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But I Don’t Want to Give That Up: Vivian Mabuni

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2024 5:15 am

But I Don’t Want to Give That Up: Vivian Mabuni

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 18, 2024 5:15 am

Does the idea of giving God your "100% yes" freak you out? Vivian Mabuni totally gets it. She talks about how scary surrendering to God can be—and yet maybe it's exactly what we need. Could letting go of that "one thing" actually save you? Vivian is also one of FamilyLife's guest contributors to the all-new Art of Marriage group study! To learn more or order your copy, visit

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Vivian Mabuni and catch more of their thoughts at, and on Facebook and Instagram

And grab Vivian's book, "Open Hands, Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God"

Want to hear more episodes by Vivian, listen here!

Vivian is one of FamilyLife's guest contributors to the all-new Art of Marriage group study! To learn more or order your copy, visit

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey

It's all about open hands and being willing, but that willingness provides the freedom and the unleashing of the adventure, really. And from there, it was like miracle after miracle and I was just, I tasted it.

Like I tasted what life was like with God in the driver's seat and not me. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. So I have this observation I've made about people. I don't know if it's right or not. Have I heard this before?

No, I don't think you've ever heard it. It's just something I've been noticing. There's a connection between a person's hands and their face.

I have no idea what you're saying. Here's what I'm saying. When you see people that are tight-fisted, they're holding on. Even when they're driving, their face is tense. It's like you're holding on to something and you don't want to let go of it and your face is like, they're not happy people.

I'm not kidding. You can drive by somebody and they're like, just you look over there. But if you see people like this, their hands are open. It seems like their face is... Oh, and their hearts open maybe? Is there a correlation you think? It seems like they're relaxed. Is that true?

I think so. Have you ever noticed that? I've never noticed it, but now I will. Well, I bring it up because we have two open-handed people sitting in the studio today. And they're friends of ours.

We love them. Yeah, and their book's called Open Hands, Willing Hearts. So Vivian, when I saw your title, that was one of the first things I thought.

I thought open-handed people... And again, I know all analogies break down at some point, but open-handed peoples tend to be happy peoples, tend to be restful people. I don't know if I'm right or not. I don't either, but I think it's true of you two.

We have Darren and we have Vivian Mabuni with us today. You guys, welcome to Family Life today. Thank you.

Thanks for having us. Okay, so the only thing to think of when you're talking about the driving is that I don't know if I necessarily want happy, open-handed people on the freeway. You still want to hold the driver, the steering a little bit. You just don't want a tight-fisted.

And I tend to be a tight-fisted driver. Don't even get in about it. He's actually talking himself. That's great. That might be.

But I love your subtitles, Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God. So yeah, we're going to dive into that, but you got to tell our audience a little bit about you two. Yeah. I mean, you've been on crew staff for... 34, 35 years.

I was going to say three decades. Yeah. For a little while.

Yeah. It's a blink. Just a blink. We were those that we met, got engaged quickly, and got married quickly. We just dated three months and got engaged. So we were married by about a year, a little under a year. From the time we were engaged and married was what? Seven and a half months, eight months. Yeah.

Wow. And it was long distance. And you have three kids. We do have three kids.

They're grown now. Anybody at home? Our youngest is still at home.

She's in college. Oh. Yeah.

And tell our listeners what you do now. We are on staff with Family Life. Yeah. And we're on the speaker team too for Weekend to Remember. Yeah. And believe it or not, you're flying after our program to do a Weekend to Remember in Pittsburgh.

In Pittsburgh. That's right. Yeah. You've had quite a week. It's been amazing.

But Viv, you're taking classes in seminary. Yes. Share a little bit too about your podcast.

Yes. And so I also do speaking and writing. And I have a podcast for Asian American, Pacific Islander American leaders called Some Days Here.

And I'm also in seminary for the bajillionth year. One day, one day I will walk across that. I actually gave, I spoke at Denver Seminary's commencement last spring. And I just, when I sat down, I just wept as every person walked across the stage because I just thought there's a story behind each person. And then I thought that one day it will be me too.

You know, if you're asked to speak at the commencement, they should just give you an honorary degree. That's what I said. But I want to work for it. I want to know that I earned every- How long will it take? A million years. It's going to take another year and a half probably. But in the meantime, I've gathered an amazing group of women, about 17 other authors and speakers and just incredible women who love God and we're in a cohort.

So it's a closed cohort. We will take all the classes together and graduate together, which I think that that the retention level will be so much higher because we have each other and there's just such a generosity in that group. So I'm really excited about that. I think a lot more women will graduate with their degrees in a timely manner, unlike me alone and dropping out and reapplying and dropping out and reapplying and asking my pastor again for another recommendation.

So I'm pretty excited about that future. But I feel like your whole lives, as we've just gotten to know each other even more recently, your lives are about living open-handed. I feel like your lives, if you had to give a word to describe you guys, it's you're surrendered.

So take us back a little bit and share how did that happen? Your book called Open Hands, Willing Heart, that's coming from somewhere. Have you always been pretty open-handed and willing?

Yes and no. I, it's not so much until I came to know the Lord. And once I came to know the Lord, it really was such a dramatic change that I said, God, I am willing to go anywhere and do anything, whatever you want. And that's when I found myself coming on staff with crew and going to this mission project to Manila where we met.

But it was, it really was that process where it's like, okay, God, whatever you want. Yeah. I thought you met at UCLA.

What's the deal? No, we were on staff there. That was our first assignment or his. So in Manila. Yeah, we met in Manila. All right. Yes, we did. But I think the topic of surrender to me is the secret sauce of the Christian life.

I am with you and people don't know. Yeah. And I think that that's the difference. Like if I meet another Christian, it's not a personality thing, but you know when you meet someone who at some point in their relationship with God has surrendered because there's just a different attitude about them. There's a, there's just a familiarity, like it's just a comfortableness of, of a fellow surrendered sibling and that there's something really refreshing, but I found it's not based on personality. It's not based on ethnic or social status or anything like that. It really is people that have wrestled and at some point can look back at a time where they said, oh, I'm all in. Like all the poker chips are in the middle.

I'm putting it all on you. Describe what you guys were like before that time. Before that time. I mean, it was, I was about me. I was, well, I hadn't gone through a time because my mom passed away when I was in high school. I was doing everything to escape and I realized that even after I became a Christian, escape was still part of how it was formed.

Like what, what kind of escapes? It would be, it would be alcohol, some drugs, sex, pornography, but it was more anything that would take my mind off of what was going on inside. It was amazing because I went from having this huge hole in my heart where it just, it just felt empty, completely empty and dark. Then there was no way out to coming to Jesus and all of a sudden I can't even explain it. I was complete.

I was whole. And then also finding out this is kind of the, the now and the not yet. I'm still, God has made me whole and yet he is still working on me and that's the part that continues to blow my mind for by grace you have been saved through faith and this not of yourself. So that the gift of God, not by works that no one should boast, that is stuck with me. And the other thing that stuck with me is the idea of that when, you know, Jesus said to them, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. And for the longest time I would think about that of, you know, come after me, I would deny myself like, yeah, I'm going to go through troubles. And he said, no, you just, I'm talking about completely dying to yourself, not having trouble or enduring hardship, but dying to yourself, dying to your will and taking up God's will and follow me. Put that into your daily practice.

This is what you do. And it's like, you know, we've, we've continued to minister and God's saying, okay, it's time for you to surrender again. And we've come to that point many times where God's saying, I still want it all because I've been sort of kind of holding, pulling it back. Yeah.

I mean, I'd love to hear your journey for our listeners with that because the natural inclination of a, of a person, a human being is hold on. Yes. And if you have kids and you hand them a cookie and then say, give it to your sister, you got a war. They get it. And the second you get it, it's like, it's mine, you know? And that's just the human heart. We know what it is. Yeah. It's the sin nature.

The self is the sin nature. But that is natural. Somebody gives you any gift, somebody give me, if they gave me a car and then said, hey, give it away to your neighbor. I'm like, I do. I won one time I was talking about this in generosity at church and so in the sermon I said, hey, I want to do a little experiment. Pull out your wallet right now. And they're like, why don't I go just pull it out and hold it in your hand.

And then they're all, you know, and again, this is years ago when people actually carried wallets, you know, you know, our Czech folks, but they're looking at, I'm like, you're, you're looking at a container that we really, we value because it holds our money. Now here's what I want you to do. I want you to give it to the person sitting beside you and everybody's like, what? Just give it to you. And then I said, well, now let's take the offering, you know, just for fun cause like if it's not my money, it's this neighbor's money, I'll give it all. But when it's my money and it's not just money, it's possessions, it's our life.

Open-handed living is not natural. It's like supernatural. So I'd love to hear your journey cause we have to go from a journey from the natural holding on to the scary. I'm going to let go whether it's my possessions, my money, even my life or my marriage. And I want to hear Vivian, like Darren, thank you. I'm picturing you as a high school boy, losing your mom, a young man and just lost, totally lost.

And what we've tried to do is probably hold onto our lives or hold onto something, but you are just escaping into anything that would bring you life and it wasn't. So that had to be hard. Okay, Vivian, what were you like? I was, you know, it's interesting cause we've been in other conversations now even on this program we're talking about how we bring baggage into our marriages and you know, that's just the nature of things. For me, I grew up trying to do everything to fit in to my surrounding culture, which was predominantly white and I'm Asian American and I did not look like everybody else, but I wanted in my soul to fit in. So I was a cheerleader, I did student government, I was actually elected to be president of clubs that I didn't even know that I had been like, I just would show up and they're like, Oh, and you're the president of junior achievement now.

I'm like, okay. So I just was very, I was a leader and active and I was also trying to fill an emptiness in my life. And I think I recognize that awards and money and relationships, there's still an emptiness that would not get satisfied, even the cutest shoes or the latest perfume or music band. Like there was just an emptiness that I recognized was a spiritual one. And I sat next to a friend in math class and she started glowing, you know, she lived this surrendered life and I thought, Oh, did you become a vegetarian?

It was like, what's going on? Did you really ask her that? I asked her that because she just looked different.

Like there was really a countenance about her and a change. And she told me, Oh, I became a Christian. I'm like, what are you?

What? You just go to church now? She goes, Oh no, I have a personal relationship with Jesus.

I'm like, Oh no, like you are smart and funny. And how could you believe this mythology and the Bible? And anyway, it was evident God was real and sitting next to her day after day and hearing more and more of her story, it was like, this God is real and definitely real in my friend's life. And so that set me on a spiritual journey. I ended up putting my faith in Christ the summer between my sophomore and junior year. And then I spent the next year really trying to live externally what I needed to be Christian. So I didn't have a Bible. I drove myself to the mall, bought a Bible, tried to read it, and it was really boring.

Like there are a lot of Kings and measurements from temple and I just don't have blood wars. I don't know, it's not applying to my life. And I knew I was supposed to pray and I would try and I'd fall asleep. And the Sundays that I would wake up and drive myself to church, I would cry through the worship songs because I still, there was something that was like, this is real. But then I would drive home and then life was just normal.

Like always. Were you the only one in your family? Yeah. First, both Darren and I are the first Christians in our family.

Yeah. So you're driving to church by yourself as a high school kid. As a high school kid. So then my dad goes through midlife crisis and he comes home with the sports car, which was awesome.

Learned to drive stick shift. And then he comes home with a perm. A perm? A perm. Really?

Yep. He had that perm and I was mortifying. And then he comes home with the news right before my senior year of high school that we were moving and we weren't moving across town or even to another state. We were moving from Boulder, Colorado to Hong Kong. And that was the ultimate of the midlife crisis, I guess, but he moved our family. And you were going into your senior year. I was going into the senior that had so meticulously built to be the most ultimate year of my life at that point, as much as I could imagine it. So they had to drag me by my ankles all the way to Hong Kong. And that is where I honestly experienced this open hands, willing heart, peace in my relationship with God. Cause I was so mad at him.

All my securities were taken away. I could not understand the language. I spoke Mandarin, the dialect in Hong Kong is Cantonese. It might as well have been Polish.

Like there's no comprehension that the people drive on the left side of the road. I mean, everything about it was so hugely different than anything I had experienced in Boulder. And so I just told God, I said, I am so mad at you, but in my heart, I really want to know you. And if you could just give me a church, youth group, Christian friends, if you do that, I'm all in. I will give you everything. I'll hold nothing back.

Otherwise I'm going to go out and get drunk, do something I'll regret, but I'm never talking to you again. So that was kind of my ultimatum prayer in Hong Kong in this little flat. And God came through and he provided an amazing church youth group. God is not an American.

He understands all languages and all peoples and all cultures and he met me in Hong Kong. I think that's such a good reminder too, now that your parents and a lot of our listeners are parents, we hate for our kids to experience pain. We hate for them to, I'm imagining if we were moving and one of our sons was going into senior year, I'd probably stay back because I don't want him to experience pain. And yet sometimes that pain is the very thing God uses to draw our kids to him. That's right. I see it over and over again.

Because we want to protect our kids. So yeah. And roots are only formed when you're forced to try to get water deeper. I love what you just said. You said I was mad at God, but I want to know God.

And you told God you were mad at him. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's rare that you have both sides of that.

Usually it's I'm mad and I'm out, you're like, I'm mad, I'm honest, but I really want to know you. Yeah. Yeah. And he sort of revealed himself.

He did. And if we had more hours, I would share the amazing stories, but one of the stories was after that prayer, that desperate prayer, and it was a very honest prayer. I was approached by a random guy from, I was at a girl's school and we were debating because that was in English. I could do that.

I can't argue in English. As my husband can tell you, but he came up to me and just completely out of the blue, are you a Christian? Would you like to come to our youth group? And it was just like, it was a miracle. And right down the street from my school was a Christian missionary alliance church that taught, that had crew staff actually there. And so I learned the four spiritual laws. I learned the ministry of Holy Spirit. That was the very first lesson at that high school youth group in Hong Kong was about the ministry of Holy Spirit, which again was like, I did not know that God's spirit, like the Christian life is impossible to live, that it requires his spirit to live out the Christian life. And it's all about surrender.

It's all about open hands and being willing, but that willingness provides the freedom and the unleashing of the adventure, really. And from there, it was like, it was so, just miracle after miracle. And I was just, I tasted it. Like I tasted what life was like with God in the driver's seat and not me.

And boy, there's just so much freedom to just go. I mean, I'm still stuck on your dad getting a perm and moving to Hong Kong. No, I mean, I'm kidding.

But if you don't move to Hong Kong and you're still in Boulder, who knows? I know. Yeah.

You know, that hardship and being angry at God because of it is part of the story of why you're sitting here this very, why you even married this guy? I know. I know.

I mean, it's amazing how God works. And one of the things you said earlier too, Darren, was that it's a continual surrender. Yeah. I'm not sure a lot of people understand that part of it. I remember, because Dave and I were on staff for 15 years with CREW, and do you remember Bill Bright, who's the founder of CREW, saying, every morning I wake up, I fall on my knees and I re-surrender my life. God take it.

I'm like, I want to do that, but I find myself in situations, as life gets busy, as I became a mom, even in ministry, you're still going, you're doing- Hold on. Yes. Yeah. Oh, yeah. You grew up so true. What would it look like for you to stay open-handed and surrender, Darren?

How do you do that? Being married. That's a good answer. That actually might be the opposite.

No, I do. What's really, well, a couple of things. One is that I think the Holy Spirit continues to remind us and bring us back, but a lot of times I don't listen. And I think that's where God is so gracious in continually wooing us to himself and asking us to continue to surrender. And I don't hear because, and you said it, we're busy. We get busy.

And the sad thing is we got busy doing ministry. Yeah. Yeah. But I think the main thing is God's continually calling it, but it comes back to me trying to practice a little, some disciplines to put myself in a place where I can hear, like having a quiet time or having some time and making sure I'm in the Word. But putting those in place helped me to continue to hear the Spirit.

Yeah. I think too that for us, as I look back, there have just been some crossroads where we needed to re-up. And I think the Lord will just ask, you know?

And I remember we were doing a summer mission in Japan and we'd brought a group of students and I remember sitting in the back of the room with my arms crossed, I was just so mad at God. There's a theme here, but I had sensed from him, Viv, would you be willing to sell the house in California? And would you be willing to move here to learn a language you don't know, drive on the other side of the street?

Would you be willing to pull your kids out of school, a school they love with their friends? Would you be willing to come here if I asked you? And I stomped around the streets of Japan, like, I'm already a missionary, we brought students.

Are you kidding me? Like, we've already surrendered. And he was just like, are you entirely mine? And will you trust me is really the question.

Would you be willing? Just willing is really the key. And so I just stomped around and finally came to a place of surrender again. I'm like, Lord, the house, the house is yours and the money is yours and the kids are yours and our lives are yours. Like we will go wherever you want us to go.

I mean, that's what it's about. Now, the interesting thing is the Lord never, he never called us to do that. I think he just wanted my heart to be in check. Surrendered. Surrendered.

Yeah. The interesting thing was when my book came out, I was doing an interview for it. In one of the interviews, I shared that story and for the first time it clicked that that was the summer before my diagnosis for cancer. And it was like the Lord had just kind of realigned my heart, like anything, Lord, whatever you want. And I did not put that together until that in the middle of that conversation just caught me.

I was like, that's what he was asking about. It wasn't actually about Japan, but it was my heart. I want to talk more about that tomorrow too, because that had to be a pretty scary place that you guys went as a couple as well. And I remember when our first son was born and I had gotten into a habit of surrendering everything to Jesus. And after that first son was born, I remember the doctor came in after I was in my room and he was still being cleaned up, our baby CJ. And he said, we believe as he came in that this baby might have a skull fracture and there might be some things going on. He had a pretty traumatic birth and then he left. And Dave, I can't remember where you were.

Maybe you were looking after CJ. But I remember being in that bed and I felt like God was saying, will you let me have your son? Not knowing what the future would hold. Like Abraham and Isaac and the author. And I was like, you have my life, now you want my son's life too?

Oh, and I did battle, like no. It's crazy of the things we hold onto. And I remember finally like scripture started pouring into my mind and I said, like, what else can I do? You've given him to us and all I can do is give him back. That happened with every single child that we had.

That doctor from NICU came in and said, oh, we have some problems. Like really, Lord? Again? But I think it is that check where God's like, will you give me everything? I think it's a good reminder for us.

And for you as a listener, have you given him everything? Yeah. I mean, Darren, you said it earlier. It's Luke 9.

The one who wants to follow me must take up his cross, deny himself. That sounds terrible. I know. I mean, it's against this, the closed fist, you know, hold on. It's like sometimes it's almost like we have to have them pried off of our life and our kids and our future. You name it. We have ministry.

We can hold on to anything. And God's like the best way to live. And it's also the scariest because you're scared to let go. But when you understand who your heavenly Father is, he's a good father.

Yeah. And that's where I would think Galatians 2 20 is so wonderful. I've been crucified with Christ is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And then in the life I now live, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me. It's like that's the like the basis isn't just trying to do hard things because that's just what's spiritual. It's really out of trusting that God loves us, that he loved us.

He actually delivered himself up for us like that. I hope I never lose sight of how phenomenal and gracious and merciful God is to give his life in my place like that. You know, like he loves me and he did not withhold his own son so I can trust him. Are there times when I lose sight of that on a day to day basis? If I'm honest, yes. If you're honest, yes, maybe. I mean, I don't want to speak for you. But I'll go ahead and speak for you in this moment and say, yeah, sometimes I lose sight of that.

I forget about who I am. Honestly, I think that's a good place to start. To start. But when we have to move forward from there, we need to go deeper and deeper into the good news of the gospel. And that was the perfect reminder that Vivian gave us today at the end of our time here.

I'm so grateful for that. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Vivian and Darren Mabuni on Family Life Today. Vivian has written a book called Open Hands, Willing Heart, Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God.

This is really about yielding ourselves wholly to God, especially in the midst of challenging circumstances. And you can get your copy of Vivian's book by going online to or you can find it in the show notes. Or give us a call at 800-358-6329.

You can request your copy that way. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Now I have a question. Do you feel like your marriage might be running on empty? Have you ever told some of your closest friends that? Or maybe even your small group? Have you ever been intentional in developing a community and support system around you and your spouse?

If the answer is either yes or no, regardless of what it is, we can help. We know many couples who have been in your shoes and who struggled with grieving a loved one, reconciliation, anger, hard diagnosis, and so much more. They're speakers, preachers, and everyday couples that make up the all new art of marriage, including our guest today, Vivian Mabuni. Now this marriage study that we have in the art of marriage will help you grow deeper together as a couple, but more importantly, grow closer to God. Throughout six 25 minute sessions, art of marriage unpacks six biblical words that describe God's love for us and how each can be displayed throughout our messy, imperfect marriages.

Yes, even your messy, imperfect marriage. So if you want to learn more, you can go to the show notes or you can go to And click on the art of marriage banner that's up there. You can learn more there and grab your leadership kit today. Now tomorrow, Vivian and Darren Mabuni are back as they reflect on their own surrender to God and his unconditional love for them. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of family life today. Family life today is a donor supported production of family life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-18 07:19:49 / 2024-04-18 07:32:31 / 13

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