If you look at my old Bible (my wife, Lisa, had it re-covered many years ago for one of my birthdays), you’ll see the table of contents has dates written next to various Bible books. Those dates signify when Lisa and I finished reading through that biblical book together.
Bible reading is one aspect of spiritual intimacy that can have an amazing impact on a couple’s sense of togetherness. I worked on a book with Drs. Steve and Rebecca Wilke, and we wrote, “After decades of working with couples, we can confidently report to you that marital satisfaction is directly linked to spiritual intimacy, both with the Lord and with each other. When individuals are satisfied with God and His plan for their lives, they enjoy all that He has given them. People who are surrendered to the Lord are also more willing to surrender to others, understanding that serving their spouse is really an act of worship to God.”
Many marriage books and articles talk about the importance of communication, keeping our sexual intimacy alive and fresh, playing and laughing together, and other issues, but Bible reading rivals all of these in importance. Consider it “listening to God together,” because Bible reading is absolutely the best way for us as individuals and couples to listen to God. Whatever the Bible says, God says, and it’s amazing how timely God’s Word can seem, even when we read it on a schedule. His Holy Spirit has a way of lining up life so that we read just the right passage at the right time.
If you’re planning a date or a long drive together and you’re wondering What if we have nothing to say to each other? consider reading the Bible as one of the best conversation starters. It’s not difficult: Choose a book and read! Lisa and I trade off — eight to 12 verses, depending on the section length. You can pause to talk about what you’ve just read, or if neither has anything to say, just continue reading aloud.
If I’m driving, Lisa may read the entire text while I listen. Sometimes, the passage will seem particularly appropriate to one of us; other times, to both of us. Sometimes it seems to apply more to a friend or family member. What I love about Bible reading is that it opens the door for God to set the agenda for what we talk about, think about and then pray about.
If you feel either of you lacks basic Bible understanding, you might try an additional approach. Lisa and I are big fans of D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God devotionals. Dr. Carson gives various readings from the Old and New Testaments and then has a short commentary on one of those passages. He’s a brilliant scholar who makes the passages come alive with historic context and makes the Scriptures compelling for today. You could read the assigned biblical texts and then the commentary, together. This may be a lengthier exercise, but this isn’t a race. If it takes you two or three years to work through one of the volumes, by the time you’re done with both books, perhaps Dr. Carson will have released another.
Don’t get bogged down thinking something’s wrong if you don’t have time to read the Bible together every day. If you go from never reading God’s Word together to reading it just once or twice a week, that’s still a huge improvement. At various times, Lisa and I have both been convicted of the gaps in our practice of doing this together over the course of 30 years of marriage.
If you’re married to a somewhat reluctant spouse, make it sound possible by saying, “Look, I’m asking for 20 minutes once or twice a week, and I’ll even do the reading.” Add in a favorite: “I’ll make the coffee/bake the cookies/rub your feet . . .”
Consider starting with a shorter book of the Bible, like 1 John. There’s something motivating about “finishing” something new together, and if you start (like Lisa and I did) writing a date in your Bible once you finish reading the book together, it’s satisfying to get that first “notch.” Then you can move on to a Gospel or something that will take a little longer.
Remember, this isn’t a contest, and the last thing you should do is to make it a competition to see who has the best understanding of the passage. You’re both reading God’s Word to learn, not to show off — and certainly not to judge your spouse’s Bible knowledge. This is about building spiritual intimacy, so if you make your spouse feel like an idiot, you’ll all but guarantee he or she will never agree to do this again.