For Noel on Our 20th Wedding Anniversary

"Although the fig tree blossom not,
And all the vines of our small plot
Be barren, and the olive fail,
The sheep grow weak and heifers frail,
We will rejoice in God, my love,
And take our pleasures from above:
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life."

It was a wedding pledge well made,
A stone and covenant well laid,
And set, now twenty years ago —
Or twenty million. As you know
We weren't the first to love, or choose
Each other's hand: it was not news
In heaven, neither when we met,
Nor when we wed. It had been set:
"From ancient times things not yet done
Our God ordains them, every one."

That I should leave the dogwood trees
Of Carolina, you the breeze
Of Brightwood hill, and Illinois
Should be the place a southern boy
And Georgia girl meet face to face.

That I'd be reading Guilt and Grace
In Fisher Hall one summer day,
And hear a southern accent say,
"They've locked up Williston and I
Can't get my things." (Now we know why!)

That I, who never dated once,
And feared that every girl's response
Would be dislike or worse,
Should one night after church, rehearse
Inside my head a line or two,
Then muster up and say to you:
"You ever been downtown to eat?
The popcorn shop is sorta neat:
It's only four feet wide or so.
There's ice cream, too. You want to go?"

"From ancient times things not yet done
Our God ordains them, every one."

That I should fall in love that night,
And never have an appetite
For anyone but you since then,
These two and twenty years again.

On eighteen May in sixty eight
I took you on a drizzly date
To the lagoon. You wore blue jeans,
With penciled on them little scenes,
A floppy jacket army gray,
To match the color of the day;
And there beneath a great oak tree
I asked if you would marry me.
And offered you a diamond ring,
And poems to put your heart on wing.
Your words did not run to excess.
As usual, you just said, yes.

"From ancient times things not yet done
Our God ordains them, every one."

That year, December twenty one,
The marriage foothills were begun.
A velvet cross at our right hand,
An open Bible on a stand,
The preacher with a father's face,
And Jane and Billy in their place.
I promised I would love and lead.
You promised you would meet my need.
I vowed to take my cue from Christ
Who loved his bride and sacrificed
That she might live in holy joy
Secure from all that would destroy.
For better or for worse we said,
And that 'til one of us is dead.
We prayed that God would weave a cord
Of rugged love, and so the Lord
Came down with customary zeal
And there created velvet steel.

Three years beneath the carob tree
We studied great theology,
In Pasadena with a man
Who understood God's awesome plan,
And made the Bible come untame.
And we have never been the same:
When newlyweds are stunned by God
They learn to prize his loving rod.
A man and wife who learn to pray,
See all of life another way.

A three year stop in Germany
To show me what a wife could be
When things that she depended on
In seven soaring hours were gone.
And I discovered you were strong,
With roots in God where they belong,
Not in a place or family,
And now I knew that we were free:
Free for missions, free for schools,
Free to let ourselves be fools.
Free to answer any call
Anywhere on earth at all!

Six years we heard the call to teach,
And then I knew I had to preach.
I asked you, "Will you go with me
To serve at Bethlehem and see
What sovereign grace will bring about?"
I never had a moment's doubt
What you would say.

Almost nine years
You've loved a pastor, wept more tears
Each year than all the early ones
Combined. And raised four godly sons.
And made yourself a place of praise
Amid the warfare of these days.
How many know the steep incline
For pastor's wives, especially mine?

But never once have you or I
Regretted any move. And why?
"From ancient times things not yet done
Our God ordains them, every one."
For better or for worse we said,
And that 'til one of us is dead.
And after that our eyes will see,
The worse was good for you and me.

"Although the fig tree blossom not,
And all the vines of our small plot
Be barren, and the olive fail,
The sheep grow weak and heifers frail,
We will rejoice in God, my love,
And take our pleasures from above:
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life."

We have a candle here to light,
A city waits to see it bright:
Come strike with me to kindle them,
And let us burn for Bethlehem.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org