Lady Pastor: Learning is part of the joy of being alive

A light bulb in Emily Carson's former residence in Chicago.

The process of learning leaves me in a continual state of awe. How is it possible that our brains can keep expanding and making new connections? I don't understand all the complex neuroscience behind what makes learning possible, but I do know what it feels like. It feels like the moment immediately after flipping on the light switch, when the bulb suddenly shines bright. The familiar expression "a light bulb moment" is spot-on!

Next time your own brain synapses are making a connection, I encourage you to pause for a moment. Maybe it will be during a conversation, meeting, or worship service. Perhaps it will happen while you're reading the paper or your new favorite novel. Feel it. Feel what it's like to learn. It's a glimpse of possibility, heaven, and creativity all wrapped into one.

When I attended seminary in Chicago, I lived in an apartment in a neighborhood called Hyde Park. The apartments were old and charming and filled with a lot of character. In addition to beautiful woodwork, there were other quirky details like non-functioning fireplaces, roofs that formed frighteningly gigantic icicles in the winter, and light fixtures without the glass. This last detail captured my attention every day.

Between the two second floor apartments was a beautiful old light fixture. The bulb was bright and always on. But there was no glass around it. Just an eternally bright bulb. It was a daily reminder to me to rejoice in light bulb moments of learning. I was so entranced by the bulb, I even took a picture of it one day after class.

A significant light bulb switched on for me a few months back. I was attending the installation of the new bishop of our synod, Rev. Steve Delzer. The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at that time, Rev. Mark Hanson, preached and shared a quote. He said, "Unspoken expectations are resentments in waiting."


The moment that quote entered my ears, a light turned on. There's a whole lot of truth packed into those six words. I've since been realizing just how important it is to name and claim our expectations in relationships, work, and other areas of responsibility.

A great joy of ministry is watching light bulb moments happen in the lives of young people. This year we're focusing on the New Testament with the seventh and eighth graders in confirmation. We've been exploring the teachings and miracles of Jesus. It is one of the greatest joys of my life to read the Gospels with this age group.

I love watching their eyebrows perk up as they realize things about Jesus they never knew before. His penchant for breaking the rules. His ability to challenge authority. His willingness to go above and beyond if it means bringing healing and love to even one more person. It's really something amazing to learn about Jesus with middle-schoolers.

Light bulbs are flipping on around us every day. In the contentment of reading an honest poem. In the pondering that accompanies hearing a challenging sermon. In the delight of experimenting with a new recipe.

We are all created to be lifelong learners. There's no pressure to become an expert in all things. Instead, we get to absorb and relish what we can.

May your week ahead provide an assortment of light bulb moments.

The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at:

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