Chapter 5

Be with Me

Work can be intoxicating. Jobs, responsibilities, community involvement—the list of activities fills our calendars. Being busy makes us feel important.

Granted, there is an aspect to work that reflects God’s imprint on us. We were created to give through our productivity. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God brought forth the creation around us and “placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” We were made for effort. But we were not made to be defined or driven by it.

But we were not made to be defined or driven by it.

Trying to coordinate the to–do lists of two unique individuals can make the pace of a marriage relationship seem frenetic. In those seasons of intense activity, marital rest may mean lying in bed next to each other, our heads barely reaching the pillows before exhaustion overtakes us. We wish we had more time to relax together, but life intrudes and the days slip into weeks, months, years.

But simply getting by isn’t the promise given to believers. Not as individuals, and not for our marriages. [shareimages2]

The absence of stress. The absence of noise. Perhaps even the absence of people. It’s easy to understand why rest so often gets defined in terms of escape. While stepping away might begin the process of rest, eventually we return to the everyday rhythms of life. To do little more than disconnect from whatever presses on our strength means returning to our routine in the same depleted state. But true rest will promote a recovery of strength.

The prophet Jeremiah called the people of God to repentance, but he also reminded them of God’s unfailing love. The restoration God desired for them could only happen in the context of relationship. “I will be the God of all the families of Israel,” the Lord said. “[They] will find blessings even in the barren land, for I will give rest to the people of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:1–2). In the simplest of ways, God said, “Come, be with me.” Because he has “loved [us] with an everlasting love,” it is by this very love that he pulls us to himself (v. 3).

Watching the life of Jesus, we see this same idea: rest is both separation and connection. Though he retained his identity as God, Jesus experienced the same time, energy, and emotional limitations we face. He chose to wrap himself in human form. He got tired (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28), and exas\perated (Mark 9:19).

In his divine nature, Jesus didn’t need anything. But in his humanity he needed his strength renewed. To answer this need, he made time for intimate communion with the Father in a place free from distractions and demands (Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46).

If Jesus needed to be restored by connecting to the Father, how much more so do we need to connect to him? Jesus expressed this idea in Matthew 11:28–29 when he said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus is not simply speaking of the spiritual, eternal rest he offers to those who believe in him (see Hebrews 4:9–11). Christ gives us rest in our souls.

Life doesn’t slow down for us to take time away together. Our minds fill with the reasons why we can’t spare the time away. We think we know more than the God who told us he would be our rest. Before long, our marriage is running on empty as we desperately try to compensate for the lack of connection with each other beyond the tasks in front of us.

As high–productivity people, Scott and I entered vacation mode in our early years of marriage with one question dominating our minds: what do I need? Each time we planned time away, we made sure our bags were packed, work and ministry responsibilities covered, and the house cleaned, but the area where we had failed to prepare was our own expectations.

The area where we had failed to prepare was our own expectations.

We had yet to discover the power of pineapples.

While celebrating our ten–year anniversary in Hawaii, we stopped at a restaurant after a full day of sightseeing. As we sat across the table from one another, frustration not yet voiced filled the vacant space between us. We had seen the beautiful sunsets, experienced the quiet of a trip without children, and laid out our day–to–day plans to make sure we got our money’s worth. So as we sat waiting for our food, our conversation moved to the topic of pineapple farms. We couldn’t agree whether we should visit one, and we struggled to discern the source of tension that became increasingly present as we talked.

Together we had disengaged from everyday life, but we still needed to learn to connect to each other more than simply spending time together. I had anticipated some activity with significant opportunities to do little more than rest in the warmth of the sun. Scott couldn’t wait to go and see all the area had to offer to do. What I needed was very different than what he needed.

I do not recall the exact words of our conversation, but I do remember our mutual choice to press into what was uncomfortable in order to hear what the other person needed. That day we learned that choosing times of rest in our marriage doesn’t mean an absence of misunderstanding or struggle. Instead, it means providing room in our hearts as well as our schedules to care for the places where the demands of life have weakened our relationship. We needed healing, and we needed to find it in learning to rest well together.

Relationships take work, but they also need rest. It is the undeniable beauty of our hearts saying to another, “Come be with me.” Rest is about our joint needs and common ground. Time away together shouldn’t include a laundry list of marital issues to solve. We can parallel this idea to the rest we find in connecting with Christ. When we take time to be with him, we can share our frustrations, cares, and concerns. The ultimate goal is to learn what he loves, enjoys, thinks about us.

We will never find rest together if we avoid difficult places in our relationship. To distract ourselves from the source of discord doesn’t remedy wounds or shore up weak places in a marriage. We need time to hear each other, share disappointment, and work through our differences. It’s much easier to give the wounds room to breathe—and be healed—when relating to one another is the highest priority.

Our marriage does not belong to us. We are but stewards, entrusted with caring well for the gift we have been given.

Marriage asks of us audacious risk, a willingness to persist in the face of tension, tears, or outright pain. The power to choose rests within each one, but I can choose only for me. Even so, the promise of Scripture is sure: “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem” (Psalm 84:5–7).

Be unafraid to stretch, fearless to hope. He is the God who makes all things new—the God who takes us from strength to strength.

Chapter Questions

1. The nation of Israel found themselves in captivity time and again because they tried to mimic the pagan cultures around them. How can our obsession with activity lead us into idolatry, a love affair with the spirit of the world around us?

2. What are the hurdles you and your spouse face when it comes to incorporating consistent rhythms of rest into your marriage?

3. What are the heart needs of your marriage relationship in this season of life and what are some practical actions you can take to meet that need in a time of rest?