It sounds good.
In theory, we’d sit at our table for two and discuss the research studies we’ve skimmed recently, the books piling endlessly on our separate night tables, the podcasts received in solitude but mentally flagged for dialogue. And we do. But, the night goes on, and one topic leads to another, and eventually I find myself telling my husband a story which finishes with an endearing quote. From a church member.
But, really, most of my best stories begin and end with church members. The great moments from my week. My sweetest memories. The people in our church are my friends, family, and co-workers. They are my life.
So, should pastors and their wives intentionally create no-church zones in their marriage? Do we need to "get away"?
Yes. And no.
For one thing, I’m reluctant to buy into the prevailing secular thought that what we all need is an escape. This idolization of vacation (or date night or spa appointment or mother’s morning out) often stems from a denigration of work. In this kind of thinking, work is something bad, a money-making means to putting food in the fridge, but not inherently good. A Christian view of work is something altogether different. “Work,” said God in the pre-Fall garden. “Work,” said God to the sin-plagued New Testament church. “Work,” says God to you and me, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)
Work is good. And, given an hour or a day or a week off, our attitude must still reflect that.
I’m also leery of a line of thought that would say the church is just one more organization to which we belong. We can easily unsubscribe from the garden club or book club or softball team for an evening, no harm done. But the church is different. The church is Christ’s body, ”nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments,” (Colossians 2:19) and there can be—should be—no chopping ourselves off.
Of course I still talk about them when I’m gone. To the Lord. In prayer.
But I do think there is value, even necessity, to a pastor and his wife deliberately spending time alone together. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Leave. Not because parents are bad. Not because they aren’t important. But they are not a married couple’s primary human relationship.
In the same way, the members of the church are friends, family, and co-workers. But they aren’t your spouse. Your husband is your first neighbor. Your best ministry. Your own flesh. And it usually takes some time alone (and even a no-church zone) to find out what’s new, how you can help, what your husband needs.
For some couples, this might take the form of an actual vacation, literally going away to another location. For others, it will be an evening out. Or even a few hours at home with all phones switched off. Just as the Sabbath is a day set aside for essential, soul-nourishing worship, scheduled alone time with your spouse reminds both of you to prioritize the relationship that supersedes all others.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I left. We boarded a plane to western Canada, just the two of us. We spent five days discussing life, laughing, praying, holding hands, listening to audio books, sleeping in, and smiling at each other. Did we talk about the church? A little bit. But we also reoriented ourselves to the blessedness of our primary human relationship: our marriage. And it was good.
So, how do you make room for your marriage?