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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This Momentary Marriage

This weekend we got a chance to hang out with a married couple who are our some of our dearest friends. We truly adore them and enjoy them. We always have a good time with them, laughing and talking. We’ve shared many memories together and they have been friends through good times and bad times. Because they are atheists/agnostics and we are Christians, we usually end up having a lot of interesting and passionate conversation. This weekend, we were talking about marriage and divorce. They were surprised to hear both Kristian and I say that we would not divorce one another even for infidelity. Kristian and I are committed to one another for as long as we both live, no matter what.

Last week, I received John Piper’s new book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” in the mail. I actually won it from a Desiring God contest (thank you, Desiring God!). The conversation with our friends this weekend and reading this great book inspired me to post a series on this book.

You might think it strange that, on the one hand, I just said that my husband and I will never divorce, and on the other hand, I am reading (and highly recommending) a book called “This Momentary Marriage”. What I like about this book is that it puts Christian marriage in the perspective of eternity. On the one hand, marriage is profoundly holy because it is bond forged by God Himself and is crafted to glorify God by displaying the enduring covenant love of Christ for His bride, the church. Marriage (albeit imperfectly) mimics the intimacy, joy, love, and unity that already exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and also foreshadows the intimacy, joy, love, and unity that is increasingly experienced by God’s people in relationship with God and with His people. On the other hand, marriage is temporal and fleeting in that it is only a shadow of what is to come—the time when our intimacy, joy, love, and unity with God and with His people will be unfettered and uninhibited by sin. When that day has come in fullness, marriage will be obsolete. The image will be exchanged for the thing itself. The dress rehearsal will be over and the long awaited glorious day will be here!

Practically speaking, this view of marriage gives us much hope. Frankly, without the gospel, without knowing God and what He did for me, without knowing Jesus and His example, without experiencing the Holy Spirit, without knowing that there is a purpose in marriage that is bigger than Kristian and me, I don’t think we would stay married. (For more on what the gospel is, go to “labels” on the left side of this page and click on “the gospel”.) I will never forget what Pastor Mark Driscoll said at our wedding, “the only problem with marriage is the man and the woman”. This is so true! Marriage exposes the sinfulness and selfishness of human beings. As such, marriage requires forgiveness and sacrifice in order to survive. My husband cannot meet my needs perfectly nor can I meet his. I will (and have) failed him, and he will (and has) failed me. Marriage is hard and deeply painful. If there is no God, why shouldn’t I simply “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry”? Why shouldn’t I remain with Kristian while it suits me and then leave him when ceases to do so?

The reason why Kristian and I will be married for as long as we live is because we know that our bond is from God—our Sovereign God brought us together for a glorious purpose. Because of this, our love for each other is based on covenant and not on whether our needs or desires are being met by marriage. Our marriage is not the end-all and that we are not each other’s end-all. Yet, we are a gift from a gracious God to each other, and we get to delight in one another (indeed, God delights in our delighting in each other). We are able to sincerely love each other by the Holy Spirit as He teaches us how to sacrificially love and forgive through the Word and through the example of Christ’s sacrificial love and forgiveness for us. By God’s grace, we get to grow in love for and delight in one another. We are able to delight in how marriage brings us closer to God, while still recognizing that our joy now is only a foretaste of the even greater joy that is to come. We also get to be transformed by God’s grace together. As our sinfulness is continually exposed, we get to walk through repentance together, forgiving one another and helping one another. We get to serve others together, using the complimentary gifts God has given us as a team. There is a purpose in our marriage that is beyond ourselves. There is so much hope in that and this brings a sweetness to our marriage that I cannot describe.

“This Momentary Marriage” is all about the sacredness of marriage as being from God for the purpose of displaying the gospel of His glorious grace. (You can get the book “This Momentary Marriage” for $6.49 from Desiring God also has a $25 gift set that includes “This Momentary Marriage,” plus a book of Piper’s poems, and CDs of a sermon series he did on marriage. You can get the gift set here:

Here are some excerpts from “This Momentary Marriage” that I have enjoyed so far:

Thoughts from NoŃ‘l Piper in the foreword…

“I know some couples who think and feel so much alike that they can work together, minister together, live together, and raise children together with hardly any conflict. Well, there might be a couple like that. But it’s not us.” P.9
(Kristian and I can totally relate to that one!)

“In our real life, I swing somewhere between two extremes. At one end of the pendulum’s arc, I’m in wonder: ‘How in the world did I get such an amazing husband? What did I ever do that he should have paid me a bit of notice, never mind that he asked me to marry him?’….By contrast, when inertia and resistance are dragging us downward, I’m asking myself, “How in the world did we get into such a mess? What happened to make us feel this kind of disagreement and unhappiness?” P. 9-10

“The pendulum of our marriage oscillates and sometimes wobbles, but it is suspended from above and is firmly attached. By God’s grace, it will not crash to the ground.” P. 10

From the Introduction....
"There is no human marriage after death. The shadow of covenant-keeping between the husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key." P.14
"This covenant-keeping love reached its climax in the death of Christ for his church, his bride. That death was the ultimate expression of grace, which is hte ultimate expression of God's glory, which is of infinite value. Therefore, when Paul says that our great and first destiny is "the praise of [God's] glorious grace (Eph 1:6), he elevated marriage beyond measure, for here, uniquely, God displays the apex of the glory of his grace: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). P. 15 & P.16
"Romance, sex, and childbearing are temporary gifts of God. They are not part of the next life. And they are not guaranteed even for this life. They are one possible path along the narrow way to Paradise. Marriage passes through breathtaking heights and through swamps with choking vapors. It makes many things sweet, and with it come bitte providences." p. 17
From Chapter 1…

“The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God.” P. 21

“So, in sum, the most foundational thing we can say about marriage is that it is God’s doing. It’s his doing: a. because it was his design in creation; b. because he personally gave away the first bride in marriage; c. because he spoke the design of marriage into existence: leave parents, hold fast to your wife, become one flesh; d. and because this one-flesh union is established by God himself in each marriage.” P. 23

“A glimpse into the magnificence of marriage comes from seeing in God’s word that God himself is the great doer. Marriage is his doing. It is from him and through him. That is the most foundational thing we can say about marriage. Now we turn to the most ultimate thing we can say about marriage. It is not only from him and through him. It is also for him.” P. 24

“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.” P. 25

“Jesus died for sinners. He forged a covenant in the white-hot heat 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 nor forsake you” (Matt. 28:20; Heb 13:5). Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world.” P. 26

I’ll post more as I get through the book.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

As always, thank you so much for your love of God and His word and for encouraging and motivating me through your life and your blog. I'm so thankful that God brought you into my life this fall!