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Every Riven Thing

2013 June 7
by Mike

“God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.” – Christian Wiman

Here’s the question I’ve been asked several times since yesterday’s post: Why didn’t I include that story in my book about Megan?

used by permission


The answer is simple: I wasn’t prepared to tell it. In fact, I never imagined telling it.

But this Wednesday, I led an evening on the theme of “hands” in scripture (the hands of Jesus . . . the hands of God . . . human hands). And after agonizing prayer and hours of conversations with Diane, I decided to write it.

But then the question was, do I make that public to a broader audience? After all, it’s a bit embarrassing. Most of us want to hear stories of how people held up under pressure—not of how they buckled. That’s why we often tell the stories of how hymns got written while omitting some of the later stories.

I’ve recently mentioned that my favorite hymn is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” We love to give the background of the young convert who wrote the stirring words; seldom do we go on to point out, however, that the writer who penned the profound words “prone to wander” did, indeed, wander from the faith later in life. (There are different strains of tradition about whether or not he returned.)

Even Wednesday night, we pulled out an old gospel pop song: “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” I didn’t bother to mention that the author of those words later ended his own life in Pokies despair.

But, again, Diane and I decided to go ahead and publish the piece on behalf of others who feel flooded by a dam that has burst in their lives. For me, the flood was an immersion in depression, doubt, and grief. But it could be many other things.

If that’s you, perhaps you’re wondering: When do I get my “you-will-be-ok-Daddy” experience?

You may not. I’m 56, and I’ve had one in my life.

But, and here was the real point of the piece, there are hands all around you that can hold you and guide you back to life.

Be careful, of course. There are many judging hands, shame-inflicting hands, retaliatory hands. Don’t go there.

But there are also plenty of gentle hands, compassionate hands, safe hands. They might be the hands of those whom you already know and trust; but they might also be found in unexpected places.

Do not suffer alone. Life isn’t over. There can be glory days ahead. Years after I thought my life might never recover, I’m living in the best part of my story.

God goes belonging to every riven thing, my friends. God’s story involves the sorrow of bearing pain and sorrow: “From his riven side which flowed,” as a wonderful old hymn reminds us.

But there’s one thing you have to do: open your hands. Admit that they’re empty. Trust that God will give you a new future and that he’ll do that, at least in part, through the hands of others.

used by permission

9 Responses leave one →
  1. June 7, 2013

    In the last few days that Angi could still mount the stairs to our master bedroom over the garage, we were discussing the commitments we would no longer be able to keep due to her cancer – both physical and financial.

    “We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got,” I said to my driven, type-A personality wife. “That’s pretty much become my motto.”

    She thought a moment. “Mine is, ‘I am not in control.’ “

  2. June 7, 2013

    Mike, I hesitate to even comment on a post like this because it feels like treading on holy ground. When you see holy ground you don’t really like to walk on it unless you have been invited. God bless you for sharing from some of the deepest recesses of your heart. Your openness has blessed countless numbers of people. The way you have shared even the pace at which you are able to share some of these things normalizes how we talk about grief and I am sure has been helpful for many who have gone through great difficulty.

    When I read your last post it reminded me of two things. The first was said on the opening night of the lectures this year. Someone mentioned a prayer labyrinth in Malibu that had two prayers you were supposed to pray: on entrance you opened your hands and asked God to help you release what you need to release & once in the middle of the labyrinth you ask God to help fill your hands with what he needs to place there. I am paraphrasing there a bit but that stuck with me.

    The second thing that hit me this week was in Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, he divides the disciplines into two categories: Disciplines of Abstinence (Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Frugality, Chastity, Secrecy, Sacrifice) & Disciplines of Engagement (Study, Worship, Celebration, Service, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, Submission). Even in the disciplines there is a sense of emptying and filling that draws us into a deeper relationship with God. It takes real maturity and deep dependence on God to know what things to hold on to and when to hold on to them and what things to let go of and when it is time to let go of them. I think you have demonstrated well what that maturity looks like. Thank you so much.

  3. Joe Maple permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Your sharing helps me deal with my struggles. Thank you

  4. eric permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Again. I’m faintly starting to feel a pulse.

  5. Morrisa permalink
    June 7, 2013

    I understand the feelings of being buried in despair, not your version, but my own. There was a Sunday afternoon that I laid down to nap. In the midst of that nap, I “awoke” to a bright white light and heard the words “It will be OK.”. I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace like I had never felt before or since. Then I fell back into my nap. Life wasn’t perfect just after that, but it did get better after a while. Today Michael & I celebrate our anniversary and it is ok.

  6. June 7, 2013

    I have to believe God holds us close even in despair – otherwise, I spend most of my life lost. Friends, family, meds, therapy all help. But depression, anxiety, despair — they still creep in at the edges, insidious as any infestation.

    But my depression does not lessen my faith. The fact that I can hold on to even the tiniest truth in the midst of the storm feels like the stuff of miracle on its own.

    When my brain is actively trying to kill me, somewhere inside, I have to believe God is still present. Especially when I can’t find any objective traces of it.

    I have to believe that God’s grace covers me even when I cannot see beyond the darkness. I’ve been at the point of taking my own life. But in many ways, I died before I got to that point. I have to believe that God sees me, the way I am when I’m healthy, not the way I am when my brain has shorted out with depression and despair and in times when it seems I’ve lost the battle, that the times I feel like giving up are born of pain and not of rebellion.

    Not all of those who end in despair are deserted by God. Because God knows the heart, not the action of a diseased mind.

    I’m rambling, I know, but I see so many trite answers to depression bandied about and so many of them hurt. So many of them reinforce the idea that God abandons you if you can’t fight anymore. I don’t believe that. I can’t.

    Even if I had taken my life, God knows where I was and why when I hit that point. And I believe God still claimed me as his own.

  7. Nelda Sims permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Mike, So glad you can bear witness to living beyond or past those days when it hurt to breathe. I especially appreciate the part in your article where you say that we should not suffer alone because there are hands there that want to offer their strength, their lift, or just their warmth–when we live in denial we miss all that.
    I was so proud to see you as the man in charge of everything at Pepperdine this spring…and looking like it was fun. As always, you have encouraged me.

  8. Kent Dickerson permalink
    June 8, 2013

    The return to personal blogging is most welcome. I am looking now at starting a blog to go along with my seminar ministry. As I do so, I want to go back and reread many of your blogs to see how it is done well. You have certainly blessed many lives with this blog. Thanks for sharing the deeply personal with us and letting us in to know even more about you, your life experience and your relationship with God. May God bless you even more with the glory of His Presence.

  9. July 14, 2013

    Thank you for your words… I am trying to type through the tears and hurt and anger. I want to trust God will give a new future…and He has and is, except… If He didnt take care of us before, how do you know He is taking care of you in this new future? All that to say trust is so hard…

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