Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marriage and the Sabbath Principle

      Years ago, I was talking with a friend at church.  Lisa and I had just gotten back from vacation and my friend asked me how our trip went.  I told him Lisa and I had a great, relaxing time together.  A church leader overheard our conversation and commented that he "didn't even know what a vacation was."  He went on to say that he hadn't been on a vacation in 7 years.  Expecting to be complimented for an exceptional work ethic, I instead told him that I felt sorry for him and I especially felt sorry for his wife.
      God created us to need rest.  He set apart the seventh day, the Sabbath, and made it holy.  In the Law of Moses, to ignore and desecrate the Sabbath was a capital offense.  That’s how important this Sabbath principle of rest is.  Through regular rest, we renew our bodies, our minds, and our spiritual orientation as we affirm our reliance on God alone to sustain us.
It is obvious that in our 21st century American culture the Sabbath principle of regular rest and renewal has fallen by the wayside.  We are way too busy; way too addicted to noise and to a frenetic lifestyle.  There is always someone or something standing at the door ready to take a piece of your time or your resources.  The results of our non-stop lifestyles are abundantly obvious; health problems, relationship problems, emotional problems, spiritual decline, and more.  If a Sabbath time is not prioritized, it will not happen.
But here’s the thing we sometimes forget.  Just as an individual needs regular periods of rest and renewal, so do couples.  Husbands and wives need to prioritize time together in which they can engage each other in a relaxed setting, share in intimacy (physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual), and renew and reaffirm their covenant relationship with each other and with God.  It needs to be a time of rest, play, and spiritual growth as a couple.  After all, God gave the Sabbath to Adam and Eve together (Genesis 1:26-2:3).  If a Sabbath time together for a husband and wife is not prioritized, it will not happen.
Churches typically don’t help couples in this cycle of renewal toward healthy marriages.  Instead, most congregations produce overloaded church calendars.  The real bane of the church calendar is the false impression that participation in church activities is the same as participation in the kingdom of God, and to skip a church event is equal to rebellion against what God desires for one’s marriage and family. Ironically, most church calendars are so age segregated for children and gender segregated for adults that we only add more layers of busyness. The church calendar can easily create a stigma of guilt for “not being committed to God” even as it unknowingly harms a marriage and/or family. Because our society (including churches) functionally rejects the Sabbath principle, we propagate “busyness equals worth” and marriages suffer for it.
So what do we do?  Ongoing obligations and resources always have to be taken into account when planning a time of Sabbath as a couple.  I’d love to get away to a beach house in Hawaii with my wife every few months, but that is just not realistic.  Regardless of your limitations, find something you can do to have a time of Sabbath rest as a couple.  Set aside a day for worship together, take a walk together, read scripture together, play a game, take a vacation.  Whether it’s for a week, a weekend, a day, or even a few hours, find some way to just rest in the presence of each other as you rest in the presence of God.
        Put as much intentionality into your rest with your spouse as you put into anything else you do to better your marriage.  Put a regular "couple’s time of Sabbath rest" on the calendar.  Make it a priority.  Realize that without rest together as a couple, you circumvent God’s design for your relationship.

What does God want from my marriage?
 A Weekend Marriage Enrichment Retreat
Friday, August 31-Sunday, September 2, 2012
Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn
Limited to 25 couples
Email for more info

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