11~Love Letters: I’m a Calvinist…I Cannot Marry an Arminian!

8e1a7794b2f50b76d65bda0b08b127f2Location: Dublin, Ireland/ Londonderry, Northern Ireland/Edinburgh, Scotland

Date: May-June, 2004

* In my journal, I nicknamed Dublin “Doubting Dublin.” Not for reasons you might think, though. For  entirely new ones. This time around, I wasn’t doubting God’s plan, I was hoping I could get away from it. It was more like, “God I doubt I’ll be going along with this.” Once the ship left Holland, the spiritual climate onboard became very tense. The dividing issue was doctrine and the weapon of choice: passive aggression. There were three groups: the Calvinists (My team), the Arminians (Wouter’s team) and those who were smart enough not to get involved. The Calvinists were always engaging in heated discussions with the Arminians and vice versa and yet in the name of “unity” everyone still wore a smile.

For the sake of staying on this blog’s topic, suffice it to say that Calvinism was my ultimate truth; my faith bastion. And Wouter…well, he wasn’t a fan. The fact that we disagreed on a matter so close to my heart caused me to wonder if our marriage could ever really work. I watched Wouter debate my “team-mates”, people I highly respected, and my heart would become very troubled. There was tangible tension between us caused by our opposing views and along with that came days I couldn’t stand him. Yet on another level I still loved him. Over the course of the next few months my journal entries alter between love and hostility…very interesting but before you start thinking I have multiple personality disorder, remember love is a roller coaster and all of these things are happening within a phantom relationship. It was complex to say the least.

June 1: God! I need help! How will I cope with how different his doctrine is? How will you soften his heart on these matters? Will I have the opportunity to talk to him? I will not compromise what I believe about You for anyone…What do You want me to do Lord?

June 5: Wouter, what will I bring you all the days of your life? Love, laughter, light, comfort, ease…a Godly home and a committed heart. A submissiveness that only God can inspire…I will love you! God please unbind his emotions, show him the truth about who You are, take away his pride.

Wouter, I have so many doubts about how this will ever work out and yet I know that God has instilled you in my heart…he has planted you there and over the course of the last 9 months He has watered the seed and caused the roots to extend deep within. You are here with me already and we haven’t even begun.

June 10: Over the past few days God has revealed to me the character of the one to whom I write this journal. I have seen a glimpse of who he is inside, where he is at mentally and spiritually. And he is quite possibly one of the most frustrating, aggravating and obnoxious individuals I have ever met. Not only is he out of his mind theologically but he is totally insensitive and relentlessly stubborn. I have come to realize that no matter how secure I am, I still do not want to be with a person who puts me down rather than lifts me up. I need to feel loved, adored, beautiful, valuable….even in spite of my flaws. I will not put up with someone who believes in false doctrine either!  God has put me in a position to either forget about him altogether or expect a divine intervention.

June 15: Wouter, I want to give up on you today…you are too far away from me. Your thinking is so unbelievably different than mine. What will come of this? Only God knows…

Lord, you have me in this place now…he gives me more heartache than anything else. I don’t know where to go from here. How do I even pray? Why would I subject myself to this…Only You can set me free from my struggle. Please help me, please give me wisdom.

On June 25th, my struggle reached its zenith. After overhearing a conversation between him and and an “opponent,” I went back to my cabin in desperate need of some alone time. I was filled with questions. How will I marry someone like him? Will we be at war over doctrine? Am I making a mistake? Would he eventually become a Calvinist? God, is this really who you have for me? Show me one more time…Right then in my cabin the Lord led me to these two scriptures: Habbakuk 2:2-3, Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens toward the goal and will not fail…Though it tarries, wait for it. It will certainly come to pass.

*That was that. It couldn’t have gotten any clearer. God truly helped me to embrace my calling that day, crazy doctrine and all, and I knew that although it would be difficult, He would enable us to love one another in spite of our differences.

As a side note, some of you may think these doctrinal differences shouldn’t have had the power to divide us, but sadly they did. I am happy to say that Wouter and I have grown so much in our understanding not only of sound doctrine but also keeping our love for one another and the Lord above it all! If you ever want to know more about how we worked these things through, send me an email. We can chat!

Letter 12

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3 Responses to 11~Love Letters: I’m a Calvinist…I Cannot Marry an Arminian!

  1. Sascha says:

    Hi Jennifer, Thanks for this post. I well remember the many heated debates on the ship in the year I was on board. Unfortunately, looking back I think many of these “doctrine wars” were not driven by mutual love and respect for one another, but rather by a prideful desire to be in the RIGHT (I can’t help but smile at the irony of a Calvinist being prideful, but there were many arrogant Calvinists on board then). I have to say that this experience turned me off the doctrines of grace for a number of years, but I couldn’t avoid the clear teaching of scripture and eventually I laid down my pride and surrendered to God’s absolute sovereignty in every aspect of life. The very doctrines I used to hate, are now so precious to me. I would be interested to know how Wouter and you have worked out your doctrinal differences.

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    • Hey Sascha, Great to hear from you! Thanks so much for reading my blog. Actually this post has gotten more traffic than any other post I’ve ever written here which tells me that this topic is still a “hot” one. I have so much to say about this. I don’t even know where to begin quite honestly. I don’t think you were the only one who was hurt by the ship’s environment at that time. Wouter was deeply affected by it, too. In fact even after him and I were married, a few of the Calvinists in my church treated him like an unbeliever because he didn’t fully embrace reformed theology. It was a difficult time for us and we’ve never forgotten it. Anyway, Wouter and I have grown together so much over the last 8 years and the unity we experience now has come through living life together, learning to walk by faith and embracing the joys and hardships God has brought our way. We both embrace the sovereignty of God and His hand in our sanctification knowing full well that both blessing and suffering have been used by Him to bring us closer to His heart. I have to say that Wouter has won me over, not by his clever arguments over doctrine but by his extreme integrity and desire to forsake the world and live for Christ. He is always pointing me toward Godliness, never chasing after worldly gratification. He’s also extremely smart and has a ton of knowledge about scripture that he has acquired based on his own study. He has great judgement and I totally trust him. That alone is sooooo much more important than any dogma out there and to be honest, calvinism/arminianism has almost no bearing in our day to day faith walk…obedience to the Holy Spirit does though… I used to think that unity would come when we both agreed on all our “God” topics but what actually happened is that through life together, facing hardships (which I’ve written most of my blog posts about) learning to love one another and submit to one another out of obedience to the Lord…we’ve grown together closer to unity than ever. I’m really “proud” of the work that God has done in our marriage to show me that obedience to what He called me to was way more important than “sticking to my guns” over TULIP. I used to pray that God would make Wouter a Calvinist but even after 3 years at Moody Bible Institute, it hasn’t happened. And that’s ok…God is still God. We don’t agree on everything but that would make for a boring marriage anyway 🙂 Sascha, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I could say about all this. But I hope it brings you into our world a little but. Thanks for taking the time to write and I hope all is well with you and your family. Blessings, Jennifer Roos

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  2. Donna baumgartner says:

    Thank you Jen 🙂
    It does look like the Lord is doing a wonderful work in your lives and it sounds like you are both individually and together a great testimony of Him.
    I am so sorry your husband was treated that way in church. It is sad what we can do to each other in the name of God sometimes.

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