Monday, June 14, 2010

Rest, Sabbath, Breaks and Other Synonyms

As Melissa mentioned in her last blog, we have both just finished reading this book called Married to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW. The book argues that we as a culture are so over loaded with technology, schedules and things to do that most people are living with a self -created form of environmental ADD...and this is greatly affecting our relationships.

One of the points that the book continually came back to was the idea of creating boundaries in our lives when it comes to technology. I have talked about some simple ideas in other blogs to help bring about this in my relationship with Melissa:
  • I take one whole day and one evening a week where my phone is off
  • I avoid my work e-mail in the evenings at all costs
  • I have a phone without internet on it and don't get my e-mail sent to my phone
  • We don't have cable TV (we watch on hulu.com instead)
For the sake of this blog I want to talk about the importance of taking time off together.

Engaging in a relationship together takes time and there is no way around that. We need time to talk, to process and, as the Hallowell's write, time to connect. Within our culture, we have the opportunity to connect very quickly with a mass quantity of people but all that has done is make our connections shallow and weak. A serious relationship and marriage must take more time than what we traditionally give many of our relationships.

Over the course of our marriage, Melissa and I have found it invaluable to have one day off a week where our priority is rest and spending time together. Some times we do day long activities like hiking or going to the beach. Other days, like today, we slept in and have just stayed in bed all morning reading, writing, sleeping off and on and relaxing. Regardless of exactly what we do, we try to make the emphasis rest and connecting.

In his book and similar sermon series entitled, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell talks about the command of sabbath rest in a really interesting way. He reminds us that the context of the Ten Commandments was given as the Israelites were being rescued from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Part of why the Ten Commandments were given was to remind the people not to live like they were in Egypt anymore.

Specifically, when it came to the idea of Sabbath, Bell talked about the fact that the Israelites were forced to work around the clock, 7 days a week. Why? Because the Egyptians were pursing power and wealth and everything was in the hands of them as men. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt he was trying to tell them to live differently. "You don't need to work around the clock to provide because I will provide for you. You don't need to pursue power and wealth because I am more valuable than anything else you could find."

When we really think about it, this is the exact same spirit that we fight again when thinking of taking time to rest in our own lives. This is exactly what the Hallowell's describe in their book.

So...in our fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world; how do me make time for rest, Sabbath and connecting with our significant others? Here is some of what we have learned:
  1. Start small. If you aren't taking much time right now it will be really hard in most cases to jump all the way to a full day right off the bat. Start with just a few hours a week or an evening as your first step.

  2. Find a great resource to help. At the end of the Hollowell's book they have a great "30 Day Reconnection Plan" to help facilitate just 30 minute conversations that have been really good. Both Melis and I really love Jim and Kathy Burn's book, Closer. It is by far the best couples devotional we have read.

  3. Set a weekly date night. Try to pick one night a week and make it off limits to technology, work and chores. We have found it best to make it a set evening (Thursday's) because trying to adjust it week to week puts the priority on our busy schedules and not on spending time together. We also though aren't legalistic about it so if a friend's birthday party comes up or some other rare event, we adjust for that given week. We try not to as much as possible though.

  4. From there, the next step is to set aside one day a week. To to figure out one day that can be focused on resting, connecting with friends and each other, playing together and changing the pace of life. We try to avoid chores, errands and work at all costs on our day off. Most people have two days off from work (Saturday and Sunday) so in most cases I would recommend using Saturday as a day for work around the house and errands and then leaving Sunday to a day of rest and relaxation.
Taking this time isn't easy in our culture and face paced world but it is so important. God is in control...not us. It's ok to take some time for ourselves and the people around us and leave some things for later. In fact, it's more than ok. It's necessary.

Jake

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Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.