I feel for you brother. I had a 'come to Jesus' moment in my life a few years ago. Unfortunately, the only thing that woke me up was to lose my wife and family entirely. I was one of those in denial that the problem with my marriage was not that I was misunderstood,but that the problem really was ME. I needed a change of heart that can only come through Christ working in me. My family no longer communicates with me at all. I don't blame them. I blame me. I praise God that you were not so hardened of heart that you could not hear His voice calling for change in your life. He deals with each child in the manner required. Some of us (me) He has to take to the wood shed. Some He need only prod gently. I was a defensive person to the point you would call me passive-aggressive. I was constantly misunderstood and a maligned falsely. Nothing would get my blood boiling faster than feeling I was unjustly accused of wrongdoing. The only problem was in many cases, it was not false accusation. I was guilty. Period. God is healing my attitudes slowly but surely. I hope someday that damage I caused by my attitudes and actions can be healed in my family and forgiveness become finally possible.However, I am a realist such that I know the extent of damage is considerable and I may not see healing and forgiveness this side of the river. God forgives, but there are still consequences to our actions that will need to be lived out, no matter the change in our heart. Real hurts to real people cause real pain. Forgiveness does not come easily or soon. May God's compassion towards you lead you in His path of righteousness as you become more like Christ. God bless you and your family.
Thank you for your words above. I would have responded sooner, but it has been a bit of a struggle for me. What you said here has struck home: "Unfortunately, the only thing that woke me up was to lose my wife and family entirely."
That is what I'm currently facing myself. And like you said of your situation, I only have myself to blame. The sad part is that I finally feel like I am healing and now I discover it might be too late. It's like a flower that's been on a dead stick, and just when it starts to bud it gets pruned.
"Real hurts to real people cause real pain." This is very true. Very true indeed.
I praise God for His working in your life. I KNOW it is not too late for you. Move forward in His love and he will make your path straight. I will continue praying for you and your family that God will shower His grace upon each family member and bring healing and wholeness to all of your relationships.
God bless you.
Some friends alerted me to this blog article. Your relationship with Skarlet is clearly the most important one that needs fixing. But let’s put that aside and talk briefly about your relationships with others, specifically those who disagree with you theologically:
“But while the relationship I have with her is the most important to me, I also want to include some other people who I acted harshly toward publicly, and because it was public I want to address it now. This is primarily the various Arminians I have debated (or debased, as it may be) especially those who I interacted with via Triablogue. . . . To be clear, I don’t apologize for opposing their views; rather, my treatment of them as people was bad, was public, and therefore needs to be addressed publicly here too.”
That last line was not necessary as the topic is your repentance from behaviors you have engaged in with others who disagree with you. At this point your opposition to the views of non-Calvinists is not really that important. What is important however is that you repent of the sinful ways in which you have engaged with others in the past (especially at Triablogue).
Repentance is not just saying “I’m sorry” it must also be accompanied with actions in line with genuine repentance (what the Bible calls the “fruits of repentance”). I have worked with some extremely hard core sinners, inmates who have committed the worst imaginable crimes. I am happy to hear of their claims of repentance, their claims to “turning over a new leaf,” etc. At the same time, having worked with this group, there are instances where they are only saying they are “sorry” to get something (e.g. custody of their kids, early release date, etc.): not because they are genuinely sorry for what they have done. What we always look for in these cases is genuine change of actions **over time**. When we see THAT, we conclude this person really has repented of their sin.
It appears that you are in desperation mode, trying to save your marriage, wanting to be with your daughter, and you are now expressing that you are sorry. I hope it is genuine and that it continues with time. I hope you don’t interact with those who disagree with you theologically as you did in the past.
I said to you in the past and you really did not want to hear it (perhaps you are more open to this now). One of my early mentors was a Calvinist. One of the most godly men that I know. So I know for a fact that a professing Calvinist can exhibit godly character. What I have seen from you and others at Triablogue is the opposite of this man’s character. If your heart is genuinely changed you ought to strive to be a Christian with godly character with no “ands” “ifs” or “buts” no attempts at rationalizing past actions.
Hopefully you have reached the point where you now truly recognize and believe that Christian character is more important than holding to the “correct” theological system. You should know that myself and others are hoping the changes are real and long-lasting. We may disagree with you on Calvinism, but in the big picture of things, we are on the same team and we want to see you win in the areas of your life that are really important.
From what you said, I think you're the same Robert I've dealt with in the past, and I apologize both for my past rude behavior toward you and for forgetting to mention you in this blog post as one of the people who I did mistreat.
I do not expect any of you or the members of SEA or anyone else to just take my word for it about my renewal. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, and I know full well that trust must be rebuilt. I would ask you to bear in mind that I am not one of the prisoners you are accustomed to dealing with, so while that may give you some general insight I would ask that you also be considerate of the fact that I am a unique individual too.
In any case, thank you for taking the time to read what I wrote in the blog post (and if you read this comment too).
Hello again, Robert,
I spoke with Skarlet about what you wrote and she gave me some more insight here. Given what she told me, I would like to clarify that I'm not trying to be dismissive about your work with inmates (it was not my intention to come across that way, but that was how she read it, so I certainly was not as clear as I wished to be). Additionally, Skarlet has indicated that when it comes to behavioral aspects you provided an accurate prediction to her a while back, and based on the fact that she trusts your judgment I trust it too. I am also open to suggestions about what you think would be good for me to make my life more ideal in general, and in personal relationships (not just with Skarlet--although she is primary in my mind--but also with those I disagree with theologically too).
I am very aware that my road right now has only been a short one. I have many miles and all the rest of my days ahead of me. I do not desire to return to any of the previous modes of defensiveness, as I am genuinely happy. My spirit is at peace for the first time in a long time. But I am not taking it for granted and I realize that the euphoria of experiencing the Spirit intimately fades as life comes crashing back in. I'm taking steps to ensure that I continue progressing forward, including making positive life changes and getting accountability partners involved too, in addition to still seeing the marriage counselor who opened my eyes to my defensiveness. But even with all that, I know that A) unless the Lord supervises, the builders labor in vain; and B) I have blinders that can keep me from seeing what's right in front of me, and my own efforts are not sufficient.
I have to say I am very encouraged by your last post to me, it has exactly the kind of thing that we are hoping to see. I will respond to both of your posts in this one.
“From what you said, I think you're the same Robert I've dealt with in the past, and I apologize both for my past rude behavior toward you and for forgetting to mention you in this blog post as one of the people who I did mistreat.”
No need to mention me nor apologize again as I thought your main post was a public apology and was sufficient.
“I do not expect any of you or the members of SEA or anyone else to just take my word for it about my renewal. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, and I know full well that trust must be rebuilt.”
That is the hard thing, it is easy to lose trust but much harder to get it back. My “healthy skepticism” comes from, sadly, seeing folks making professions of repentance that with time turned out to not be real or heartfelt.
“I would ask you to bear in mind that I am not one of the prisoners you are accustomed to dealing with, so while that may give you some general insight I would ask that you also be considerate of the fact that I am a unique individual too.”
I think you misinterpreted my words about inmates. I was not saying that you are one of them or that you are only feigning repentance as some of them do. I brought them up as **an example of folks who make the profession of repentance but it is not real**, it is only a form of manipulation to get something they want. I was not saying you are doing this, I was saying only that I have seen people engage in this kind of false repentance.
“I spoke with Skarlet about what you wrote and she gave me some more insight here. Given what she told me, I would like to clarify that I'm not trying to be dismissive about your work with inmates (it was not my intention to come across that way, but that was how she read it, so I certainly was not as clear as I wished to be).”
I didn’t take it as dismissive of my work with inmates, I just think you misinterpreted my intent in sharing about them. I have to say, that if you want to really test your theories of depravity, repentance, and how God can change the hardest heart they are an excellent source of data.
“Additionally, Skarlet has indicated that when it comes to behavioral aspects you provided an accurate prediction to her a while back, and based on the fact that she trusts your judgment I trust it too.”
I have some experience dealing with people, I also have a wife who is far superior to me when it comes to emotional intelligence and reading people! :-) I have also surrounded myself with godly counsel (i.e. people who are godly in character, prayer warriors, people who have a lot of wisdom). I intentionally am dependent upon a lot of people who are trustworthy and can provide very good counsel and assessment and challenge me when I need to be challenged.
“I am also open to suggestions about what you think would be good for me to make my life more ideal in general, and in personal relationships (not just with Skarlet--although she is primary in my mind--but also with those I disagree with theologically too).”
Now this is the most encouraging thing I have seen: you are asking for suggestions about how to make changes. I note that you mention two of them later in your post (seeking a good marriage counselor, having accountability partners). I think rather than saying YOU do this and this, I will use myself as an example. I have been blessed to have godly mentors throughout my life (and it has never been just one, I intentionally surround myself with more than one). I need to have people that I respect, that I know care for me, that I know they are really close to Jesus and really living the Christian life as it is supposed to be lived. Pray that you have people like this and actively seek them out. One of my first mentors loved the book of Proverbs (he seemed to have the entire book memorized and he would quote a text that would apply exactly to something I was dealing with: he branded in my mind the principle from Proverbs that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, so you want to surround yourself with a group of godly people that you trust, who will keep you in line, inspire you, encourage you). They have all told me that life is about what you habitually do. So consciously attempt to be living out good habits. This may sound “old-fashioned” but it really is true. I was fortunate to be a Christian around people who believed strongly in discipleship (someone disciples you, then you disciples others). So look for this in any way you can.
One thing I learned early on is the importance of prayer. I need to be praying but I also need to know who the prayer warriors are (cultivate relationships with people who are prayer warriors). I once asked my mentor who is Calvinist (an amazing guy and incredible stuff is always happening in his life): what is the source of the obvious power in your ministry? He answered: there is a guy in Grand Rapids Michigan, he is not a very smart guy, his job is as a dish washer. But HE prays for me every day while he is washing dishes.” Hmm, so an unknown dish washer is behind this guy’s ministry that means I need folks praying for me like that too. Who is praying for you Peter? You need to have people praying for you.
Early on I was taught the importance of evangelism. All of my mentors are strong on this. And evangelism if done with the right attitude is a love thing. I mean the more I love Jesus the more I want to tell others about him. When I was a college pastor I used to use the illustration of excitement about relationships to convey this point. I used to say, what is it like when you meet a very special person and you are excited about them? You love to tell others about this person, you love to tell your friends, even strangers, :-) and also your parents. That is human nature. Well, we have to have the same kind of excitement about telling others about Jesus. Something I learned early on is that not every professing Christian is excited about evangelism. So ignore those who don’t do it and hand out with those who do. In every church congregation there is some group of people who are really excited and actively sharing their faith (I always look for that group and get involved in that group, sometimes they are a little kooky but so what, find them, and when you find them, do evangelism with Skarlet there with you). Another thing about the people you hand out with. We become like those we hang out with. If you hang out with people who talk theology and debate theological minutiae, that is the kind of person you become. If you hang out with people who love missions and are concerned about missions then guess what you became like those people. So choose whom you hang around with wisely. I would rather be with the folks who are a little kooky and are actually evangelizing, rather than those who talk about evangelism and the theology of evangelism but don’t do it. Catch my drift?
Now let’s talks specifically about your relationship with Skarlet. Again, this is what I was taught and what I have done, see if any of it helps you. All of my mentors were servants. They lived it out, they talked about it, they expected me to be a servant. First I have to be a servant of Jesus: it is all about Him not me. There is a paradoxical thing about being a servant, if you lose yourself in Jesus you lose a lot of stuff that you really don’t need. For example pride, it is very hard to be prideful if you are living as a servant (because you don’t put yourself first, you are not concerned about your reputation, what others think of you, etc.). So start by being a servant of Jesus. Now how does this work itself out with Skarlet. Skarlet will be encouraged if she sees you acting as a servant of Jesus (because deep down that is what all godly women really want to see in their husbands). And this being a servant will apply just as much in your relationship with her. The Bible says that I am supposed to love my wife as Christ loved the church. And what does that mean? Jesus was the ultimate servant of the church, He loved the church, put the church ahead of Himself and was willing to die for the church. Now what would happen if we as Christian husbands lived that way towards our wives? If they know that we love them, put them first, and are willing to die for them. That is where the submission of the wife of the husband comes in. Too many men think submission means “you do what I say and you are here to please me”. No wonder women don’t want to submit. But what if she really believes that you are a servant and you are a servant to her? It is not hard to submit to a person who loves you totally, puts you first and would die for you. Can you trust a person who you know loves you this way and would die for you? So in my opinion the one thing that makes for a strong Christian marriage is the husband being like Jesus towards his wife. For many years I have prayed that I am that way towards my wife (I even prayed that I would be like that before I got married). And I have others to tell me how I am doing in this. Now here is the fun part, this is an issue of character not theological system. A Calvinist husband can do this as can an Arminian husband. Ironically theological systems are really not that important when it comes to the really important issues of life. You can be a Calvinist and be a jerk, you can be an Arminian and be a jerk. There are enough jerks in the world, we need more servants, regardless of if they are Calvinists or Arminians or whatever.
“I am very aware that my road right now has only been a short one. I have many miles and all the rest of my days ahead of me. I do not desire to return to any of the previous modes of defensiveness, as I am genuinely happy. My spirit is at peace for the first time in a long time. But I am not taking it for granted and I realize that the euphoria of experiencing the Spirit intimately fades as life comes crashing back in. I'm taking steps to ensure that I continue progressing forward, including making positive life changes and getting accountability partners involved too, in addition to still seeing the marriage counselor who opened my eyes to my defensiveness. But even with all that, I know that A) unless the Lord supervises, the builders labor in vain; and B) I have blinders that can keep me from seeing what's right in front of me, and my own efforts are not sufficient”
We all have many miles to go ahead of us, the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon! Accountability partners and mentors is very good and helpful. Seeing a marriage counselor is also helpful for you. Best of all you recognize that is the Lord who brings real change, as long as you are serving Him and open to Him everything else will work out fine.
Thank you again for your comments, Robert. As I mentioned in my blog post yesterday, I am going to be posting infrequently here for a while, but you can feel free to shoot an e-mail my direction (and anyone else who reads these comments can also e-mail me, if you so desire) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your prayers, and I also pray God richly blesses your day.