When we first approached Barnabas Piper about being interviewed for The Calling, his life was already under the microscope. As the son of pastor, author, and Desiring God founder John Piper, he was no stranger to scrutiny. His work, however, stood on its own: His writing for The Blazing Center, his podcasts The Happy Rant and 5 Leadership Questions, his speaking, his books—all were testaments to Piper’s ability to (as his website puts it) come “knocking on the side door of truth.” We conducted our interview and were eager to share it.
Then, on January 10, 2017, Barnabas announced via his blog that his marriage of eleven-and-half years was ending in divorce. In the post, he spoke candidly about his grief, comparing his relationship’s decline to the pangs of death itself. He also wrote about his desire to be “forthright and honest,” to not keep the painful reality of his divorce hidden. “Life is brutal and hurts so much there are not words,” he insisted. “Yet we live it. I write in the midst of it. We read looking for something because of it. And God is good in the midst of it and hope shines through the darkness of it.”
Social media users shared Piper’s post thousands of times. While some questioned its intent, many praised Barnabas for his frankness and honesty on an issue that, for some, can approach the level of taboo. His words struck a nerve.
Today’s two-part episode of The Calling begins with our initial interview with Barnabas. Then, CT managing editor Richard Clark reconnects with Piper to learn what the past few months have shown him about the messiness of navigating divorce while holding fast to an absolute dependence on God’s grace.
On not giving in to cynicism: “There’s no good reason, no human explanation, for the fact that to the very last day of my marriage, I still wanted it to be saved. It was not a happy experience for quite a while leading up to the end. That is a testimony to God doing something in me that I can’t take credit for.”
On being John Piper’s son: “I still feel the pressure sometimes. I have a sarcastic sense of humor, and I tweet about anything I want to. So people respond to things and think, ‘What would your dad think about that tweet?’ In those moments, I don’t think very nice thoughts. But I think it’s indicative of the incredible formation impact he’s had on people. There are a lot of people who look at him as their spiritual father, so they feel like they need to defend him—even though I’m actually part of the actual family.”
On lightening up: “Amongst certain camps, there’s a sense of guilt about laughter and poking fun. Like, if you’re too happy for too long before you get serious again, you might’ve stepped out of bounds. One of the truths I’d like Christians to get on board with is the freedom to have fun.”
On why he’s stuck around church: “If there’s anything that I’ve learned through my idiocy over the years, it’s that honesty and transparency are always more fruitful than hiding—and abandoning the people and the structures that God has put in your life always leads to disaster.”
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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Jonathan Clauson.
Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.