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Marriage is a parable of the relationship between Jesus and his church. And according to John Piper, such toughminded covenant-keeping is “the best soil for the long-term flourishing of tender affections.” Velvet Steel uniquely expresses this rich, emotional dimension through a series of poems Piper has written for his wife Noël during their forty-plus years together.

VELVET STEEL

Celebrating the Tenderness of Covenant-Keeping Love

Velvet Steel The Joy of Being Married to You

The ebbs and flows of not just being in love but staying in love are movingly shared in these pages, offering a taste of tender affections that will nurture your own affections for the Maker of marriage.

CHRISTIAN LIFE/ LOVE & MARRIAGE

JOHN PIPER

JOHN PIPER is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. His many books include This Momentary Marriage, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, What Jesus Demands from the World, and Don’t Waste Your Life.

Selections from the Poems of

JOH N PI PE R


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Velvet Steel Copyright © 2009 by Desiring God Foundation Published by C  rossway Books a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers 1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law. Cover design: Josh Dennis First printing, 2009 Printed in the United States of America ISBN PDF: 978-1-4335-1132-5 ISBN Mobipocket: 978-1-4335-1133-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Piper, John, 1946–    Velvet steel : the joy of being married to you : selections from the poems of John Piper.      p.  cm.    ISBN 978-1-4335-1131-8    1. Marriage—Poetry. I. Title. PR3566.I59V45    2009 811'.54—dc22 2008048761 LB 15

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Contents

Introduction

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To Come and Capture Me

15

To a Diamond on Our Engagement

16

A Whispered Yes

18

She Kneeled to Be His Wife

19

The Christian Hedonist Takes a Wife

20

Heartbeat the Morning of Our Marriage

22

Our Wedding Text: Habakkuk 3

23

A Promise to Be Kept

24

Good Promises

25

Our Solstice Anniversary: December 21

26

Love’s Prominence

27

Ephesian Covenant

28

Nature and Your Face

29

Love Never Felt Before

30

Being a Gift on Your Birthday

31

Feeling a Fake Kiss

32

Her Love, My Day and Night

33

Design

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Away by Noël

35

A Tender Piece of Sovereignty

36

Wo Brennt die Liebe Immer Fort

37

Georgia Belle

38

“Just Tell Me When to Pack”

39

Pity Millionaires

40

Paradise Still Cursed

41

None But You

42

The Way to Joy

43

How Firm You Deal

44

Roots

45

The Feeble Rich

46

Valentine’s Grace

47

This Marriage: Old or Young?

48

Going for Gold by Noël

50

Go Make a Parable for Jesus’ Sake

51

And Ripened Full, Fed Her Beloved

54

A Season That Will Pass

55

A Crystal Tear

56

To Look at All Things New

57

Hosea and Gomer

58

The Gadarene in His Right Mind

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Ruth

61

Boaz

62

Job

63

Dawn: On Hearing That I Have Cancer

64

That Fragile Afternoon

65

That Glad Afternoon When We First Met

66

The Servant of Our Love

67

Your Mirrored Treasures Shine

68

Trust Him Who Cuts

70

Leaning into You

71

A Mother’s Day Vision

72

On Becoming a Grandmother

73

Braiding Talitha’s Hair

74

Losses: On Turning Sixty

75

How a Grandmother Knits

76

Take Us to Yourself Together

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But If I Die

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Introduction

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his poetry is an overflow of my affection for my wife of more than forty years. Two of them are exceptions—they were written by Noël. Most of them are excerpts from longer poems. The reasons for not including the whole poems is that some are too long and my aim is to give tastes, not meals—tastes of one man’s affections for his wife. I put this collection together in the days immediately after writing a book on marriage called This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. This collection of poems completes that book. What seemed to be missing there was the taste of my affections for Noël. In fact, the point of that book was that covenantkeeping, not the affections of being “in love,” is the main point of marriage. But I also emphasized that tough-minded covenant-keeping is the best soil for the long-term flourishing of tender affections. Therefore, it seemed helpful that I give 11

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Velvet S t ee l some tastes of what those affections were like over the last forty-two years. Why poetry? Because poetry helps me intensify and express feelings that cannot be captured sufficiently in ordinary language. In fact, my definition of poetry is: an effort to share a moving experience by using language that is chosen and structured differently from ordinary prose. Being in love is a very moving experience. It is like a river that over the years has rushing currents, crashing waterfalls, deep peaceful flows, eddies that swirl with scum, windblown backward drifts, surface heavings from boulders beneath, and long clean stretches of open water. Not even poetry can render this reality in another form. But some of us must try. It is built into us humans that we must try to express the affections of love in ways that are not like the affections themselves. We do it with songs, paintings, sculpture, drama, novels, woodwork, flower arrangements, purchased roses, notes left on the dresser, eating out, bed-and-breakfast weekends, repairing the leaky faucet, dressing up, sexual favors, special gifts, surprise phone calls, visiting concerts, mov12

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Joh n Pi pe r

ies, museums, gardens, oceans, mountains, and a hundred other ways. My prayer is that these small tastes of my imperfect affections will fan affections into flame— for God, for your spouse, and, in every fitting way, for all the treasured people in your life. Marriage is a parable of something greater than itself—the covenant-keeping relationship between Christ and his church. Christ’s love for his church was tough enough to keep him on the cross until our purchase was finished. But it was also tender and warm. Already through the Old Testament prophet, God gave this expression of affection: How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? . . . My heart recoils within me; My compassion grows warm and tender. (Hosea 11:8)

May God cause such tender shoots of affection to grow in the covenant-keeping soil of your life. May the fullness of Christ’s love be known and shown in the wholeness of every marriage bond. John Piper 13

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To Come and Capture Me My love for you, Noël, will drive me to pursue with God and you the one pure love and unity that God’s own Son did show in birth and death for us. As He cast off His glory once to capture me, so would I shed my freedom now to gain Noël.

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Velvet S t ee l

This Marriage: Old or Young? At twenty-four is marriage old    or it is young? I think the answer comes to this: Have all the songs been sung? Have all the songs been sung,    or are there any more? I think the answer comes to this: Can aging poets soar? Can aging poets soar,    or are the wings too weak? I think the answer comes like this: Is all the beauty bleak? Is all the beauty bleak,    and nothing left but pain? I think the answer comes to this: Does any love remain?

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Joh n Pi pe r

Does any love remain,    or has it turned to stone? I think the answer comes like this: Is God still on the throne?

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Marriage is a parable of the relationship between Jesus and his church. And according to John Piper, such toughminded covenant-keeping is “the best soil for the long-term flourishing of tender affections.” Velvet Steel uniquely expresses this rich, emotional dimension through a series of poems Piper has written for his wife Noël during their forty-plus years together.

VELVET STEEL

Celebrating the Tenderness of Covenant-Keeping Love

Velvet Steel The Joy of Being Married to You

The ebbs and flows of not just being in love but staying in love are movingly shared in these pages, offering a taste of tender affections that will nurture your own affections for the Maker of marriage.

CHRISTIAN LIFE/ LOVE & MARRIAGE

JOHN PIPER

JOHN PIPER is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. His many books include This Momentary Marriage, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, What Jesus Demands from the World, and Don’t Waste Your Life.

Selections from the Poems of

JOH N PI PE R


Velvet Steel