photo by h.koppdelaney
I came across this article at Focus on the Family's "Young Married Life" section: "First Year Off."
Ever read this verse in Deutoronomy: "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." (Deut. 24:5)? I remember reading it once (before I even met Michael) and saying, "Yes! I want that!"
As it turns out, this writer took that verse and applied it to his own marriage. Here’s his modern interpretation of this Old Testament instruction:
So how did my wife and I put this principle into practice? I applied the war/duty category to the most demanding areas of my life — work, school and ministry. For others it may be career-related responsibilities or social commitments. Remember, the reason for taking time off is to focus on the happiness of your spouse, so it makes sense to cut out the things that would draw you away from intentionally seeking your spouse's happiness.As the author himself said in the article, "It should go without saying that the command in Deut. 24:5 is no longer binding for new covenant Christians; we are neither under the Law, nor obligated for war. However, the wisdom of a husband taking a year off of what would otherwise occupy most of his time, in order to devote it to the happiness of his wife, seems undeniable."
I took a job that wasn't very demanding, for example, requiring only 40 hours a week. I didn't travel much. As for hobbies and church related activities, I chose to spend less time reading and in ministry. Sure, we still read and ministered, but we often chose to do so with one another. We were both discipling others, for example, but did so together. Our disciples would come over to the house at the same time, but met in different rooms. This freed up more time in the day for one another.
We were careful not to over-commit ourselves to things that would distract us from developing our relationship during that first year. As a result, I didn't focus on seminars or apply to seminaries. I backed away from some ministry duties and encouraged others to take on those responsibilities. All in all we tried to spend a lot of time together.
We found it helpful not to put our plans in stone. We made some goals and tried to hold to them, my wife extending grace when I seemed to be working or studying an awful lot and I extended grace when my wife seemed to need a lot of time with her girlfriends.
And we were careful not to isolate ourselves from others. Setting a year apart didn't mean checking out from our friendships and our community. We need others and they need us.
In choosing to take that time off, my wife and I had one of the most intimate, fun, and insightful times we've had in a while. By taking a step back from vocational and social responsibilities at work, church, and/or school, we were able to spend more time knowing and loving one another. In turn, that led to a greater relational intimacy and understanding, which fueled our marriage for the future.
Now of course I'm a woman, but I feel that it goes both ways during this first year, as we learn to live with one another and learn the depths of each other, working out the kinks now before the stresses of time start taking their toll and patiences wear thin. The Bible never ceases to amaze me--especially the pages of the Old Testament.
Unexpected insights from a boring Old Testament list
I'm a sucker for romance: Why I love reading the Old Testament prophets