By Barnabas Piper
Eleven and a half years — that’s how long it lasted. Eleven and half years of marriage and then gone. It ended in death, though nobody died. Just the marriage. I say just, but it is a death as much as any person. When she told me she was finished it was like a knock at the door from the police chaplain — utter shock, not real, numbness, anger, fear. Lots of fear. Or was it grief? C.S. Lewis wrote about how grief felt so much like fear, so maybe it was that.
Barnabas Piper Divorce
By the time it ended and the signed order from the judge came through it wasn’t shock anymore. It was the final breath of one dying from a wasting disease, a rattling soft whiff that passed with so little fanfare it felt almost illegal given the celebration that started its life and the effort that had gone into keeping it alive. It’s strange how a marriage begins with a party attended by everyone you love (and a few you’re obliged to invite) and ends with naught but a signed document passed from judge to clerk to postman.
The grief was softer too, though no less strong. It was not a raucous, raging thing but rather the constant ache of something missing. I’ve read of soldiers having had limbs amputated yet still being able to feel the limb that is gone. They feel pain where there is no appendage to hurt. This is that pain, or is it grief? It’s hard to tell, and maybe it is both.
2016 was a year of losses. Celebrities, heroes, icons, and American hope and decency all seemed to pass away. For me Barnabas Piper, it was the year I lost my marriage. Actually, that’s not true. It was the year the loss of my marriage was completed. It had been dying for a long time despite every effort to resuscitate and recuperate it. It just did not want to live any longer because, unlike kidneys, one cannot make up for the loss of the other and do the work of two.
I write. I write to process and to share. I write because I communicate better and more deeply this way than any other way and because it is the taproot of my emotions and beliefs. This means to write well I must be honest, to put forth words that reflect what is real in me, my heart, my life, my faith. Honesty doesn’t mean utter transparency — life can (should) still be private. It should be shared with real people in real moments of real life, not just in print. But the best writing, the kind that means anything, is honest writing.
It must not pose as something it is not or come from a place that does not exist. It ought not give the reader an impression things are one way when they are quite another. And if writing must not do these things it means the writer must not, since without the latter there is no former. So I write this now, reader, so you will know the place from which I write. It is not a confession. It is not a memoir or an exposé. Neither is it an argument for or against anything. It is simply a writer revealing his context a bit so that his readers, if they care, can know from whom they hear.
Barnabas Piper: My Place
While these last years have been ferociously difficult for me they have been the proving ground for God to me. Never have I been lower and never has He been closer or greater. I do not say this in a Bible-band aid way. No band-aid has stopped the bleeding yet — yet. But God has given me life as I bleed — through His word and His people. I feel as if I am dying daily and yet I am as alive in faith as I have ever been. The tattoo adorning my right forearm — I believe, help my unbelief — has been inked on my heart as well.