Building Power is Not Always About Outcome

By Lynn Buske, JONAH Organizer

I want to share a story. One of mine. One I always thought wasn’t much of a story, until I unpacked it recently with a life coach and it revealed itself as an example of how power is built in a person.

When I was a young girl, the person I felt who “got” me was my pastor at our Lutheran church in small town Stanley, WI. When he retired, I dealt with that grief by being angry towards the new pastor.

Part of how that came out centered around a belief that my previous pastor had given me and the shatteredness I felt upon realizing that belief was relative.

My previous pastor had taught me during confirmation to light the altar candles in a certain way, because God’s light goes from the inside out. The intention he conveyed and the type of person I was had me really take this to heart. When the new pastor came in he taught the other students differently. And not all of them even followed that. The anger I felt at the lack of meaning for this meaningful act angered me so greatly. The importance of this belief – that God’s light was being shared with us at worship and should be respected – felt deep. And I had rumblings inside.

I listened to this rumbling and needed to voice myself. So, I did.

Though it came out passively, through an angry and instructional chalkboard message, I voiced my belief. I can’t recall a time I had really done so before, at least not with such clarity. Whenever I had in the past I felt my voice was dismissed, so I was TERRIFIED to voice this, but my values felt at risk.

My new pastor came to me privately. He explained that it was absolutely wonderful how I lit the candles and that I held that belief about its importance. He said he instructed the others in the way that he would like the candle lit and that they were not wrong. I can’t recall if I had a consequence – erasing the board or an apology or something. I think I may not have at all. It ended up as nothing.

I have quite frequently thought back to this seemingly meaningless story. Looking at it further, because it was time, showed me it was not so meaningless. What I learned about this, last week in my session with my life coach, was that I was so, and still, caught up in the feelings of:

a. failure for not changing anything,

b. depression that my belief was actually meaningless, and

c. anger at this new pastor and grief for the previous, that I could not see that:

a. I spoke my truth and that felt great,

b. HE HEARD ME and respected it (and was probably an alright fella!),

c. and that by him hearing me and responding EVEN if not the way I wanted was POWERFUL for me, causing me to believe it is ok to voice my truth BUT

d. to remember that I need to respect others’ beliefs.

I also learned really hard things to learn at 14:

a. Truth is relative – no matter how deep we see a truth, it is relative. And it can be scary to have that challenged. But it’s ok, really. God has us. And that this fact doesn’t devalue that belief – it can still be meaningful to me.

b. AND, underneath our beliefs are VALUES that are more longstanding, those are deeper and more consistent – and simply not the same as specific beliefs.

c. Grief needs to be checked. Emotions need to be seen. Before reacting, check those with another person you feel you can trust.

d. The person you don’t think you can trust isn’t always as bad as you think. We are all divine in human form.

That day empowered me to speak my voice, challenge my beliefs, and love what I love. All because:

1. I heard the rumblings

2. I spoke

3. I was heard.

We are not responsible for the outcomes of our actions and voice. That is NOT why we use them. We use them because God needs us to. And God has a plan for what those voices are for and where we’re headed – for each of us. If we stay out of the way and don’t get caught up in emotion.


For the good of all,