A year ago my husband, Bob, accepted a contract position half a continent from our home in Dallas. Mind you, we were grateful. Bob had been unemployed for a year, and our savings were exhausted. We'd been praying for a job, just not one that would keep him away for six months.
During his unemployment we'd connected in a way we hadn't in a long time. Like many couples we had to work to keep our lives in touch—and didn't always succeed. With the leisure of flexible time, Bob and I talked like we were newlyweds. But I feared that with his absence we'd revert to our old communication habits. After all, how well can you sustain closeness over a cell phone across 1,800 miles?
Pretty well, actually. But it took planning. First we committed to talk every morning and evening. Bob set the call times since he was in the earlier time zone. Next we purchased hands-free headsets and upgraded to a phone plan with unlimited "in-network" minutes. That was all fine. But what would we talk about—besides the daily routine—to stay connected?
More than just talk
One habit we'd developed while Bob was home was couple devotions. It took only a few minutes, and then we started our day. Why not continue that?
We bought an extra copy of our devotional Bible, so we could both read from the same page. Then we decided that I'd read the devotional and Bob would read the Bible verses. That kept both of us engaged. We'd briefly discuss the questions and pray together.
As the months rolled by, we enjoyed the devotionals so much, we decided to add another dimension: we'd read books aloud. Reading facilitated sharing. Each book served as a springboard. We picked books we were both interested in. Some were deep, stretching our thinking and spiritual growth. Some were just fun. We read books about our shared pastimes and about topics that we'd like to introduce to each other. Then we'd discuss what we liked or thought about the different characters or topics.
It worked because the important thing was our discussion and interaction. Both of us learned a lot about each other—what made us laugh, what was difficult for us to accept, and what was a new concept.
Some days we read only for a few minutes, sometimes longer. But it gave us something in common.
We discovered reading aloud led to other joint adventures. We started to memorize Scripture and incorporate that into our morning devotions. Reciting verses to and with each other makes it much easier, since we said the verses simultaneously. This gave us a new picture of Scripture. The epistles, particularly, were letters, and meant to be read aloud to the local church. In closing 1 Thessalonians (5:27), Paul urged the elders to read his letter to everyone: "I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers."
Even in the Old Testament we find reading out loud is an important part of worship. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra reads the Book of the Law "aloud from daybreak till noon . . . in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively" (Nehemiah 8:3).
What it did
Reading aloud drew us together. We first noticed this when we realized that we were verbalizing our love more often. It was as if hearing each other made us more conscious of our words—not just how we said things, but what we said. We even started another new pattern: seeing who could say "I love you" the most.
When the six months were completed, Bob returned home. During those months, we looked forward—indeed hung on—to those daily interactions. The biggest question for me was simple. Why did it take a separation to make us schedule devotional and couple time together? I had no trouble making time for Bob's morning call in my routine. Neither did Bob. We knew that 6:30 a.m. was our phone appointment. And late in the evening (we didn't have a "set" evening time because it depended on our work schedules), we knew we'd talk again.
We made the time because we had to. Now that we're back in the same house, we still look forward to our daily devotions, and we're still reading books together. Bob and I are excited to share new ideas—and keep a list of books to read whether he's home or on the road. We're talking about reading through the Bible together in one year.
Why had we never thanked God for the gift of living in the same house and talking as much as we wanted for free? Now if we're having trouble getting through to each other, one of us will call the other's cell—even if we're in the same room. It's a light-hearted reminder to make time to talk.
Renny Gehman is a freelance author.
Copyright © by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.