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. In many instances, our worth is judged based on our busyness. 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.
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. While time and money have to be taken in to consideration, you can find the means to have at least a few minutes of daily rest together. But we also need more extended times—a full day of rest at regular intervals, longer times of rest such as a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation. And please avoid the temptation to fill your time off with so many honey-do lists that it really isn’t a time of rest. 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.