Learning to Bend: A Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Diana Trautwein
Do you see that face over there? If you didn’t already know, her name is Diana Trautwein, and I love her. I want to be like her. For years, I’ve not written a word about which she wouldn’t reach out all the way from Santa Barbara to encourage me or ask if I’m okay. She has prayed for our family in the sick days. Diana has made many of us online feel like we’re here for a purpose, and there’s no doubt in my mind she lives this way in her own community.
Oh, in this series of Wild in the Hollow guest posts, it is my greatest honor to have her words here. I’ve asked writers to share what they know of the broken way home, the beauty of the broken, small, and low way, and I believe Diana has done a gorgeous job. What she shares here is straight up wisdom. It’s gold. Please take it in, and welcome Diana with all the shares you’ve got. I know you’ll love her, too.
That bathroom floor can be a cold and lonely place. I’ve been there, at the end of myself, done in by doing good, exhausted by my own refusal to ask for help, by my unhealthy relationship with food, by my misunderstanding of the gospel of grace. There are all kinds of ways to be broken and I am no exception.
All my life, I have been the good girl — obedient, careful, helpful, the one who takes care of things and people. I don’t think I ever went through a rebellious phase as a teenager. Maybe it’s because I’m an eldest child, maybe it’s the way my mother instilled certain fears in me at an early age, maybe it’s the way I’m wired. I never tried anything on the ‘don’t do’ list, I never quit going to church, I read my Bible and prayed every day, I toed every line put in front of me, generally without complaint. To most people looking in, I was a very together person.
Along the way, however, I never learned much about self-care, about healthy boundaries, about knowing when to stop. And I learned to use food as . . . well, just about everything: a pacifier, a reward, a comfort, a go-to, quick-fix for any emotional struggle, a boredom-satisfier, a crutch when facing a difficult situation, even a subversive way to be rebellious. And for many years, it worked pretty well.
Except for the unfortunate fact that I carried far too many pounds on this large frame. Despite the copious tears that I’ve shed over that truth during the last 40+ years, I now see that that my size was an important part of my story. Somewhere, deep inside of me, I needed to be big. Big enough to meet the needs of all the people around me, big enough to take care of three little ones who came faster than imaginable, big enough to deal with the busy schedule I always managed to set for myself, big enough to get through seminary at mid-life, big enough to handle whatever curveball my pastoral jobs might throw at me. Big enough.
Slowly, with time and experience — much of it difficult and painful — I am learning to lean into the biggest truth I’ve learned: it’s okay to be small. In fact, it’s necessary to be small — to recognize our own inability to ever be big enough, strong enough, good enough, devoted enough, loving enough, capable enough, sturdy enough . . . enough . . . unless . . . we learn how to bend.
And learning how to bend feels like it takes forever. It takes re-learning things you’re absolutely sure you’ve learned already, multiple times. This truth I know: we keep visiting the same issues, each time from the vantage point of a few more years of life. Hopefully, what we’ve learned in the past will carry us forward to new learning, new understanding, new ways to bend.
What do I mean by bending? Allowing the beautiful, flowing rhythm of grace to soften my stiffness, lessen my resistance, and empower me to be grace-full, grace-ious, a grace-receiver and a grace-giver. Bending means learning to make space in my spirit for the Fount that flows with unceasing love, acceptance and, delight for me — just exactly as I am. It means admitting my own weakness, my own smallness, my own neediness. It means trusting that GOD is enough, and I don’t have to be.
Eventually, it even means celebrating that cold bathroom floor. Because that place where we bottom-out, where we admit our brokenness in the presence of our God — that place becomes for us a place of liberation and embrace, a place of beginning again. Slowly, but surely, I am learning to bend, to lean, to ask for help, to set boundaries where needed, even to release my disordered eating to the loving guidance of the God Who Comes Near. And I say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for divine patience, for God’s loving care across this long life of mine, and for the ways in which learning to bend has brought healing and wholeness.
Married for 50 years (in December 2015) to her college sweetheart, Diana Trautwein is ‘Mom’ to three truly remarkable grown children, ‘Diana’ to each of their outstanding spouses, ‘Nana’ to 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 5-24, and “Dee” to her 94-year-old mom, who suffers from dementia. She is also a spiritual director and was a pastor for 17 years before her retirement in 2010. She and Dick live in Santa Barbara CA and have just downsized to a smaller home. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it for another decade or so. She writes on her blog, www.dianatrautwein.com and at www.shelovesmagazine.com.