For Noel On Our 25th Wedding Anniversary

I am a Christian Hedonist,
Though there are some who still insist
I drop the name. I do not bid,
Much less demand, nor ever did,
That anyone should follow me
In wearing this strange badge. The key
To joy and holiness is not
In names or labels we have got,
Nor is much truth or love assured
By ranks and titles we've secured.

But I do bid that all will come
And drink with me the waters from
The fountain of delights whom we
Call Christ, and that we taste and see
The fullness of his Father's joy
Which none can make and none destroy;
And that we take from his right hand
Eternal pleasures He has planned
For those who love Him more than all
His gifts, and gladly leave the small
And fleeting pleasures of this earth
To savor God and all he's worth.
I bid the world and everyone
Who's ever wanted joy to shun
With me the ease of wealth, the chill
And rush of faithless sex, the thrill
Of fame, and pride of power and all
The thousand pleasures that enthrall
Us with their godless innocence,
And pay instead a tribute whence
All great and lasting pleasures come:
To show by our pursuit that from
His holy Fountain flows far more
Than earth could ever hold in store.

Call this whatever name you may,
It is the truth. Shall God display
His great all-satisfying grace
In joyless souls? And shall he trace
The outlines of his majesty
In hearts that neither taste nor see
Enough in him to comprehend
That here their quest is at an end?
No, God has made another way
To put his glory on display.
His goodness shines with brightest rays
When we delight in all his ways.
His glory overflows its rim
When we are satisfied in him.
His radiance will fill the earth
When people revel in his worth.
The beauty of God's holy fire
Burns brightest in the heart's desire.

Now I have taught these things for years
And found that sometimes there are fears
In people's minds that even though
This may be true, it is not so
For them, or seems remote without
Some story they might think about
Relating to their daily life.
And so I tell one of my wife.

I say, Suppose it is today
Our anniversary, let's say,
The twenty-fifth; and I go down
To some small florist in our town
And buy a rose for every year
That we've been married, then appear
At our front door and ring the bell.
And then you picture that Noel
Swings wide the door and hears me say,
As I hold out the rose display,
"A happy anniversary,
Noel!" And she responds, "For me?
O these are beautiful, but why
So much?" To which I then reply,
While holding up my hand, "You know
It is my duty that I go
Each year and buy what husbands ought
To buy. I think I was well-taught
That there are proper ways to do
These things, and I just wanted you
To know that I am duty-bound
And that my character is sound."

Well, at this point the story stops
Because they laugh, unless it flops,
And then they groan. But I inquire,
"What's wrong with duty? I admire
This virtue very much. Do you
Not think that she was given due
Esteem, the object of such high
And noble sentiments that I
Should do what's right because it's right
And not debase myself with vain delight?
It's odd that you should laugh, or groan,
When so much rectitude was shown.
Is not she honored as the goal
Of all my work and self-control
By which all hedonistic thirst
Was held in check with no outburst?"

A question that I hope will show,
The answer, folks, is clearly NO.
How then shall she be honored more
If not by duty at the door?
To answer this let us return
Now to the scene and watch and learn.
Noel swings wide the door. I say,
While holding out the rose display,
"A happy anniversary,
Noel!" And she responds, "For me?
O these are beautiful, but why
So much?" To which I then reply,
"It makes me glad to bring you things.
In fact, Noel, I think it brings
Me more delight to spend this night
With you than anyone I might.
Why don't you go dress for a date
And tell the boys it may be late.
I cannot think of any way
I'd rather celebrate this day
Than satisfying my desire
With one that I so much admire."

Now at this point the story ends,
And I inquire of all my friends,
Does anyone believe that my
Good wife would angrily reply,
"You selfish Christian Hedonist!
Next thing you know I might be kissed!
It makes YOU glad to bring me things,
And I suppose your heart has wings
And next you'll prob'ly write some verse
About how nothing could be worse
For YOU than living without me.
Well, I suggest that you should see
What duty, discipline and strain
Might make you do for me through pain."

And then I ask, why doesn't she
Take such offense when I'm so free
To say, "It gladdens me to be
With you"? The answer all can see:
The pleasure that I take in her
Is but the measure I infer
That all her excellence conveys.
Delight does not indict but praise.
It fills the longing of my life
And glorifies my worthy wife.

I am a Christian Hedonist
Because I know that if I kissed
My wife simply because it's right
And not because it's my delight
It would not honor her so well.
With pleasures I will praise Noel,
And I will magnify my wife
By making her my joy in life.

Her courage and her fearless grace
To venture well beyond the place
That people call secure, and serve
With even pace and steady nerve
The cause of Christ, and call it good
To live in Phillips neighborhood;

Her patience, living with five men,
Named Karsten, Aber, Barna, Ben
And me, who lack a woman's touch,
And maybe make a bit too much
At meal time of a cat's defeat,
And which roadkills are fit to eat;

Her sharp and penetrating mind
That is not duped, but sees behind
The ruse of advertising schemes
And is not snared with empty dreams
But pierces through the polished skin
And sees the heart and truth within;

Her love for simple home decor,
To keep things modest during war,
To put no stock in passing fads
Nor be intrigued with glossy ads,
Nor join the mass through empty miles
Spent chasing ever-changing styles;

Her busy hands that never harm
But fill a room with Christmas charm
Or Lenten lights, that make and mend,
And weave an afghan for a friend;

Her faith and hope and love to Christ,
Her confidence that it sufficed
For him to die and rise again
To cover all our daily sin;

Her fortitude and strength of will
When warmth and tenderness were nil,
To do what one must do, and walk
In hope when we could scarcely talk;

Her kneeling by me at the bed
Day in day out as we have spread
Our hope and pain before the throne
And watched God make his mercies known;

Her grace that never holds a grudge
And lays aside the right to judge,
Nor seeks revenge or to revile
But always comes to reconcile;

Her faithfulness and love to me
As solid as a great oak tree,
But soft to touch and warm to feel,
I've often called it velvet steel.

These are a few of my delights,
A taste of what my wife ignites.
Now answer this: when I indulge
My joy this way does it divulge
A miserly, self-centered bent
Or that my wife is excellent?
My answer does in this consist:
I am a Christian Hedonist.
When I would magnify Noel
Then let me all my pleasures tell.

I hope that now it is not odd
When I say, So it is with God.
His goodness shines with brightest rays
When we delight in all his ways.
His glory overflows its rim
When we are satisfied in him.
His radiance will fill the earth
When people revel in his worth.
The beauty of God's holy fire
Burns brightest in the heart's desire.

And if you ask, Do my delights
In wife and sons compete with heights
Of joy in God, here's what I've seen,
A prayer from wise Saint Augustine:

Our love for Thee is far too small
Who love another thing at all,
Unless from Thy pure hand we take
And love it for Thine own name's sake.

So may this final advent flame
Ignite in us for his great name
A holy passion, zeal and fire
That magnify Him with desire.
I hail Him as my joy in life,
And take from his pure hand my wife.

©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