“You want me to answer my emails.” Bishop Elaine Stanovsky read this statement aloud at the end of Oregon-Idaho’s Annual Conference gathering a couple weeks ago. Participants had a previous opportunity to leave her notes with questions or concerns. There was a smattering of laughter and then she responded. “And I want you to know when I opened my email this morning, I had 89 new messages since last night. I want to answer your emails. And I want to answer the physical mail that you send me. And I know every week that things fall through the cracks. And I know that the solution to our dilemma is not going to be that the Bishop works harder.“ Cue tentative and confused applause. She continued, “That’s a confession. I give you my heart and I give you way more of my life than I should, honestly…I don’t think we have a model that works for bishops in three conferences over four states with 440 churches. I’m doing my best but I’m not going to quit disappointing.” Some may have thought it a mundane exchange between a frustrated constituent and their leader. But it was far more than that. “The answer is not for me to work harder.”
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky addresses the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference in Pullayup, Washington. Photo Credit: PNW Staff
This is culture shift in one sentence. This is sacred resistance. This is a refusal to let a broken and ineffective system call the shots. This is holy. The answer is not for me to work harder. What happens if an exhausted parent whispers this? A burned-out executive? A stressed-out student? When something is broken or overwhelming or the work is piling up, our first inclination is often to double down. We push up our sleeves. We summon a new wave of focused grit so we can power through the obstacle in front of us. Sometimes, that’s the best answer. But more often, it’s not. What if you’re being invited to bring the entire unsustainable culture to a screeching halt? You can do that, by the way. You have permission to question it all. Why do we do this? How did it get like this? Could this be different? The answer is not for me to work harder. When we cooperate with Love, instead of our hustle culture, Love can do far more in, through and with us. May we not give our lives to maintaining unhealthy, unjust and broken ways of being because “that’s just how it is.” It doesn’t have to be that way. I wish you courage to question the cultures you move in. May you show up scared. Even if your voice wobbles and your knees shake. Ask the questions rumbling in your being. Freedom is waiting. Love hopes you’ll speak.