This volume (This Momentary Marriage by John Piper) leaves other marriage books in the dust as it rises above the usual 10-steps-to-doing-better approach. It also manages to use Scripture rather than psychology to make its heart-searching message come alive. I must warn you, however, that if you are like me, you might find yourself under enormous conviction.
Notice I didn’t say guilt. I can provide that for myself, can’t you? I refer to spot-on analysis of me with real challenge to seize the Bible ideal of marriage. You always think as you read, no matter the depths of how wrong you are staring you in the face, that through Christ real change is possible. Real work, real following of Christ, but possible.
He chucks the dream world before the introduction is over. He’s been married for 40 years and confesses there have been ups and downs, varying seasons of a marriage that he thanks God for. He makes you see that the “weight of our sin” pushes us this way. Perhaps if we could see that it is the weight of OUR sin that drags us down, not the weight of my spouse’s sin, we could go forward. Reality is a great precursor to progress.
He begins by laying the foundation that the fundamental thing about marriage is that it’s about covenant keeping, and particularly, a testimony of Christ’s faithful covenant keeping with the Church. That necessarily makes Ephesians 5:21-33 shine brighter. He debunks the myth that marriage is mainly about staying in love. That is an emphasis that comes from recent American culture, and no matter how much you enjoy the warm fuzzies of married love (as I do), that is not, and cannot be, the ultimate thing. It’s not enough to withstand crisis, nor to keep a marriage on track when the warm fuzzies become as cold as a stone.
This means it is noble to avoid divorce at all costs. That will not make this book popular in many circles, but it is firmly based in what marriage is. In fact, the reason this is called “momentary marriage” is that it is designed by God from the beginning as a picture of His faithfulness to us that lasts all of life.
Perhaps you say that all of this sounds good, or at least theological, but what about real help for our marriages. That’s the beauty of this book. Take, for example, the chapter on “Forgiving And Forbearing”. He begins by quoting Bonhoeffer:
Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.
We must forgive. We are sinners–there will be wrongs done. When I forgive it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t wronged. As I thought of this I couldn’t help but think that this in great part comes from my wife giving herself to me. She has never opened up to anyone as she has me. No one else has been with her so often as to see such a variety of situations arise and her reactions good or bad. Familiarity always takes down our guard. Since she is a sinner, this also means that no one on earth knows her faults quite like me. I can tell you what’s wrong with her and probably will peg it right (as she can me). Had she hidden her heart from me, or had she been unreal around me, I wouldn’t know these things, would I? (Don’t misunderstand my point as I am surely twice the sinner she is!)
I can forgive because I need her forgiveness for my own rottenness. Plus, I can forgive because I know how Christ has forgiven me. I mean that is all a one-sided affair, which is not true in my marriage even on my spouse’s worst day. Christ forgave my real guilt. He kept His love, His covenant, when I gave Him thousands of reasons not to do so. Mr. Piper went on to discuss that we even forgive and forbear each other’s strangeness. Our sins even give us our own peculiarities. I’ve often felt sorry for my Alicia as I have far more than the normal quota. As great as she is, she has a few. We must look past these–it ought not be so hard.
Don’t worry, he is balanced. When he explains how the husband pictures Christ, he states that the husband is NOT Christ! The husband should see that role as his call to love her, give himself for her, and die for her. He states that Christ is supreme, but the husband is not. To be honest, his 2 chapters on “Lionhearted and Lamblike”, were a big gut check in life for me. My deficiencies rose up to such a degree I couldn’t escape them. Pray that I can respond to what is now clearer to me.
Men, he argues that the Lord holds us responsible and that is what leadership is all about. He says if the Lord showed up at the door of our homes to discuss our home He would ask, “Where is the man of the house?” Ladies, he doesn’t try to throw it all on you as some marriage books do. He holds you to account, but I think you will find him gentle.
There’s more, but since children have such an impact on marriage, his counsel on “the conquest of anger in father and child” is worth the price of the book. (O great–I was convicted as a husband and a father!)
I don’t know what else to say than this is easily the best book on marriage I have ever read. I will keep it handy the rest of my days.