The Circle Principle is one of the most common ideas we share at re|engage. Simply put, if you want to fix your marriage, you must first draw a circle around yourself and fix everything inside. If you focus on fixing your spouse’s problems first rather than your own, you won’t be getting anywhere.
However, once you realize that you, yourself, need to change and grow, many find themselves left wondering how exactly to make that happen. Perhaps you’ve tried to change in the past and attempts at developing healthy habits usually fizzle out. Change and growth can seem an impossibility.
Thankfully, we are not left without hope. Scripture is clear that transformation is possible, but this transformation will not be by our own effort. By ourselves we cannot achieve any meaningful change and that is exactly where the gospel comes in. Thanks to Jesus, you can begin to surrender all of your brokenness to Him. The Holy Spirit is able to redeem and restore even the worst parts of us. Often, all it takes is putting ourselves in a place where the Spirit can then do the real work of heart change. That is the true power behind the spiritual disciplines.
The spiritual disciplines are practices that help you cultivate the environment of your life so that the Spirit can transform you from the inside out. They are not a way to “be better” or “fix yourself.” They are not self-help or self-actualization. They are the way we surrender our own will to Jesus so that He can take it from there.
For example, studying Scripture or reading your Bible more doesn’t make you more loved by God and, on its own, won’t earn your spouse’s respect. However, reading your Bible will put you in the presence of God and stir your affections in ways you cannot achieve on your own. By learning more about God and His will for your life, you will be shaped more into who He wants you to be.
Alternatively, practicing the disciplines of simplicity and frugality lets you remove some of the distractions in life that get in the way of authentic moments with God and others. Simplicity might require abstaining from luxury goods or frivolous purchases. It could mean getting rid of the excess stuff in your home or working to combat materialism in your family. After practicing simplicity for a while, you will start to realize that God really does sustain you and provide where you are lacking. In Christ, you are more than what you have or acquire.
Other spiritual disciplines include seeking solitude, fasting from food or drink, intentionally serving others, spending time in prayer, confessing sin, and many others. Each of them works to guard you against selfishness and godlessness. Each of them makes you a little more aware of what God wants to do in your life.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines are not just a part of personal discipleship to Jesus. They are also an incredible way to love and care for your spouse. The spiritual discipline of prayer gives you perhaps the easiest way to build up your marriage while still working on your own problems. Praying for, and even with, your spouse helps you both to remember who it will be that actually strengthens your marriage: God.
In seasons of difficulty, the spiritual disciplines give you much needed help. They can be a comfort and a routine when life seems out of control. Even if your spouse is wayward or not responding well, the best thing you can do is cultivate your own relationship with the Lord and encourage them to do the same.
Ultimately, marriage enrichment and restoration aren’t really about fixing marriage problems. They are about fixing individuals problems that affect marriages. There is no better way to do that then work on individual relationships with the Lord.
So, going forward, pick a single spiritual discipline, be it study, fasting, solitude, worship, service, or prayer, and dedicate time and effort to growing in that area. Pray all the while that the Spirit would use it to shape and form you into the husband or wife that God wants you to be.