Learning to Lean


CrutchesSo exactly how authentic would you like me to be? Would you like some of the more grimy details related to surgical recovery?

A picture of what it’s like to be suddenly down to one leg?

Well, okay then. A little peek into our days just now, a glimpse of where I find myself post-surgery, and some of what I’m learning while I’m here.

Have you ever tried to get into a shower with one foot? Can’t be done, I tell you. Cannot be done. I’ve recently begun to master the fine art of hopping. But jumping? Not gonna happen. And any shower with a normal door requires one gigantic jump, let me tell you.

The only appliance–and believe me, we have several–the only appliance that helped me get into that shower is my new best friend, a four-wheeled contraption called a knee caddy. The walker just did not cut it. The crutches? Fuggedabout it. Even the shower chair, on loan from a friend, didn’t help all that much. But that funky scooter, coupled with one determined husband?

Yeah, that did the trick.

Half in and half out, my injured leg atop the cushions on said scooter, I finally managed to make the small leap over the shower lip and land safely on the tiled bench we built into our shower over a decade ago. Our shower is part of the master suite, the suite which has become my home of late, and also, my prison.

I knew this would happen. I’ve been preparing for it for a couple of months now, practising my maneuvers on one leg, learning to keep everything I need within reach, asking for help when I need it.

But it’s that last piece that is the worst one of all.

I am not good at asking for help. I’m pretty good at giving it; been doing that all of my life. But receiving it? An experience so unfamiliar as to be downright unrecognizable, almost undoable. It seems I would rather take the risk of falling out of bed to make that one … last … reach than to raise my voice and shout for HELP.

Why is that, I wonder? Have I secretly looked down on those who have needed my help over these long years of my life? Do I feel I am somehow less of a human being if I can’t do it for myself, but must rely on others to do it for me? Am I such a determined control freak that I cannot trust the ministrations of others to truly be effective?

How about all of the above? I’m taking a good, hard look at myself in these early days of recovery, and I’m not liking what I see very much. Not liking it at all.

Turns out, I like being in a position of relative power and strength. I like being the one other people look to for advice, assistance, encouragement, ideas. I like to feel like the expert, the one who has the answers, the one who knows what to do.

I do not like not knowing. I do not like not getting it done. I do not like being reliant on anybody else for every single thing in my life.

I do not like leaning.

I would rather do it myself, thank you very much.

And that shower yesterday was the last straw, the push right over the edge, the ultimate humiliation. Yes, the hot water felt heavenly. Yes, it was grand to wash my hair. Yes, it was needed, important, healthy, helpful.

But no, I’m not sure it was worth it. I’m working on that, but I’m not 100% convinced. When I finally hobbled my way back to my bed, having combed through all the necessary hair products, slathered this unhelpful body with the usual creams and lotions, deodorized, dressed, gotten my one shoe back on my one foot–when I had finished it all, I collapsed in a heap of tears. A heap, I tell you.

Frustrated, embarrassed, tired, done in–all from a shower. A shower.

Well, not exactly just the shower. That event was the tipping point, but the issue? The issue is much, much deeper. And much more dangerous.

Because what’s at stake here is that most basic of issues along this journey of faith: can I learn to trust someone else for my ultimate well-being? Can I let go of this ever-lovin’ need to be in charge? Can I yield?

If these eight weeks serve no other purpose, I hope they will move me from my rather calcified and well-protected position of staunch self-reliance to one of softness. I hope I will catch a whiff of the sweet scent of submission–in the best sense of that term, not the hackneyed ways it’s been abused and misused over the centuries.

Because at the root of it all, submission is what is being asked, isn’t it? Can I let go of pride, release the strings of control, accept my limits, and learn to lean?

Oh, I hope so! But if I’m being honest, I’d have to say that the jury is still out.

It is still out.


Dear SheLoves friends, we’d love to know: 

How do you deal with the demon of self-reliance?

How do you find your way to trust, to letting go of the reins, to resting in the care of Someone Else?


Image credit: Anthony Crider

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. “Can I learn to trust someone else for my ultimate well-being? Can I let go of this ever-lovin’ need to be in charge? Can I yield?”

    O, Diana. You are singing my song friend. I’m in the last month of this pregnancy and I’m stumped. Then again, I can shower on my own so it’s really not all that bad.

    But moving from self-reliance to one of softness and learning to lean is a humbling and frustrating process.

    Submission ain’t pretty.

    (Also, I’m so sorry it’s been such an arduous recovery process for you. *sigh* Saying a prayer for you today with renewed fervour.)

    Love you,

  2. Diana, I really love the authenticity in your post. I could hear myself in your words … Thank you for saying it like it is.

  3. So much here Diana. So much to learn to digest to change. I think the only yield I follow is the yellow sign on the road. Going it on our own is surely the American Way but not the way we’re made. Thanks for sharing your hard lessons. I’ll be reading this one again.

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you so much, Debby, for these kind and encouraging words. And you’re right, it is the American Way. But not the Jesus Way.

  4. 10 years of chronic illness is what started the big breaking progress…I think we can be fooled by shallow submission of trusting His ways as opposed to ourselves. I think it takes a situation bigger than ourselves… One that is not abled to be controlled … For me … This is where I started finding a deeper place of abiding in His love. Blessings as you continue to heal…co it ue to find a deeper place of abiding … And really isn’t this a life long process!!!

    • pastordt says:

      Yes, indeed – it is a lifelong process. Sped along at points such as these – long illness or disability. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation, Ro.

  5. HisFireFly says:

    I am so thankful that He is using this time
    His lessons, even though painful
    are worth it, and right now
    when He holds up the mirror
    you can’t run, limp, hop away
    you remain in my prayers, and my heart

    • pastordt says:

      Thank you, my friend. I always appreciate your kindness. Thinking of and praying for you and Rick as you ready yourselves for Africa VERY SOON NOW.

  6. Hi Diana – Having been in the hospital myself a few days this week, I must say, it is very humbling indeed. This post sure gives much food for thought. Like you, I am finding it hard to have everyone doing for me. In reading your post, it made me realize I do not like the feeling of being weak & dependent. Yet this is truly how we need to be – totally dependent on Him. I am grateful to have read this today. Praying for a quick recovery for you!!! Blessings!

    • pastordt says:

      I’m so sorry for whatever landed you in the hospital, JViola – that is never any fun. And it is always humbling – you are so right. Praying you’ll find healing soon and the grace to live in dependency just a little bit more every day.

  7. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Nearly twenty years ago I was sidelined after back surgery. “NO BLT (bending, lifting, twisting) for six weeks,” I was told. Well! Just brushing my teeth, washing my face, and shaving my legs became extra-challenging. And who knew I dropped things so often? I, too, balked at asking for help, not wanting to interrupt people and inconvenience them. But what choice did have in such circumstances? I could only thank God that, as others gave to me of their time and efforts, he would keep his promise to bless them (Acts 20:35). As for the pride, independence, and self-sufficiency? They still lurk in the corners of my personality! Learning to lean has been a SLOW process for me. Thank God he never gives up!

    • pastordt says:

      I’m thankful for that divine stick-to-it-ive-ness too, Nancy! And I can’t believe how often I drop things! Sheesh!

  8. Oh, Diana, I can so relate to this! A shower leaves you pole-axed with exhaustion, you have to find alternative ways of doing everyday tasks, and you need to allow others the opportunity to minister to you? All horribly familiar. It’s hard to let go of our self-reliance and independence, isn’t it? Yet as we yield to the circumstances we find ourselves in it does get a little easier over time. And we can be blessed in seeing how loved ones (even strangers) rise to the occasion and reveal their loving, caring, servant hearts and skills we (maybe they too?) were unaware that they possessed.
    As an observer, it seems to me that you are no less a pastor, wife, mother, wise spiritual mentor, advisor or friend for being temporarily more needy yourself. These things you share? They serve others who need to hear about them. Your openness and honesty are breathing spaces for other souls to exhale and feel comfortable and real in. Thank you. Blessings and prayers for further healing to come. 🙂 x

    • pastordt says:

      Thanks so much, Joy. Your words carry special meaning and encouragement because of all that you continue to deal with in your own life. Thanks for the RT today, too, my friend.

  9. Juliet Birkbeck says:

    Diana, my heart goes out to you! I see this stubbornness in myself and heartbreakingly I see it at the moment in my daughter and how much it hurts and holds us back. Here in England we are in the midst of discussions about assisted dying with many claiming that the indignity and humiliation of helplessness should be avoided at all costs. Your musings on the need to let go and trust remind me of why I believe we should plod on and learn what we can through illness and indignity. But I am still relatively young and in good health so it is easy for me to say all that.

    • pastordt says:

      Yeah, I hear you! I’m with you on the argument against assisted death, but it’s not easy. These topics are tough ones and it often starts with something like what I’m facing into personally right now. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Juliet.

  10. Katie Richardson says:

    “Because what’s at stake here is that most basic of issues along this journey of faith: can I learn to trust someone else for my ultimate well-being?…” This is the piece that I find to be the hardest for me, too. I needed to be reminded of my need to grow in this area. And as I drink my coffee on this quiet Saturday morning, I find your words stirring up hurts that remind me that I have a long way to go on my journey. Truly, I don’t want to have to trust anyone with my well-being. I find myself fighting the need for anyone else. But this is no good and I find myself overwhelmed and exhausted. All this to say, thank you. Your words have helped to see a place in me that needs healing I didn’t see before.

    • pastordt says:

      You are so welcome, Katie. I’m glad that you’ve found these words helpful and thought-provoking. Most of us deal with issues like this and it’s always hard to face into their multi-valenced meaning. Thanks so much for your kind words.

  11. Anne-Marie says:

    ‘can I learn to trust… Can I let go of this ever-lovin’ need to be in charge? Can I yield?’ Great questions. I’ve been thinking about them too! And w your usual humor and charm. Thanks Diana, will chew.

  12. I love how you are always the clay, Diana. Who wants to be in a position of weakness? But by letting this place sculpt you, you make it a place of strength. Thank you for challenging me to do the same. Taking a long, hard look in the mirror today, my friend.

    • pastordt says:

      Not so sure about strength, Laura, but I think you for thinking so! As always, I love to hear from you.

  13. Carryl Robinson says:

    Oh boy, sometimes I feel like the poster child for “No thanks, I can manage by myself.” I know I have denied many people the opportunity to be “Jesus with skin on” for me, with all the blessings (and humility) that goes along with that. I’m beginning to recognize that my self-reliant streak allows me to “play” at humility but it is a cheap substitute for the real thing, for the transparency and (*ulp*) vulnerability that connects me to others and, ultimately, to God.

    • pastordt says:

      This self-sufficiency thing is just huge, isn’t it? It seems so counter-intuitive after years and years of learning how to ‘manage ourselves,’ and being encourged and lauded when we do! Tough stuff to let go of. Thanks so much for reading and encouraging!

  14. Helen Burns HBurns says:

    I can so identify with you… your words remind me of a time 8 years ago when I had hip surgery and felt exactly as you did. Now I am facing a second surgery and I am reminded all over again that I will have to learn to lean again. Thankfully I have amazing people in my world to help and I am a little bit wiser and prepared moving ahead. It is good to be needed and it is healthy to learn to need others too. Thanks for your reminder of this.

    By the way…every single shower gets so much easier. Sending you lots of love and prayer today for a supernatural recovery.


    • pastordt says:

      So sorry you’re facing into this again, Helen. But what you’ve learned will help so much. As for me, I’m hoping I never have to have surgery of any kind again in my life! I must take blood thinners which required two weeks of belly shots before and after being cut. And that part was almost as bad as all the rest of it combined. And yes, the showering got a whole lot easier. Once the cast was off at the two week mark, I was allowed to remove the boot to shower and I actually figured out how to get that scooter into and out of the shower without help. Can’t tell you how helpful that was to the whole healing process. I was still reliant on my husband for meal prep, laundry, fetching things from across the house, running errands, etc. And that hasn’t been easy for either of us. But we’re learning important lessons through it all. Praying for you and for quick complete recovery

  15. Susan Dunlap says:

    Sadly, it took a crisis to push me out of self reliance. A situation beyond my control. And also sadly, the person I called was not receptive to my request. It was just for a ride home from school for my kids, but it was so difficult for me to ask!

    • pastordt says:

      I am so sorry, Susan. The only thing worse than finding yourself unable/unwilling to ask for help is asking it and getting blown off. Praying you’ll find exactly the help you need and the grace to receive it.

      • Susan Dunlap says:

        Thank you pastordt. It was many years ago and I’m past it but this article caused me to remember just how tough it is breaking off that affliction of self reliance and allowing God to work into your life.

  16. Sandy Hay says:

    Oh Diana, I can substitute my name for yours in this entire article. It’s scary reading about yourself in someone else’s blog. But then to be authentic I must read and reread and say “God help me. This is where I am and I really don’t want tot stay here.” Oh my flesh crawls at this admission. Yet, like you, I MUST be honest no matter how much it hurts.

    • pastordt says:

      I think lots of us find ourselves in these words and it ain’t pretty. It has gotten a tad easier since I wrote these words, but really? It’s been hard every single day. We’ve turned a bit of a corner in the last 24 hours with the news that healing as advanced ahead of schedule and I can begin PT next week (thank you, Jesus!) and a tiny bit of weight-bearing. I’m still praying for the grace to lean, however, because I will be using this scooter for at least one more month.

  17. Bev Murrill says:

    In many ways it’s a trade-off, isn’t it. We deal with our fears, placing our trust in God so that we can grow to the fullness of our potential… but in the process we lose some of that dependence which God places such value on. It’s like so much of God’s value system, ‘this but also that’ … and the struggle to keep in tension the different things God wants to do is … constant!

    I totally get the soul searching you are going through; I suppose when that isn’t happening, we’re worse off, aren’t we. As long as He can bring conviction to our hearts, we’re still there with Him.

    I love that you are so open and free to tell us how it is … how it really is. And I totally empathise! You’re a fantastic woman!

    • pastordt says:

      Ah, thanks, Bev. How kind and generous you are! You’ve captured the heart of this battle with these words, my friend. It is such a trade-off! And when we get to the point where we have to unlearn some of the things we’ve fought to learn? Well, it ain’t easy. Thanks so much.

      • Bev Murrill says:

        Ain’t that the truth! Sometimes I think the unlearning is the most difficult of all. Some people won’t choose to do it. My mum used to say ‘I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.’ I’m glad you and I are determined not to be of that ilk.

  18. Erin Wilson says:

    Oh wow…I get this. Moving to a country where I don’t speak the language has made me utterly dependant in ways that have left me crushed. I have the use of both legs, but have felt the same helplessness. And I’m in a similar process of recognizing the uglier parts of my need for control.

    I think this might be the case for lots of women. In your roles of mother and especially as a Pastor, I’m sure there were many times when you felt you just couldn’t ask for help. That others were invested in your need to be in-charge and in-control at all times.

    But I come back to that image of you getting into the shower, in the most vulnerable (literally naked) state you could be, with someone you implicitly trust…and you still felt humiliated in the experience. No doubt there is power in becoming entirely undone in the arms of someone safe.

    • pastordt says:

      Oh, Erin, I am so sorry for your struggle. And so grateful you’re willing to endure it! Your ministry is so important. And yes, you’ve hit on the heart of some of this – mothering and pastoring both require letting others depend on us. And we can get so used to that, that reversing the order just feels wrong. That’s a big piece of this story, absolutely.

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