Long talks. Extra cuddles. Lingering looks. Laughter over pancakes. That’s a glimpse into my marriage in recent weeks.
My husband, Jason, and I have been married more than ten years. We have two small children, two demanding jobs, dishes that always need washed, and a yard in constant need of mowing. Like a lot of couples in our stage in life, intimacy rides in the backseat while our obligations, responsibilities, and to-do lists take turns calling shotgun.
But lately, there’s been a thaw of the ice that tends to build up between married couples. What’s causing the heat? The biblical practice of Sabbath.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’” (Mark 2:27).
When I look at verses like these, it’s clear to me that the Sabbath is important to God. Throughout His Word, we read commandments to remember the Sabbath, to honor the Sabbath, to keep the Sabbath holy. And yet . . . we have no idea how to Sabbath.
We associate Sabbath with the day we go to church. Certainly, a church service could be a valuable part of our Sabbath, but we tend to leave out the rhythm of rest that God modeled and then called us to.
I know that’s been true in our house. We’ve been involved in every church activity that we possibly could, resulting in a Sunday schedule that looked something like:
- Wake up exhausted
- Rush, rush, rush to get family fed, clothed, and out the door
- Yell at each other in the car
- Squeal into the parking lot
- March into church
- Rush through services, responsibilities, relationships with church members
- Race home
- Scarf down lunch
- Get ready for evening church
- Fall into bed exhausted
- Wait six days and repeat.
Are you with me? Does your life looks something like ours has? Are your Sundays more overscheduled, jam-packed, and stress-filled then the rest of your week? Does the idea of taking time for a regular Sabbath including rest and reflection seem like a cruel joke to you? In the midst of all that chaos, do you find that connecting with your spouse, your children, your church family, and ultimately God is more and more difficult?
That is, until I decided to take God’s words on Sabbath seriously. Lately, we’ve pulled back from our involvement in many church activities. We still attend church and are still actively involved in ministry, but on Sundays we sleep in, eat breakfast, and sip (instead of gulp) our coffee. For one day a week, we are intentional about having no agenda, no plan, no “have-to’s.”
This has meant that we’ve said “no” to some baby showers, church activities, and invitations that we might otherwise have said “yes” to. It has meant that we can’t be involved in every cool program or event our church is offering. It’s felt awkward—and frankly a little bit scary to set aside one day of the week for very little. But the end result has been an intimacy with each other that I never expected.
In recent weeks as we’ve cleared our schedule, we haven’t replaced them with dates or long, romantic walks. But the gaps in our schedule have made room for us to get to know each other again. The result has been connection, intimacy, and renewed love.
The same has happened with our children. When every day is scheduled, there is no time to learn new things about them or to let them learn new things about their world. When we have a day with no agenda, though, we get to learn how they like to spend an afternoon when the planning is up to them.
And then, there’s the greatest surprise of all—I’ve discovered that Sabbath creates space for greater intimacy with God than I ever found by filling every moment with Christian commitments. Last Sunday, I was shocked by the realization that I could learn more from the Word and be more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit after taking time to rest than I ever could by cramming my “Sabbath” days full of Kingdom-centered obligations.
Certainly, God’s purpose and plan for the Sabbath is complex. I can’t unpack it all in one post, and there is a risk of over-simplification here. I’m not saying you should quit your church or drop out of ministry or refuse to get involved in anything on Sundays. I am saying that God’s commandment to remember the Sabbath still holds, even in a culture where life moves at warp speed.
Has intimacy waned in your marriage? Does your connection with your children sometimes feel like it’s slipping away? Do you want closeness with God but can’t seem to find it no matter how many church services you attend? Consider doing something radical. Search the Bible for what God says about Sabbath. Then, clear your calendar. Unplug your iStuff. Rest and get ready to re-connect with the ones who love you most!