Our family played hard this summer. We said “Yes!” to all the pool and beach time we could and “Yes!” to all the popsicles.
It felt so good to say yes, be out, and see our people.
But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, right? So as we joyfully said “Yes!” to a lot of fun things, we were necessarily saying “No” to others.
It turns out that folding laundry and cooking an actual meal is hard to do when you’re never home. It’s hard for my husband and I to spend quality time together, too, and it’s certainly hard to open God’s Word.
So— after all that frenetic fun— fall feels like the right time to revisit the basics.
As my husband and I chat about what’s to come— on our calendar, with our work, for our kids— we keep coming back to this: We need to re-implement some basic rhythms.
And they all center around intentionality and rest.
Established and flourishing
As author David Mathis writes in Habits of Grace, we must remember that “It is loving (to others) to regularly commune with God. There are good horizontal effects to having our souls established and flourishing vertically.”
We will be a better spouse when our “soul is being routinely shaped and sustained by a real relationship with God in his word and prayer” (220-221).
On my own, I’m selfish and often entitled, unable to produce lasting heart change— let alone the miraculous and sacred work of loving someone day in and day out for a lifetime.
But the Holy Spirit can do this miraculous work in and through me. When I make space to abide in the Vine (John 15:5) and regularly commune with God, I can bear good fruit.
But all of this requires a slower pace than what we’ve been operating at through the summer.
So, as we head into fall, here are some basic rhythms that we’re committed to reestablishing:
When the pandemic first started, every day felt like Sabbath. All we did was rest and read and enjoy time together. A slower pace of life was reality.
But as life opened up, our calendars filled back up, too, and we somehow forgot this sacred discipline.
My default setting is to let the to-do list dictate our days. Typically, this causes conflict in our marriage because my sweet husband doesn’t feel connected or loved when I present him with a mile-long list of house projects Saturday morning.
God in His goodness reminded us of the grace of Sabbath. We both just breathed, “That’s what we’ve been missing!”
When we neglect Sabbath, we miss out on (dare I say disobey?) God’s call for us to rest. We stir up marital conflict because we both feel as if the other one is doing life wrong. Sabbath gives us a clear picture of when we will work (chores on Saturday) and when we will rest and play (naps and games and family worship on Sunday).
Scheduling margin in our week
Here in the Pacific Northwest, summer comes with a real urgency. It’s just so short. These sunny days and chances to swim and sit on the back patio don’t last long, and we find ourselves running fast.
In our conversations, we found ourselves wrestling with— and really, fighting for— margin. To allow space in our calendar, in our hearts and minds even, to be home, together. To put the screens away, and perhaps linger a little longer over dinner, without the rush of “What’s next?”
We’ve found that if we don’t pencil in days or hours of downtime, our calendar inevitably fills.
We start saying yes to things that aren’t priorities for us instead of saying yes to the things we’ve intentionally prayed over and committed to in this season.
Margin means we have space for what matters— to rest, read, garden, play, and visit with the neighbors. It means creating a distinction between what’s important and what’s urgent. It means there’s space in the day when notifications are turned off so we can fully give our attention to one another.
Most importantly, It means there’s space in the day and the week to open our Bibles and hear from God, both alone and together.
Life just gets busy (see: above). As our days fill with work, church, and child obligations, we can easily find ourselves sidelining our marriage.
Of course our marriage is a priority— but our time, money and daily conversations might tell a different story.
This summer we were challenged by a pastor to not let these years of raising children to be the “lost years.” Let me tell you, friend: that struck home.
Kids are wonderful blessings from God who also happen to be exhausting and all-consuming—if we let them be.
So instead of hoping for date night or hoping for time together to catch up during the day, we’re planning and preparing for it. Our marriage’s success is a non-negotiable; and for us that looks like planning rhythms of prayer and worship, rest and play, and time as a couple.
We’re putting it on paper and setting funds aside to make dates happen.
Communing and connecting
Remember: these particular practices are all about making space for communing and connecting. We want to commune with God and be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can love those around us well. We want to connect with our spouses to honor Christ.
But that doesn’t happen by accident. We must make space for that sort of slowness and abiding to happen.
Sabbath, margin, and date nights. These basic rhythms are what we’ve felt convicted to re-implement— but it’s by no means a prescriptive formula for everyone. Talk with your spouse about how things are going. Does there need to be an intentional slow down? What would that look like for your family?
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?