Empowered to NOT Do?


M_Diana2With my aching foot encased in a gigantic boot, propped high on pillows, and my heart wondering how or if this thing will be healed–whether by Holy Spirit power, mysterious and unseen, or by the skilled hands that hold the scalpel and the needle–let me think about this idea of “empowered” for a while.

I am used to going, to doing. Caring for others. Getting things done. I am not used to receiving help or asking for it. In fact, I hate feeling helpless. Hate it.

Now that I think about it, I suppose that makes me a control freak, of sorts. And let’s drop that “of sorts,” shall we? Out-and-out, full-bore, driven, up-front–yeah, those are more accurate descriptors.

I’ve always been a take-charge person, a number-one child, a bit on the bossy side and pretty good on follow-through.

Right now, however, I can’t even follow.

I must sit. And wait. And wonder. And empowered is SO not how I feel.

When I take a breath, however, and slow my mind; when I stare at the sea or the foothills; when I open my hands and lower my weary head, that is when the truth sneaks in the door and tentatively settles around me.

To be honest, I am not completely comfortable with the truth–is anybody, ever? But I am learning more about leaning into it, one day at a time.

And this is it, this truth of which I speak: all the power that I need for whatever is on my plate at any given moment is already here. It is not something I control or manufacture or imagine. It is not something I conjure up out of one part spit and one part stubbornness. It is not something endemic to me, as a bossy, number-one child. It is internal, but it comes from outside of me, which makes it paradoxical, mysterious, sometimes even elusive.

It is a Power to which I must submit, yield, and re-commit–sometimes on a moment-to-moment basis. It is what the Jesuits call, “The Soul of Christ,” that remarkable experience of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, the Spirit who walks with me through all of my days, guiding, comforting, nudging, and yes, empowering.

Right now, empowering doesn’t look like what I’m used to. It doesn’t look like getting things done, being busy, taking care of a long list of other people whose needs are generally far greater than my own. It does not look like much of anything outside of this body of mine, which is, for the foreseeable future, the master of my schedule and the ruler of my days.

Empowerment looks decidedly different today than it did one week ago. Because today, I am asking first for the power to be patient. I am asking for the power to be gracious. I am pleading for the power to be still instead of in motion, to be slow instead of quick. To be kind to myself and careful with my energies. To be aware of how this change in my status impacts my image of myself and the way others view me.

And hear me when I say this: it ain’t easy.

I know about being empowered to accomplish, to be recognized as fully qualified, to preach and teach and baptize. I know about being empowered to do.  Empowered to not do? This is a completely foreign idea, unfamiliar territory.

And it scares the crap outta me.

So I am memorizing a prayer that is new to me. One that seems eminently suitable for these days. It is a prayer of submission, and a prayer of recognition that only Jesus can be in charge of this life. Only Jesus can be enough, only Jesus can empower me to be enough even when I’m on the sidelines of life:

“Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood
be my food and drink

May your passion and death
be my strength and life.

Jesus, with you by my side
enough has been given.

May the shelter I seek
be the shadow of your cross.

Let me not run from the love
which you offer.

But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

On each of my dyings
shed your light and your love.

Keep calling to me until that day comes,

When, with your saints,
I may praise you forever. Amen.”

– David L. Fleming, SJ


Image credit: Pete


Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  1. empowering doesn’t look like what I’m used to.

    we may not be in the same season of life, but I get this. I’m a young mother to a young child. my empowering used to be going out into the world and meeting people. now it’s sitting at home and nursing my little one and writing my words from a couch surrounded by stuffed animals and building blocks. it’s different. it’s new. and I’m learning how to weave myself into this season.

    thank you for your words. different, but similar.

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, Rachel, for reading and commenting. I’m sorry to be so long in reply, but I forgot to come back and check after the first week this was up. Yes, you are so right – moving into motherhood after years of independence is a lot like what I’m living with right now. It’s a good place to be, a necessary place to be – but it’s also hard at times. Blessings as you care for your little one and learn to re-define your understanding of empowerment!

  2. This blesses and encourages me me so, Diana. Even today. This part really, really encourages my heart: “To be kind to myself and careful with my energies.” I so want to be able to do more and not disappoint others that I’m not always “kind to myself or careful with my energies.” I’m going to copy that new-to-you prayer and pray it over both of us, dear friend.

    • pastordt says:

      What a lovely thing to read – thank you for praying that beautiful prayer over us both, Patricia. I will do the same, including in my mind’s eye the long list of people I know who are struggling with long-term, chronic pain and disability. Love to you!

  3. Nancy Ruegg says:

    The new “powers” for which you pray–patience, grace, kindness-to-self, receptivity of help–are among the super-powers. They are a challenge for all of us! The good news is, those powers are like muscles: the more we use them, the stronger they become. Thank you for cheering us on in our own strength-training, by sharing so honestly and humbly your own work-out. P.S. May God answer our prayers for your aching foot to calm down and behave itself!

    • pastordt says:

      Super-powers, eh? You may be onto something, Nancy! They are surely the hardest to come by. Thanks so much for your kind words and for your prayers. I’m in a different kind boot this week – an aircast – and it seems to be keeping the swelling way down. So there is a smidgen of hope on the horizon. I’m hanging onto it for dear life!

  4. – “When I open my hands and lower my weary head, that is when the truth sneaks in the door and tentatively settles around me.” // Truth sneaks in…” How true. Tentatively, yes.

    – “It is a Power to which I must submit, yield, and re-commit–sometimes on a moment-to-moment basis. It is what the Jesuits call, “The Soul of Christ,” that remarkable experience of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, the Spirit who walks with me through all of my days, guiding, comforting, nudging, and yes, empowering.” // “Submit, yield, and re-commit” YES. It’s humbling. So humbling. I also love the term “The Soul of Christ.”

    I have had to learn that I am also empowered to NOT do in these early days of pregnancy. That my worth isn’t in a clean countertop, empty inbox and washed hair. That I am beloved even in my lethargic, nauseous, “unproductive” state. And from what I gather about motherhood, this grace for self and others, is something I’m going to have to surrender to overandoveragain.

    This is such a timely piece for the season I’m in Diana. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    And here’s the a speedy recovery.


    • pastordt says:

      You do get this now, don’t you? In a way you probably never have before. I am so happy for you and Kupa and pray that the lethargy and nausea are soon behind you! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Tina. Love you loads.

  5. Oh, how this speaks to my heart! I love that you’ve brought forth the importance of not always doing things in order to feel fulfilled and at peace. As a fellow control freak, I can certainly relate to the difficulty of waiting and accepting the power that Christ has already given us. (I blame growing up on the Canadian prairie for feeling a constant need to check things off a ‘to do’ list.)

    Love this post Diana! Thanks for sharing.

    • pastordt says:

      Thanks so much, Christie, for these kind words. It’s been my experience that almost any kind of environment can form a ‘control freak.’ Sigh. It’s a daily deal, this peeling my fingers off my own life.

  6. fiona lynne says:

    “I am pleading for the power to be still instead of in motion, to be slow instead of quick. To be kind to myself and careful with my energies. To be aware of how this change in my status impacts my image of myself and the way others view me.”
    Oh this speaks so much to me in this season when I’m getting more heavily pregnant by the day and more and more tired as I try and keep everything going. It’s hard to let go. But this perspective, that a bit of letting go is actually empowerment? Holding that one close today.

    • pastordt says:

      Blessings on you, dear Fiona, as you carry this life to term. Praying you do find empowerment in the letting go — that you’re wise about limits and boundaries and all that good stuff. Praying that for me, too. :>)

  7. lindalouise says:

    My 90 year old Mom, limited now by a leg broken 4 years ago and needing a walker, has often said, “What am I still doing here? I”m not doing anything useful.” She doesn’t realize, in spite of my assurances, how many lives she touches with her phone calls, notes, meals sent to homes of others who are struggling, the way she cares for my Dad, and her sweet giving spirit.
    You do so much Diana, and you continue to do so much even as you are going through this season. Your beautiful words and serving heart minister to so many others. I know it’s hard. I’m terrible about needing help. I’m praying for healing for you and praying He will do something in and through you that will add to your already wonderful ministry.

  8. Ann Kroeker says:

    Oh, I hope you are restored to full mobility, but you are making the most of your situation, listening and learning and sharing.

    • pastordt says:

      I’m trying to be patient, but wow! it does not come naturally at all! Thanks for your hope, Ann. I’ll take it.

  9. S.Etole says:

    It makes me wonder how much we rely on validation of our worth through doing rather than being. It’s a hard place to dwell, especially with the world’s emphasis on what constitutes success.

    • pastordt says:

      Amen, Susan. We are terribly hung up on ‘doing.’ And it’s hard not to be in the world we inhabit, isn’t it? Always appreciate your insightful comments.

  10. Kelly Greer says:

    Diana – I so related to this post. It took me laying on my back after brain surgery where I could do nothing, that I would do nothing. Laid low, I had no choice but to look up. Jesus was my friend and companion during those months of recovery. The fellowship we shared was deep and sweet, the sweetest I have ever experienced. Praying that you too would embrace this time of laying low as a blessed gift, an invitation to experience some of the sweet fellowship Jesus longs for. And praying for healing too!

  11. Jemelene says:

    Love this!! “Only Jesus can be enough.”
    Resting in that this morning.

  12. Anne-Marie says:

    Diana, your humility is such a help. I’m fighting illness after being in for weeks w/ a surgery. This has been the pattern for about 2 years now, and I keep feeling so useless and pretty much stir crazy being a physically active person. God seems to be knocking on my forehead. Gently. Thanks for speaking into that place.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      And blessings on your poor foot!

    • pastordt says:

      Oh, Anne-Marie — I’m so sorry to read this. Praying for peace and steady healing for you from all of it! And also? That we’ll both discover the lesson of redemption in the midst of this sideline-stuff.

  13. You know there’s a move to get rid of the word, “bossy,” right?

    I know you know this is the same situation my sissy finds herself in now and has been dealing with for months. Still can’t drive herself, has to depend on friends (I’m three hours away), trying to help care for her grandson, and has a demanding and time-consuming job. Hard stuff. Love you, friend.

    (Thinking I need to share this one in my sidebar.)

    • pastordt says:

      Wow, poor Candy! At least I can drive – it’s my left foot. Thanks for your push on FB, my friend.

  14. Bev Murrill says:

    My heart goes out to you, Diana… I hate learning that lesson!

  15. Thanks for sharing the meaning you are finding in this season of limited mobility. I hope we all have the wisdom to discern when we need empowerment to not do.

    • pastordt says:

      Indeed — I was actually forced to sit back and search for that wisdom. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could get there on our own steam, without injury/illness/job loss/grief? I’m workin’ on it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Cindy.

  16. Kelley Nikondeha says:

    Diana, love and resonate with the internal/external mystery of empowerment. You said it so well. Empowered to do, empowered not to do – these both matter in due season. Thanks for the honest words shared from the lady with a gigantic boot (for the time being). Love you!

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, Kelley. Got a new boot today, too. An Aircast, which actually fits much more tightly and might actually immobilize this ankle, allowing it to heal. Praying in that direction. Love you back, kiddo.

  17. Glad I visited your post tonight. I have found aging is really not for sissies because aging slow one down. What one could do before has a slight twist in it, the aging twist. I will say I think more about my inner person then the outside one which is funny for it’s the outside one that is decaying. The inner man is getting stronger with each little aging tick. Letting go and waiting to see how God will get done what needs to be done without me can be pretty exciting. I have stopped saying, oh if I only had another life to live because God keeps using me right where I am, in the aging process. Good post my wise hearted sister..

    • pastordt says:

      Amen, Betty! “God will get done what needs to be done without me. . . ” And yes, God will work through us here until we draw our last breaths. Thanks so much for these good words.

  18. DeanneMoore says:

    My soul connects to this prayer in the present realities of my life…a different dying than I have known before, blessed and breaking…but beautiful like a thunderstorm… So thankful for what you will learn and will teach others during this waiting…love to you Diana.

    • pastordt says:

      It’s a very slow learning, Dea, filled with frustration and discouragement. But I ask daily to be open to whatever is to be seen/learned/shared. Mostly just bits and pieces – thanks for your encouragement.

  19. Lane Arnold says:

    St Ignatius’ prayer aligns me where I am out of alignment with Christ.

    Thanks for sharing it as a good reminder.

    • pastordt says:

      This one was not credited to Ignatius, but to a contemporary priest/follower of his. It’s similar to one by Ignatius, I think.

  20. Glenda Childers says:

    Beautiful prayer … I’ll share it with my daughter as she awaits the birth of her daughter. Praying your foot heals as you wait, too.


  21. Jody Ohlsen Collins says:

    It is SO hard to learn by not doing what we’re used to doing but in the midst of it all, Diana,you’ve mined this truth, which speaks to me, “all the power that I need for whatever is on my plate at any given moment is already here.”
    You are still in my prayers….

    • pastordt says:

      Gotta be honest here – I struggle with that piece every.single.day — believing that I have what I need to get through each moment, each day.

  22. HisFireFly says:

    His power
    in you
    through you
    shining with glorious light!

  23. Diana, you have been mining treasure in darkness and come up with pure gold. These hard wrought words are ones I identify with. How hard it can be to adapt to a life one didn’t ask for. I love the insights you are gleaning here. They imply a form of dying and releasing, a letting go out of clammy hands gripping tight into an open-handed trust and faith in the One receiving our heart-torn offering. Because, don’t we all have to die to self in the Christ-centered life?
    “On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.” is a beautiful thought and could be a daily prayer in a surrendered life. And in the freeing of self-driven living and self-preoccupations maybe we can find a way to live closer to the heart of God’s desires for us all along ~ to live empowered by Him to live empowered for Him and for the benefit of others. Sending sympathy hugs and prayers as you heal. 🙂 x

    • pastordt says:

      I think often of you and others whom I know who live with long-term, chronic illness. I am hopeful that one of the takeaways from this stretch of illness will be a broader base of compassion for anyone who struggles with pain and with unwanted limits in their lives.

  24. sandyhay says:

    I’m printing out this prayer Diana. And praying for your foot to heal. Empowerment to not do…that’s a tough one.

  25. wnhen@aol.com says:

    Well worth waiting for. It is all good advice. I knew I needed to read it, and I’ll read it again tommorow, and maybe the next day as well. Thank you.

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