Piper’s advice for dealing with the inevitable cow pies in your marriage

This Momentary Marriage book coverI’ve been reading through John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage on Sunday mornings, and yesterday I encountered this short section (on page 58 of the Kindle edition) on how to deal with “the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits” that are part of every marriage, because every husband and every wife has and brings each of these “cow pies” into their marriage.

In the larger context of the chapter where this quote is from Piper has been unpacking Colossians 3:12-19, and here he’s really focusing on verse 12 and the truth that believers are “chosen ones, holy and beloved.”

The Compost Pile

So what about the compost pile I mentioned at the end of the last chapter? Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future, and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and the flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and in your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but sometimes it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. Noël and I have come to believe that the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. That’s where you shovel the cow pies.

You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of the field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of the field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs may ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is a gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.

Get the book

You can (currently) download a free PDF version of this book from Desiring God’s website on this page of their resource library.

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