Who Said You Could Do That?

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J_Diana

I had a boss once who used the phrase, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” That little sentence used to bother me. I lived the formative years of my life as an oh-so-obedient eldest child, one who asked permission for everything. I spent way too many minutes (years?) of my life worrying about where to go, whom to ask, and how to find permission to try anything and everything.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned well in the past few decades, it is this: permission is highly overrated. Too often, the word has been dangled over our heads (our female heads, especially).  With eyebrows raised and fingers pointed, we’ve been asked, “Who said you could do that?”

I grew up at the tail end of the “behave like a lady” thinking that permeated North American culture for generations.  Like children, women were to be seen, but not heard, “respected,” even revered, but not fully included nor even invited into the story of the 20th century church. But in 1950’s southern California evangelical circles, there was one woman who changed that trajectory dramatically.

Her name was Henrietta Mears and she was a dynamo. She broke through barriers right and left. Though I never knew her, her life made a mark on mine. And then there was Roberta Hestenes, an ordained Presbyterian pastor and seminary professor who singlehandedly began to change the way many streams of evangelical mid-twentieth-century Christianity viewed women. She never asked permission for anything, she just quietly followed God’s lead and taught us all some valuable lessons about personhood, calling and obedience.

In the spirit of solidarity with such women through the ages, I’d like to pause a moment and remind us of what we never need permission to do. Are you ready?

You are loved.  You do not have to ask for it, earn it, hoard it or distrust it. That’s the bedrock truth of this universe: God loves you, exactly as you are, before you do one single thing.

You are enough. Drop the scarcity thinking ASAP, okay? You already have what you need to be who you were designed to be. Yes, you may need things like education, training, experience. If so, go for it! But the gifts are yours—all the things that make your heart sing, that make you catch your breath just a little, that raise the little hairs on your arms—those are the clues. They are the whispers of grace, the small signs that you, wonderful you, are the one who can do this thing. So do it.

Your tears are welcome and necessary.  How else will we know we’re not alone on this journey? You don’t have to be made of steel, you don’t have to be big enough or strong enough, or courageous enough, or whatever … enough. Your weakness and vulnerability are what make you beautiful and ultimately, what make you strong and resilient. So weep when you need to, talk about hard things, ask dumb (and not so dumb) questions. Being weary or overwhelmed or sad—these things do not in any way disqualify you from life and/or leadership. In fact, it is those very things that will help to form you into someone we want to hear and follow.

You are never too much.  No matter how loud your laugh, how weird your questions, how big or how small your physical presence may be, you are amazing. Do you know that? You. Are. Amazing. Yes, you. You have gifts that this world needs. Not just the BIG world with a capital W, but your world, right where you are. Your neighbor, your family, your church, your school, your team—whatever and wherever you are, you’re there for a whole long list of reasons. Believe it.

You are allowed to speak up, shut up, stand up, stay up, turn up. You’re allowed to say no, or maybe, or yes. You are the one who knows your limits. Please don’t let anyone else put limits around you that are untrue and unnecessary. Learn to know you—strengths and weaknesses, gifts and struggles, abilities and areas that need help. Listen to wise people who speak gently and truthfully and refuse to hear the ones who yell, cajole, bluster, argue or nay-say.

We all need good, true people to speak into our lives. But we do not need bullies, judges or “friendly” advisors. Whether your platform is enormous or tiny makes no difference. YOU are the one God has placed right where you are, with all that you need, to do all that you are meant to do. Do you believe this? Do you believe this?

Well then. You don’t need my permission for anything, do you? Thanks be to God.

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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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  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Thanks, Diana, for affirming that my loud laugh, weird questions and frequent tears are okay. I really appreciate your cheerleading in this post, especially when there are two major family events coming up in June. Even at my age (66) I can suddenly feel like an embarrassed little girl instead of a calm woman of God.

    • pastordt

      Yes, they are okay. They are more than okay – they are needed. Thanks for reading and for commenting, Donna-Jean.

  • Favorite sentence: “You already have what you need to be who you were designed to be.”
    I hate to admit it, but I have a mental list of all the things I’d LIKE to be — but am not. I am living toward getting that list synched with the “me” God designed, and in the meantime, there are wonderful words of wisdom like yours, Diana, that help pull the focus in a little clearer, a little sharper. So happy to read about Henrietta Mears, also an important person for me.

    • pastordt

      She was a gem – a real inspiration to thousands of women at the mid-20th century mark. And men, too! And we all live toward that goal, Michele – getting our lists synched!

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  • Erin Wilson

    Standing on my bed, clapping, shouting YEAH!

    • pastordt

      Why, thank you, Erin! I do that regularly for you, my friend.

    • Bev Murrill

      me too!

  • Anne-Marie

    Oh my the quotables- my favs here: ‘she just quietly followed God’s lead and taught us all some valuable lessons about personhood’ ‘You do not have to ask for it, earn it, hoard it or distrust it. That’s the bedrock truth of this universe’ Amen, preach it. Love your words and heart, Diana. Shivers.

    • Anne-Marie

      …although – saying these things is one thing. Grabbing onto and standing on them is another. So good to be repeatedly, and winsomely reminded.

      • pastordt

        Amen to that – that’s why it’s good to periodically read these kinds of manifestos . . . and write them, too.

  • Sandy Hay

    When I open sheloves and see your name I immediately smile. I know I’ll read words that will go down deep, words that will make me think, ponder, cheer, quote. “We all need good, true people to speak into our lives.” And the rest of that paragraph. It’s sad it takes some of us so long to realize this. Yes, I definitely do believe this. Thank you…again Diana 🙂

    • pastordt

      You are too kind, Sandy. And you’re welcome.

  • Diana

    I absolutely love this! I really needed this this week, and it’s really made me feel refreshed and empowered! Thank you!

    • pastordt

      So glad it hit you where you need it, Diana.

  • This is wonderful and speaks to me here, now. Thank you for this. A perceptive friend called me out on my needing permission for stuff. It was a great, kind insight. So this applies…

    • pastordt

      So glad to read this Katie, and glad it’s being reinforced by an IRL friend, too.

  • I want to paint this on the walls of my house so I won’t forget. Such powerful words here today.

    • pastordt

      Thank you Claire -for all your fine editorial help and encouragement and for these words today.

  • Gwen Acres

    I forwarded this and that person forwarded it. You are touching a nerve… Thank you Diana for sharing the empowering !

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Gwen! And thanks for sharing.

  • Susan May

    Outstanding.

    Thank you! and Amen!!!

    • pastordt

      Thanks, Susan!

  • Jacoba Jane

    “You are enough. Drop the scarcity thinking ASAP, okay? You already have what you need to be who you were designed to be. Yes, you may need things like education, training, experience. If so, go for it! But the gifts are yours—all the things that make your heart sing, that make you catch your breath just a little, that raise the little hairs on your arms—those are the clues. They are the whispers of grace, the small signs that you, wonderful you, are the one who can do this thing. So do it.”

    I may just frame these words or program them into my cell phone to pop up and remind me every day. Thank you so much. Exactly what I needed to hear.

    • pastordt

      So, so glad, Jacoba. Feel free to copy and paste wherever it would help you.

  • Jacoba Jane

    I think the better question should be “who said you can’t do that?” If its the Lord, then thats one thing. But if His grace says yes, then yes!

    • pastordt

      Indeed, indeed!

  • Yes, I believe I am right where God wants me to be, that I am loved, and the only permission I need to ask is His. Blessings, Diana!

    • pastordt

      Glad to hear it, Martha!

  • Bev Murrill

    YAY!!!!!

    This is AWESOME, Diana!! LOVE LOVE LOVE what you’ve said, the tone that you’ve taken, the strength of your call to us to be what we were designed to be.

    • pastordt

      Thanks for the YAY!! Bev. Means a lot to me.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, learning it, and aha! I had good people speaking into my life all growing up and then when I was an adult I didn’t realize when I was being bullied or judged by friendly fire! Now I am learning to recognized it, to pull away slightly to think, listen upwards, and respond. Believing…and we are at a crossroads this summer, and I am thinking, seminary? Write my dissertation (as an independent scholar)? Write a screenplay? Dance between all three?! Yes, as God makes it possible. My new phrase is listen up (where up is Godward)! Yeah, it was overused in my childhood, but we are turning 50 so that’s far enough away to play. I’ve been quiet for a year, Diana, but I’m glad, glad, glad you’re here.

    • pastordt

      Praying for you as you discern what comes next, Beth. So glad you found this helpful – always glad to hear from you.

  • Well darn it all if this isn’t the most perfect, timely thing I needed to read this week. You’re in my head, friend – thank you so much. I love that you’re a kindred spirit who’s walked the road a little longer than me – it’s like I can see the way ahead more clearly. Thank you.

    • pastordt

      I am so glad to know this hit you where you needed it, Tanya. And I thank you for letting me know that. You are welcome!

  • This made me tear up and smile. YES! And thank you.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, J.L.

  • Holly

    I feel another manifesto has been born!
    Diana, thank you for living these words out (however long it took to own them) so that you can exhort us to do the same.
    And you’ve done it so, so beautifully.
    Thank you. Just, thank you.

    • pastordt

      How kind of you, Holly1 And you are more than welcome.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I AM enough, because my GOD is more than enough to make up for what I lack–things like whiz-kid technical skills, savvy marketing strategies, a mammoth, star-studded platform. etc. Step by step, I’m trying to “walk by faith in God’s promise for tomorrow.” Yes, I DO believe God has placed me right where I am, with all that I need, to do all that I’m meant to do. But, thank you, Diana, for looking me in the eye (virtually!) and speaking His truth to me–loud and clear!

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Nancy. And YES, you are!

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  • Most days I absolutely believe this, Diana. Thanks for the excellent reminder!!

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