It’s easy to point a finger at your spouse and wish they would change their irritating behaviors. And right now, for a lot of people, those feelings are amplified by this on-hold season with COVID-19. But something I’ve learned in Re|Engage, a course offered as part of Seacoast’s Marriage Ministry, is “drawing a circle around yourself.” In other words, shine a light and hold a mirror up to yourself. Determine the negative behaviors that you are bringing to the marriage party.
As broken human beings, we all have an inability to love our spouse the way that God designed us. But there’s great news: If we allow God to work in our hearts, we can build a Christ-centered foundation in our marriage. John 15:5 proclaims: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Right in chapter 1 of Re|Engage, you learn: “Until you acknowledge the brokenness in your own heart and turn to the One who is ready and willing to help you, your relationships will remain broken.”
Praying for Restoration
My wife, Cindy, and I had some dark days in our marriage. EVERYTHING she did was annoying, and I made my discontent known. My contribution to our disconnect was twofold: Anger and a judgmental attitude. I judged that she was doing these things to purposefully irritate me and get under my skin.
Divorce seemed imminent. But I prayed for God to rescue and restore us. He answered (paraphrasing here): “I will redeem your marriage, but you have a LOT of work to do.” Since then, he has blessed me richly. He has taught me how to give grace, not just to my wife, but to people generally. He has shown me how to seek out the good, not just the brokenness.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Unfortunately, sinful behaviors rear their ugly heads on occasion. At the grocery store the other day, I found myself getting angry and anxious. Look at that foolish mother with her unprotected child in the grocery cart. Why does that family of four with their masks and gloves, ALL have to come to the store? When will this stupid virus end so that we can get back to living our lives?
Take a Moment
I caught myself. I stood off to the side and asked Christ to intervene in this building storm. Lord, I can’t do this in my own strength. Please show me how to give grace and show peace. A calmness replaced the anxiety. I smiled at people as they walked by, and I even got a few back.
Having a peaceful heart and showing grace means not interjecting your own biases and preconceived notions about people—especially your spouse—into your thoughts and behaviors. It’s the ultimate action in drawing a circle around yourself.
Psalm 139: 23-24 says: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Dozens of Scripture verses address this concept of self-reflection and assessment. Another good one is Job 13:23: How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin.
What Shakes Out?
When Pastor Josh Surratt preached the message called “Unshakeable,” he commented that during times of uncertainty and upheaval, our foundational behaviors and characteristics—both good and bad—will come out during the shaking. But thanks to our unshakeable Savior, we can maximize the impact of our strong behaviors, and use it as an opportunity to minimize and eliminate the bad ones.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
So, what shakes out of you when times are tough? Panic, doubt, fear, or hopelessness? All the above? These times provide a great opportunity for drawing that Re|Engage circle around yourself and working on your foundation. I am confident that if you include Christ in your self-assessment, he will provide amazing insights.
- All healthy marriages need to be surrounded with a supportive and thriving community. To connect with a married small group, visit seacoast.org/connect.
- Sometimes, couples need to talk to someone as healthy next step. Seacoast has trained Encouragers who will meet with you one-on-one, or as a couple for three sessions. Contact Marie Sarle to get connected with an Encourager.