Many years ago I attended a faith conference featuring a pair of prominent Christian ministers. In a stunningly vulnerable disclosure, one of the keynote speakers confessed to the other—before the shocked audience—that he’d only loved the man conditionally. In tears, he admitted his fondness and esteem for his colleague was always dependent on the man’s performance professionally and religiously.

His repentance was so thorough, sincere, and heart-felt.

It unnerved me.

80 family 1985We who attended that conference were, at the time, invested in an exceptionally legalistic approach to our faith. I subscribed to a mind-numbing list of acceptable and prohibited activities and disciplines to keep me on the straight and narrow—on good terms with God.

Or so I thought.

Punctilious as an ancient Pharisee, I examined myself and my friends scrupulously, ceaselessly, suspiciously.  Intolerant of capitulation, I zealously severed long friendships in response to minor deviations from the code. 80 amish mafia

You’d have to watch the folks in the background of Amish Mafia to understand the extent our little religious community went to secure compliance and conformity.

So, this admission was unnerving. In one bold, courageous step he sought to re-architect his relationship with the other speaker—and begin to re-architect the way our whole community did relationship.

I don’t remember anything after the confession. In that crowded ballroom I was anchored to my chair, memories about my marriage scrolling through my mind.  Soon as it ended I took Annie up to our hotel room. On my knees I confessed that I’d loved her only conditionally. I had pressured her to comply with my set of rules. In the process, I’d withheld my heart from her.

I promised this: “I will love you with all of my heart for all of my life whether or not you change in any way. I will never again withhold my heart from you.”

In those moments, I re-architected my marriage. Actually, I re-architected the way I was in it from that day forward.

Her reply: “Yeah, sure. I’ll believe it when I see it!”

From the moment of that declaration, I re-architected my role as husband to live in conformity with my promise.

“Promise” comes from the Latin promittere meaning “to send forth”. When I promise I send myself into the future in conformity with that declaration.

80 K&A nowOver the months and years that followed just about everything about the way I was with Annie was re-architected for the better. And, in time, our marriage changed fundamentally, completely.

Releasing my wife to be the woman she chose to be, and embracing her as God’s gift to me provided freedom. In that freedom Annie chose to be what had always been in her heart.

Wow, am I glad!






Coaching Distinctions #80.doc