Delving into the Mystery — Introducing Q & A

I will admit that this new year is already kicking my butt. I know that sounds rude, and, to tell you truth, it feels rude.

I have one more year in my 60s. One.More.Year.

And I’m feeling it.

My husband has already moved through that milestone. And he’s feeling it, too.

We’re tired, cranky at times, worry too much over our old, dementing moms and our beautiful, energetic grandchildren, and our joints ache almost all the time.

Yet, here I sit, staring out at the brilliant noonday sun on a winter day, grateful right into every aching bone for the life I’ve lived, the gifts I’ve enjoyed, the things I’ve learned.


Yes, these joints hurt. But this heart and soul are still beating, still singing. I am grateful to be here, inhabiting this space for however long the Lord grants it.

And in between the groans and sighs, I’ve been listening. Paying attention. Reading. Learning.

Case in point.

This week, I took a walk on the bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara. I love that walk, the glorious views in every direction, the energy of a university campus beating its way underground clear out to Coal Oil Point, where the surfers hang ten.

So I took my very fancy new point-and-shoot camera and I walked. And I watched the surfers as they inhabited that immense sea.

Who knew that surfers could be such powerful teachers?? Here’s a little of what I learned on Tuesday afternoon:

To be a surfer requires dedication. These kids ride their bikes out the long, dusty pathway, holding their boards — holding their boards — close to their bodies.

DSC00569To be a surfer requires community. You will never see a lone ranger, waiting for the next set. Always, always, they do this thing together. Yes, their rides are individual, but the waiting? The learning from the water? The ebb and flow? This, they do together.


To be a surfer requires patience, long stretches of sitting, watching, sensing, obeying the rhythm of the water. In between the thrilling stuff is a whole lot of boring stuff, but all of it is what makes an expert out of a beginner.


To be a surfer requires flexibility, and a willingness to go with the flow. From straddling to crouching to half-standing, to a full-out-stand-up-look-at-this, you’ve got to be willing to change your position on a dime. Take a gander at these:





DSC00554Dedication, community, patience, flexibility — all part of the surfing life. And all part of being obedient to what the water has to teach, don’t you think?

If we want to learn —

we’ve got to get wet,
we’ve got to find a tribe,
we’ve got to be willing to wait out the lulls,
and we’ve got to move with the rhythm of the water.

I’ve been following Jesus all my life, cannot remember a moment when I didn’t know him. And still, I fall off that board, miss the cues, lose the rhythm. I’m not there yet — not exactly a beginner, but not quite an expert, either.

All along the way, I have managed to learn a few things,  Some of them are painful, painful enough to leave scars. And though I would never seek it out, I’ve lived long enough to know that pain can be a place of profound growth, even of transformation.

Every surfer worth his or her salt has endured bruising, battering, humiliation and defeat. But the ones who choose to learn from all of that are the ones who become adept, adaptable, creative and committed. In short, the ones who yield to the mystery of it all, and accept that an occasional punch to the gut is part of the process — these are the ones who catch the waves, time after time.


This cross stands at the edge of the cliff that sits between the two primary surfing coves along the Coal Oil Point Reserve. It is glorious and sturdy, withstanding wind and weather for as long as I’ve been living. I like the juxtaposition of sturdiness and wildness that I find in this place, the unpredictable mingling of formed and unformed, hand-created and God-created.

It reminds me of life – this crazy mix of goodness and grief, beauty and horror, healing and brokenness that makes our four-score-and ten (if we’re lucky) the rich and remarkable thing that it is.

I am quickly approaching that number, on my way to three score and ten very soon now. Over the years that have been granted me, I have never been able to settle for the quick and easy. Don’t offer me truisms, cliches, pat answers or formulas, please. I’d rather hear a different way of asking the question! Because, here’s the truth of it: I am a person who loves the questions; I believe they are worth the patient work of exploration, prayer and lived experience that can sometimes lead to answers. In fact, I believe that my word for 2014, obedient, is as much about asking the right questions as it is about finding answers.

For as long as I pastored, there was a beautiful calligraphic print that hung in or near my various offices. It contains these words, written by Rainer Maria Rilke in his small book, “Letters to a Young Poet.” This is a truth I believe; this is a truth I try to live:

“You are so young, you have not even begun,
and I would like to beg you, dear one, as well as I can,
to have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves,
like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue.

Do not search now for the answers, which cannot be given you because you could not live them.

It is a matter of living everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then, gradually,
without noticing it, one distant day,
live right into the answers.

I would like to invite you to spend some time living the questions, beginning next Friday, January 17th. I’ll start us off with some reflections on a question that I’ve lived with for a while. And we’ll do that every Friday until there are no more questions to be asked.

Although I’ve got a list of about a dozen that I’ve discerned from my own life experience and from much of what I read on the internet, I am open to suggestions. Please leave them in the comments or email me directly at dtrautwein at gmail dot com.

Also? YOU are invited to link up your own reflections — either on the question that I raise or on another one that you’ve been living for a while. PLEASE NOTE that this is not an invitation to extended theological debate. There are lots of places to go if that’s what you hunger for. What I’m looking for are stories, experiences, concerns, points of conflict — anything that sets you down the road of wondering about the life of faith.

I think we’ll come closer to living an answer if we tell our stories and if we live our questions. Next Friday’s question set?

Why is there so much talk about ‘obedience?’
Does following Jesus mean I have to give up having fun?

Diana Trautwein - Living the Questions

Then, beginning the following Tuesday, January 21st, we’ll try our hand at discovering how we are living the answers. I will do some personal reflecting on truths I’ve been living into — perhaps connected to the question of the previous week, perhaps not. Sometimes I’ll look to scripture for help, sometimes to life, sometimes to both. And I can tell you right now, that some weeks there will be no ‘answer,’ just an encouragement to live with the un-knowing, to explore the mystery . . . to wait for the wave. 

Diana Trautwein - Living into the Answers

I have no idea if this will work or not! It is an experiment, one that I think is worth the risk. I hope you will, too.

I’m willing to get wet, are you?
I’m looking for my tribe, will you be a part?
I’m okay with the lulls, especially if I’ve got company.
And I’m willing to move with the rhythm of The Water.

So . . . let’s do a little surfing, shall we?

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  1. I wonder how old the oldest surfer is.

    “Cherish the questions.” this makes me think of Mary’s pondering.

    I’m a little behind you… hitting 65 in a couple weeks. I really thought I’d know more by now, but I think I know less…

    This sounds like an adventure. We’ll need to watch out for sharks, yes?

    • On my way back to the car, I passed a guy in his 40s = and I ‘ve got several friends at church who are still surfing in to their 40s and 50s. One guy will do it forever. Yes, pondering is a good word – and the older I get, the less I know it feels like!! And yes, let’s be in prayer against sharks!!!

  2. I love this journey you’re on, and the way you’re seeing things and helping us see more clearly.

    You are going to help us see the questions, possibly find the answers–and even if we don’t, you’ll show us how to live with the questions as we, with hope, waiting, live into the questions.

    Love this series in the making!

    Have you heard of David Dark’s book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything? It may not be the kind of questioning you’re proposing here, but I mention it anyway. It’s on my to-read list.

    • I don’t know if I’ll be able to ‘show’ anybody anything, Ann – but I hope we can help one another to think through the questions and toss around possible answers. I think I may actually have that book somewhere! But I’ve never read it. I’ll start hunting. . .

  3. “In short, the ones who yield to the mystery of it all, and accept that an occasional punch to the gut is part of the process — these are the ones who catch the waves, time after time.”
    I love these words Diana, because they acknowledge so much. Thankyou.

  4. An exciting adventure, moving from the questions into the answers (assuming there will be answers). I’m just a few years ahead of you in this life journey, accompanied by arthritic aches, with memories of other ailments conquered and pains not physical. I’ve sometimes said I wish I could have lived my past years with the wisdom gained throughout them, but it doesn’t work that way. In retrospect, as Ann would say, it’s all Grace!

    • There aren’t always answers – at least answers that satisfy. But I believe asking the questions is a life-giving process all by itself. And I SO get that wishing we could have some of the life lessons earned through the years when our bodies were younger and stronger. But it doesn’t work that way and I think there are probably good reasons why not. Maybe that topic will come up over these next weeks/months??

  5. I love the thought that it is not only OK but a good thing to have questions about the faith. To be part of your tribe Diana, means we will not be lead astray, and we will be safe as we
    ponder “The Mystery”.

    • I agree, Gwen. Questions are good things, to be welcomed, explored, sat with, prayed through. I do want this to be a safe space for all of that. And I’d appreciate your prayers for all of it as we move forward.

  6. Oh, the waiting out the lulls. THAT is a skill hard-learned, isn’t it? I am so glad Sandra reposted this on facebook because I swam and floated in the wisdom of this. Thank you. I subscribed and will be listening and questioning…

    • Indeed! I am not a patient person by nature and it’s in the waiting that my faith is stretched and eventually, strengthened. Grateful for your subscription.

  7. Wonderful post. I like your view of things, and really love these photos. Can I ask what type of camera you received?

    Questions are good. So is Mystery. I’m looking forward to reading more in the coming weeks.

    • Thanks Susan! I traded in my very good Canon 20D SLR camera and an older Canon telephoto lens for a Sony RX10. It’s not an SLR and I’m still wondering if I’ve gone off track here! But I’m getting older and tired of switching lenses out, to say nothing of lugging them around. This one comes with a Zeiss 24-200, and so far, I’m enjoying it a lot.

      • Your photos are great! I have a 3 year old Lumix FZ100 – your Sony sounds like a new and improved version of what mine offers. Sounds like a good set up for you. I agree about not wanting to haul around extra stuff.

        By the way, thanks for blogging 🙂

  8. this is a lovely meditation, and i so appreciate how you are applying your gifts in spiritual direction to this space and community. i look forward to walking this way together:)

    • Thanks so much, Suzannah. I would be delighted to have you join us in this journey of exploration. I’ll talk a bit more about this next week, but Rohr had a great summary of sic et non on his first set of devos for the new year – in ages past, discussion was civil, open, varying viewpoints were held together gently. I’m hoping that’s where we’re going.

  9. Well, Diana – of course, I’m in.

  10. Oh, Diana….this is so perfectly wonderful in every way. I grew up with surfing in Southern California and my 61 year old brother still gets away to the WA coast here when he can. His Hawaii tales from last month took my breath away. All of your parallels to life are spot on.
    I love this Q and A idea……..will try to weigh in with both as I can. This year has been a humdinger of clinging close to Jesus in ways we did not foresee–time for some ‘hard Eucharisteo’ as Ann V. puts it.
    I look forward to being part of your ‘tribe’!

    • I wish I had been less of a chicken as a teen ager because surfing seems like the ideal sport to me. I love watching it, LOVE it. And will watch any film on surfers anywhere. There’s a restaurant chain in CA and AZ called Islands thats runs films of surfing while you eat. A FAVE of mine. :>) Yes, we’ll be looking at the hard stuff, quite a lot, I imagine. That is often where our questions surface, isn’t it?

  11. I love those surfer photos! They’re really good!
    And this series sounds ace. Looking forward to it!

    • Thanks so much, Tanya. I’m still not entirely sure where we’re going, I just know this is the direction in which to point. We shall see. . .

  12. Diana, I know I am into this in theory. I *think* I am into in practice, too. (If the kids and weather and my life weather permits, you know what I mean…) But I want you to know that I think of you as one of my online pastors. And I so value intergenerational sharing and community. I’m really glad that you are willing to share yourself and your web space in this way. Thank you.

    • Esther, it’s more than enough to see your sweet smile occasionally! I know how busy all of us are, you maybe more than most. So whatever you can do or say will be welcome. NO obligation here. NO guilt, okay?

  13. So much goodness here, Diana. Grateful for your voice and looking forward to this series.

  14. Just this morning, only a few hours ago, I pondered this Malawian proverb:

    “If you are going to bathe, get thoroughly wet.”

    Of course I’m diving in with you!

  15. Maybe I’m still too young or too stubborn to like questions yet. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be reading along, but I can’t promise to cherish questions. I’ll pray about it.

  16. Yes yes yes. Oh, friend, this risk you’re taking? It makes me ridiculously happy.

    From one question-lover to another – I’m all in.

  17. This was a beautiful piece of writing – I was right there with you on that beach. I know I’d like to walk with you through the questions. Count me in!

  18. TO be a surfer you have to be a little crazy too. You might fit that angle into your future direction 🙂

    • Oh, good point! No crazier than rock climbers, bungee-jumpers, hang-gliders. And for my money, hangin’ ten in the ocean is a heckuva lot more fun (and more sensible) than any of those. :>) I’ll see if I can work it in, David!

  19. How exciting!

    • Exciting? Hmmm. . . have to think about that one. It’s just me, opening the door a little bit to make room for strugglers and wrestlers to feel welcome. Praying that we’ll all be gracious and open to one another, even when we disagree.

  20. I have been thinking about obedience this week. We are studying David and his obedience and disobedience has me pondering the topic.

    I’m in (as long as the surfing is figurative … I’m still a little chicken in that area.)

    I like this idea, Diana.


    • I glad you like it, Glenda. And I’m quite a bit chicken about actually doing the surfing – I just love to watch! Glad to have you!

  21. I’m in, Diana. What a great opportunity to explore things unanswered. I’m writing a devotional for widows and I keep getting hung up on the origins of death – my questions –

    Was death part of the plan from the beginning? Did Adam and Eve know what death was – because of the plants and animals? Was Eden really paradise, like heaven, and eternal? Why do we think that? If so, why did they need the Tree of Life to keep from aging? How old were they anyway? Adam had to work before the curse, but it wasn’t toil. Did Eve have children painlessly before the curse as well?

    I think not. I think there was always death and they knew what it was and they didn’t believe God and wanted to be God – and THAT was the original sin. It’s still the only sin. Death has always been part of the plan.

    What do you think?

    • Wow, that’s quite the list, Fran!! I’m not sure what I think about this whole area, but I think it could make for an interesting discussion.

  22. That Rilke quote is my favorite!
    I look forward to what’s coming next, Diana.

  23. Oh, gosh, Diana, how you make my heart go pitter-patter. You are lovely, and wise, and spunky. I cannot express in mere words in this little box, how the questions, and constantly having to live them recently {maybe the past several years} has exhausted me. And I’m looking for a different way to deal with them than I have been. I admit, I have felt God asking me to open up and be willing to explore and learn with Him as He teaches. *This* is where He’s led me, right here, to this sacred, brave, holy place in which you are willing to take risks and get wet with us. Yes, I want to do this with you. (((hugs))).

    • Thank you, Nacole. I hope you find this conversation helpful and refreshing. There is no promise of answers, however. Just a willingness to listen to, hold and pray through the questions. And then see what kinds of answers might emerge as we live with them for a while. Glad to have you aboard.

      • Yes ma’am, leaning into the questions with you, because that is a new type of learning for me–how to be okay with the questions.

  24. Yes. Beautiful faith her that shows bravery…thank you for these words, Diana:
    “If we want to learn –

    we’ve got to get wet,
    we’ve got to find a tribe,
    we’ve got to be willing to wait out the lulls,
    and we’ve got to move with the rhythm of the water.”

  25. This is rich. This is deep. This is meaningful. I love the way you think and express yourself. And I look forward to joining in the discussions. As I turn 60 this year there seems to be a whole lot more to reflect on. Life doesn’t fall into neat packages and conclusions but (rather like grace itself) is found in the cracks and crevices of our days. Count me in, Diana, I can’t wait to be a part of this! 🙂

    • What a beautiful way to put it, Joy. No neat packages – just race in the cracks and crevices. Love it. Thanks for signing on!

  26. First of all, I love how much wisdom you gained from watching the surfers – that is so cool, and all if it is SO cool. Secondly, I LOVE this new series. My whole book is basically about how I learned to live in the questions – frankly I prefer the black and white of a concrete answer (but you already know that about me, right?!). So yeah, I totally want to participate in this, Diana – I think it’s going to produce some really interesting and thought-provoking conversations. Love you, lady!

    • Oh, goody!! Glad to have you, Michelle – whenever you can contribute in the midst of All.The.Things happening around your book release, you will be SO welcome. And yes, most of us prefer black and white, at least we think we do. But I’m not convinced that you do, Michelle. After we’ve lived with the B & W world for a while, if we make any attempt to go deeper in our faith journey, those paradigms just don’t always work, especially the formulaic ones. That’s when the good stuff rises, I’m convinced of it. Love you, too, my friend.

  27. Martha Hupp says

    Hi Diana! I’m a newcomer to your website and gratitude goes out to Kelli Woodford for linking me up with you. I’m a fifty-something and so enjoy the intergenerational community here. Many new changes on our family’s horizon in 2014; perhaps, some of your questions may allow me to share from some of our family’s unique experiences in raising our first-born/adopted son who has autism. There have been many lessons taught by this now 24-year old who will be launching to his own man pad later this year. Faith seatbelt buckled and ready for new adventures in 2014, including this timely one, Diana!

    • I am delighted that Kelli send you here, Martha, and look forward to your unique contributions to this ongoing conversation!

  28. Diana – looking forward to riding the waves with you. As I approach 55 this year I too am learning to wait on the waves and go with the flow a little more each year. Looking forward to pondering the mysteries with you and the community here. And obedience – ah! that’s where freedom begins!

    Thank you for sharing your learned wisdom with us. Such a blessing.


    • Thanks so much, Kelly – and what a wise statement, that freedom begins with obedience. A seeming oxymoron that contains such truth. Glad to have you along for the ride.

  29. WOW! A very large tribe has already gathered! Is there room for one more?! The premise for your Q & A sounds quite tantalizing. And your surfing metaphor is downright inspired! Our older son was a surfer. Your pictures and descriptions brought back memories!

    • Yeah, it’s been a little bit stunning to see this long thread – and more on Facebook, too. OF COURSE there is room for you – it’s going to be an interesting time, I think. A time for us all to listen to one another and to get increasingly comfortable with questions, with differing answers to those questions and to no answers to those questions, from time to time. I’m really interested to see how this all unfolds – trusting that the Spirit is going before us with the light of love.

  30. Diana- As a former So Cal surfer myself I so appreciated your approach and your awesome photos! Made my heart sing for sunshine, the salty sea and warm sand between my toes! At 45, I feel it too, but in a different way. The ebbs and flows of the tides- the questions! You know the funny thing about surfing, as in life, your are at the mercy and grace of the almighty ocean, but as long as you are buoyed by your straight and narrow board and counting your sets you will find the answers to your questions in the unfurling of each wave. God is AWEsome like that, isn’t He? So excited to pull up my beach chair, stoke up a bonfire and join you! Thank you!

    • Delighted to have you join us, Stacy. A real surfer on board – how amazing!And you’re so right – this journey is a partnership, isn’t it? For surfers, it’s the partnering of their own commitment and skill with the gifts that the water brings. In life, it’s the grace and goodness of God tied – by God’s own choice! – to our wills, gifts and commitment. Amazing.

  31. Diana,

    I’m always late in stopping by. But I look forward to the questions and discussion. Thanks for the forum.

  32. Ro elliott says

    This is awesome…I look forward to following along…still not blogging so no linking for me…but I know it will be a rich place to sit. Blessings and grace as you step out with Him!!!

    • Donna Cruickshank doesn’t blog, either, and I will encourage both of you to write something into the comments section – long comments are fine by me and then anyone who subscribes to the comments will be able to read your words, too. Easy-peasy. Glad to have you along.

  33. If you ever run out of questions, Diana, you know where to turn. (me!)

    • Hey – just send ’em on over. Maybe they’ll line up with some of the stuff I’m chewing on or with what comes in from others. :>)

  34. Diana, since this post, I have been immersed in getting ready for and then enjoying having my son and his family of four boys with us for 36 hours – and the addition in the evenings of my other two sons and their families…18 of us including my dad. they leave tomorrow. just wanted to chime in that I am really looking forward to this series. and continue to appreciate you and your thoughts on getting older. In a few days I will have 4 more years of the 60s, .

    Have to get to bed…I still have about 15 hours of noise and love and the change to grab a few more hugs and kisses to store up for the next few months.

    • Congrats on the birthday Carol – mine is the 23rd. And I’m glad you’ve had family around – that’s always fun, even if it is tiring at times. Hang in!

  35. “Until there are no more questions to be asked.” 🙂

  36. Lise Stoltzfus says

    Wow! Saw your blog on Shawn Smucker’s blog. I am asker of questions and love to study the Bible, but don’t have a lot of time with a full-time job and a big family. But some questions that have lingered for me include, “If God’s plans and purpose for us are God and to give us hope and a future, why would he allow Judas Iscariot to be born, knowing that he would betray Jesus, and then state in Matthew that it would be better if he had not been born”? Totally doesn’t make sense to me. I guess I also struggle with why bad things happen to good people, especially when those people are walking with the Lord and seeking the Lord for answers, but receive none.
    I look forward to your next post and hopefully learning and growing as I read. Thank you!

    • What great questions, Lise. Thanks for putting them out here – I’ll add them to this growing list and will try to get to them as this conversation continues to unfold. Glad to have you here!

  37. Glad I made my way over here!

    I’ve been returning to some questions I started asking when I was a little girl. I remember going around to different people — my parents, my teachers, my pastor — asking the same questions. I didn’t really know what I was asking. I still don’t know, exactly. Those kind adults would look at me, completely befuddled. So, I stopped asking. I decided there were no answers for these odd questions of mine. And now…with my 50th birthday right around the corner, I find those questions are still there. Unanswered. I don’t know if I’ve lived into them, the way you’ve suggested here. I think I’ve probably lived around them.

    Thank you for this invitation. Thank you for the way you live your faith in front of us and invite us t o do the same.

    • Thanks so much for reading and encouraging, Deidra, as only you can do. Ask away – I guarantee no answers, but I welcome the questions. Sometimes just the asking helps open the door to a new angle, a new possibility. Have at it, okay?

  38. I love this. I could sit and just listen to you for hours. Days. For real. Please come back to Nebraska soon.

    • If I’m asked, I’ll be there, Lelia, when the JT group gathers in 2015. Golden Anniversary year and all! Thanks for you encouragement.

  39. I like this. Waiting , moving , community , active flexibility? Sounds like choreography for a full length ballet. And I love the idea of forming a community around the questions. I’m in.

    • WONDERFUL, Lisha. So glad to have you along for the ride! My first post and – hopefully – a linky, will go up tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. PST and will stay open until Monday noon. Maybe I’ll keep it open even longer than that – who knows? So if you want to reflect on this at your own blog, please link up.

  40. Love what you are doing here, Diana – you and your beautiful “tribe.” I hope I’d love to jump in the water with y’all.

  41. This post is totally gnarly!

  42. So good Diana… I’m looking forward to working my way through the back catalogue! (Found this via Addie)

  43. I’m visiting from Addie’s place, Diana, and I only wish I had come here before so that I could have joined in the series on living into the questions – such a great idea. I really enjoyed this post and will definitely be back for more. 🙂