Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Marriage and Family: The Crucible for Refining My Soul

*Note: the following is the blog of John Piper, a well-known Christian author and publisher. This is an excerpt from his blog posted January 1, 2011. Click Here to read the entire entry. This portion about marriage was a stunning and encouraging disclosure from a man so well respected. I hope you take heart (and practical wisdom from what he has shared). Thank you Rich Wildman for posting this on your blog (click here to read).

The crucible for refining my soul is marriage and family—even more so than the challenges of ministry. So I turn to these now, knowing that I am still talking about the effects of the leave on my soul.

On December 21, Noël and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. It was peaceful, happy, memory-laden, sober, and sweet. We are in a good place.

I would label my decades-long, besetting (and I hope weakening) sins in this relationship as selfishness, self-pity, anger, blaming, and sullenness (all of them species of pride). There are others, but these are close to the root of our troubles. I put my gun-sights (Romans 8:13) on these with increasing focus as the leave went on.

Time will tell, and Noël will tell, whether the progress I have made is deep and durable. I pray it is. How these changes happened and what God has used to bring them about, will, no doubt, be subjects of messages and writings in the months and years to come.

For now, I should simply say that in the refining process God has used a combination of things:

private soul-work in the word and prayer,
formal counseling,
the faithful personal ministry of David and Karin Livingston, who have been more deeply in our lives than anyone else,
much reading about the relational shape our sins take on,
research into the peculiar (dis?)orders our brains bring to the relationship,
corporate worship,
endless conversations (time!),
new physical efforts to be strong and healthy (sleep, exercise, diet, leisure), and
new, more rigorous applications of Philippians 2:12–13 (“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is the one at work in you”).
The upshot for our marriage of this sanctifying work has been

less withdrawal, more engagement,
less moodiness and sullenness, more hope-filled emotions,
less brooding over past disappointments, more dreaming from God’s promises,
less of a critical spirit, more verbal affirmation,
more tenderness, kindness, and touch,
more intentional time together,
more patience with (genetic?) personality traits without assuming sin,
more of a spirit of forgiveness,
more gratitude and less taking for granted,
more courage to name sins (our own and each other’s) without sounding hopeless or condemning,
a fresh sense of God’s gracious fatherhood over us, who, when he disapproves, does not hold us in contempt—and our learning to do this for each other.
Relationally, perhaps the most crucial text has been Ephesians 4:31–5:2.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

God has been very patient with us.

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