and she said that he should repeat the truth throughout the book that marriage is a picture of Christ's covenant with His people. He laid down his life for the church. Try as I might, I cannot reword what he wrote in the opening chapter to say it any better than Piper himself can so I'll just type it up here for you.

Jesus died for sinners. He forged a covenant in the white-hot head of His suffering in our place. He made an imperfect bride His own with the price of His blood and covered her with the garments of His own righteousness. He said, "I am with you . . . to the end of the age . . . I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world. That is why we are married. That is why all married people are married, even when they don't know and embrace the gospel. (Chapter 1, page 26)

Our marriages are momentary pictures of A Parable of Permanence. We are snapshots of a grand masterpiece. Our marriages are reflection pools of Christ's design and sacrifice for His people.

Piper does define marriage as being between one man and one woman. He is opposed to the concept of divorce (except in extreme circumstances) and does not apologize for his own faithfulness to his earthly bride, Noel. He is also honest (as his bride was in her introduction) that they are total opposites and their marriage has not always been easy. In fact, he makes the statement that the first twenty-five years were rough. The Pipers have now been married for around forty years (I could look up the exact number of years but I'm feeling lazy) and they are only now "relaxing" into their happy state of marital bliss. They still do not agree in everything, but he assures his reader that the road is easier than it was in the first twenty-five years.

So often today you hear of newlyweds saying that their first year of marriage was rough. The first year seems to be the sticking point. It was rather eye-opening to hear Piper throw out the number twenty-five. That's a long term vision most couples today do not have and perhaps are not willing to embrace. It was a stunning statement to me -- and Jonathan and I do not believe in divorce and have purposed a life-time commitment to one another. We're at the four year mark and we'd like to think we can achieve what the Vulcan-mind meld can achieve in 2.2 seconds in under five years. But marriage wouldn't seem to be like that. Four years might seem like a lifetime. Ten years is unimaginable to us. However, even fifty years is less than a blip on God's radar screen. No matter what time frame God places on our marriage, we are to seek to know Him and be a reflection of Him. We do not wish to muddy the waters but have people look at our marriage and see the love of God. (Not to mention the fact that we wish to experience the love of Christ within our own marriage!)

This book is encouraging, motivational and insightful. In a day and age where Hollywood seems to set the standard for what period of time qualifies a marriage as being "successful" it is good to have Piper standing up to remind us that a.) marriage is a wonderful expression of God's love and b.) it represents something bigger than myself, Jonathan, and our own marriage.

I highly recommend This Momentary Marriage to newlyweds, particularly. And given the fact that I've only been married for four years, I feel that that is the only group of people who I can reasonably recommend it to. That said, I imagine that anyone who is married, or about to become so, can glean a little something from this read.


Ronnica said...

The first 25 years was rough? Wow...I imagine that's a good way to put it!

Anonymous said...

Cool post about this marriage book. It sounds really interesting.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This sounds really good, Carrie. (Is this the one you were talking about when you said you were about to review one I'd like?) DH and I are celebrating 10 YEARS this year, and I have to say that while it hasn't always been easy (and won't always be in the future, I know), he is definitely God's greatest gift to me (outside of salvation).

Stephanie Kay said...

Wow! I think I need to read this book! Even though I've been married for 12 years and 9 days. Our first year of adjustments was tough but I think every year has been tough. Maybe because our family keeps changing which then changes us as individuals as well as our marriage.

This book is definitely going on my list. :)

Marks of Faith said...

Sounds like a fantastic book! I love Piper's down to earth, truth filled, straight shooting from the hip style and this sounds like a book that would be extremely beneficial to read and to share with others. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

My husband and I just hit the two year has been rough, but we love our marriage!

Becky said...

Hi! I wanted to let you know that I've started a mini-challenge for this summer. Summer Studies asks participants to choose one gospel to study over the summer. I hope you can join in. And if you do, I'd love for you to spread the word among your friends. :)

Lisa Spence said...

Looks like a great read

hopeinbrazil said...

Hi! Sounds like a great book for our times. Another highly recommended book on the same topic has been Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. It has the same theme of marriage over the long haul and completely rejects the popular idea that marriage is mainly about personal happiness.

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