Advent | Week 1 | Friday
Friendship on Fridays
Anthony Vartuli is one of our LargerStory spiritual directors.
A while back, my wife Diane and I were going through a firestorm in our marriage. We had come to a place where we simply could no longer connect relationally. We were still committed to each other, but I remember feeling a distance and coldness within our relationship. I remember thinking, “Is this how divorced people feel?”
I told my wife, “We are at a significant fork in the road. Which way do we go? If we choose the foolish road, I don’t think we’ll make it. If we chose the wise road, while we still may struggle profoundly with each other, we will make it. The problem is I can’t discern which is the foolish road and which is the wise one.” That’s when I called Larry.
A few days later we were sitting on his couch in his office. Larry had walked with us for many years and already had a feel for how we related to each other. I knew he could be trusted. He had seen me at my worst and never backed away.
So, he began to ask questions. As he continued to ask, it became gradually clear that I was trying to control Diane’s spiritual life. In my foolish understanding of things, I wanted her walk with Jesus to look like mine. Because it looked so different, I thought I was failing as a man, as a husband. I began to realize that I was forcing Diane into a mold that was not meant for her.
It was the questions Larry asked that were so powerful: “Anthony, why do you feel that Diane’s walk with Jesus needs to look like yours?” “Anthony, are you aware of how you’re controlling Diane?” “Anthony, do you really think that’s your job?” “Why don’t you let her be and see what the Holy Spirit can do?”
Something in me shifted in that meeting. I turned to Diane and said, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” Diane breathed a sigh of relief. Things gradually began to change. Now, I sense a deepening joy as I become more aware of how the Holy Spirit continues to work so creatively in Diane. It has brought more rest to my soul, knowing that I am not the one in charge of her spiritual life. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)
Larry honed in on my relational sin as opposed to my behavioral sin. Behavioral sin is normally defined as the things we do wrong: addictions to alcohol, pornography, food, exercise, and so on. Relational sin has to do with the way we impact people in relationship.
The best we can do with behavioral sin is seek to manage it, which usually never works. Yet, as we begin to see our relational sin, as we begin to own it, the deeper power of the Holy Spirit can be released gradually changing us from the inside out.
The coming of Jesus made this kind of relational change possible. God used Larry to help me see it a bit more clearly. I couldn’t be more grateful.