by Bret Allen, Minister of Family Life
Jim Elliot, a martyr for his faith in Christ, said, “I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, and crowds…Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.”
I used this quote in a class I recently taught on the spiritual discipline of solitude and silence. The quote is a reference to three things that Satan uses to distract us from our relationship with God. Then it occurred to me that Satan also uses noise, hurry (busyness), and crowds to distract us from our relationship with our spouse.
Think about your average day. The alarm clock (noise) goes off because we need to get out of bed for whatever the first thing on our ‘to-do list’ is (busyness). We get in our car, turn on the radio (noise) and check our Google maps to find out the traffic (crowds) for the morning because we are in a (hurry) and need to get somewhere on time. And it goes on and on and on like this all day, 24/7. And then you add children, sports practices, dance lessons, church meetings, working out (with our ear buds in), social gatherings...and this is how we live.
As we hustle and bustle from one thing to the next, we can so easily neglect our second most important relationship, our spouse. The truth is, it takes intentionality to fight against the noise, busyness and crowds and to create space for our marriage to grow and be strong, healthy, and alive. It’s very much like our most important relationship- with Jesus. As Christians, many of us spend very little time just being with Him, talking, listening, praying, resting in Him. Thus our relationship with the One who loves us more than anyone else is stagnant. We are distracted.
In the same way, many of us are married, but spend very little time talking, truly listening, praying together, playing together, or just being with each other. We have distracted marriages. So what is the solution to our problem?
Create space. Pay attention.
These two concepts will go a long way toward maintaining a healthy marriage over the long haul. But, it’s increasingly difficult in the midst of noise, hurry, and crowds. So here are a few practical steps for creating space together:
Take 15 minutes, or more, each day when you just sit together without distraction. No TV, silence your phone, etc. If you have children at home, explain this to them. This is not selfish on your part or neglecting your children; it’s actually modeling the top priority relationship in the home, the husband-wife relationship! It may be helpful to use an egg timer so your children know when they can have your attention. Talk, listen and PAY ATTENTION to each other.
Take a walk around the block with your spouse or on a nearby trail. As you walk, hold hands and try to walk slower than normal. There is no hurry. Talk and listen and PAY ATTENTION to each other.
This takes planning, so put it on the calendar. And as an idea, what about picking up something ‘to go’ and find a park or somewhere away from the crowd and have dinner together? Have a “destination date”: take a drive together and talk in the car. Listen well and PAY ATTENTION to each other. (Movies don’t count--you’re paying attention, but not to one another!)
Pick a book to read together and set aside time to discuss. Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage would be a great place to start. Or even read aloud; then talk and listen and PAY ATTENTION to each other.
Plan a romantic evening. PAY ATTENTION. Enough said.
Our marriages need time away from the noise, hurry and crowds of our everyday life. This will take effort. Be open and available to your spouse. Invest time and energy in the relationship. You will begin to see the blessing of creating space and paying attention in your relationship.↑
Bret Allen is the Minister of Family Life and a big fan of marriage, as is Kim, his wife of 25 years. An encourager of couples at all stages of marriage, he’s here to help strengthen yours. firstname.lastname@example.org