Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Compost Pile

As I continue to "work" my way through John Piper's sermon series on marriage, I listened to "Marriage: Forgiving and Forbearing" (read or listen) today. He ended the sermon with an analogy of a compost pile that I was thought was quite good:

So what about the compost pile? 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 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 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 it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to 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 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 field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make 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 the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.

© Desiring God

Once again, follow the links to read or listen to this sermon, or go to the page for the entire sermon series here.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting analogy, and I see Piper's point. However, aren't those same "cow pies" bits of us that were also created by God, for His purposes? "Flaws," in that they might be sinful or hurt others, irritate, etc...but a perfect part of the work He is doing in our lives - individually, and in the context of marriage. I've only read this post, not the entire message. So I may be missing something else Piper said. But it seems to me that God, in His sovereignty, knew exactly what strengths and weaknesses He wanted us to have in our marriage, and how He would work in us over the years for our good and His glory. He fashioned us that way. might smell like crap sometimes, but even then - it is God's perfect plan. My mind automatically jumps to a negative connotation when I think of cowpies and mucking through it or smelling it. (Ick!) Instead, I think that He knew what "irritations" or "flaws" or "cowpies" my husband should have to teach me what I need to learn, and vice versa. He knew and planned to have us be just where we are...continuing on the journey, as He does the work He has started in us. Praise Him that He will finish it! He's daily making us more like Christ, and bringing glory to Himself in the process. I thought, when Piper referred to compost, he was going to speak of how productive that is for growth. Of course, I'm living in a part of the world where a large number of people compost at home and reap great benefits in their gardens because of it. So rather than go to the compost pile and smell it and walk away, I hope we can spread it around the dry and dead areas of our marriage and grow...not in spite of it, but because of it! And believe me when I say...we've just been doing some compost-spreading of our own. God is good. ALL the time - even when it's hard, or it really, really stinks. (Like I need to tell you that.) ~J in the UK

Anonymous said...

Wow...didn't realize that was so long - sorry. It's late. ;-) ~J

jwd said...

That sounds right to me - you don't want to leave the cow pies as they are, because then they stink and get stepped in and tracked all over. But they can be "cleaned up" and used to cause more growth.

I'm reminded of the sower/seed, life/death illustrations used by Christ (John 12:24 - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:36-37 - What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.)