One of my earliest memories of church is of the sweet woman who taught me in Sunday School, Mary Hill. I must have only been 4 or 5 years old and while I don’t remember much about the classroom or the lessons we learned or the crafts we made, I still remember her.
I do a lot of things through out the course of a week, but one of the roles that I treasure most is of Preschool Sunday School teacher on Sunday mornings. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to spend a lot of time with 3 and 4 and 5 year olds, but they are incredibly fascinating and wonderfully fascinated.
I share with them stories from the Bible and we memorize short versus and we sing and we play. I know those things are important in training up a child to follow Jesus, but what happens within the walls of that room will never be merely “school”, never just a lesson to be measured by factual knowledge gained.
Sure, we are a class. But we are also a family. We talk about our week and we share about our friends and I witness as they pray some of the most beautiful prayers ever to be offered up, even if they are only one or two words.
And we celebrate.
As often as we can, for any reason at all and sometimes for no reason at all, we get together around our 3 ft high table and we eat powdered sugar donuts off of a crystal cake stand. I cover the plain old brown tabletop in a bright colored tablecloth with pretty plates and matching cups and fancy napkins. I decorate the room and put out an elaborate centerpiece.
Adults often walk by and make comments about how strange it is that I would go to all that trouble when the preschoolers would be just as happy to eat donuts from the package while wallering around on the floor. And they are right.
If a few weeks or a few months or in a few years, they aren’t going to remember the tablecloth or the center piece. They aren’t going to remember that we had fancy napkins.
But what I’d give my life away for is that they would remember is that I loved them. That I loved them so much that every second I got to spend with them was precious. That they were so special to me that I couldn’t help but to set out the finest dishes and throw the fanciest parties because they were worth it.
And that in some small way, through knowing how much I loved them they would begin to know the love of their Heavenly Father, the one they can’t see or touch but who lifted up his robe and sprinted down the path and who threw elaborate parties with donuts and fancy napkins to celebrate just one of them.
After our time together has come and gone and all that is left of the celebration are tattered napkins and donut crumbs in the carpet, I clean them up and I thank God for the ones who left them behind. I laugh when I remember their powdered sugar faces and their goofy giggles and the way they wiggle their fingers to a silly poem I say right before we pray and I picture their little hands, folded in their laps and can’t even begin to find the words to thank God for the things He has taught me through these little people whom I love as my own.
And I offer up a little prayer for each of them, that they would one day stand in awe of the love of their God and that they would spend the rest of their lives recklessly wrapped up in a love that gives them no other way of living other than loving others that way in return.
I don’t remember a single Sunday School lesson Mary Hill taught me, all though I am sure they were lovely. I don’t remember what she said, or what she sounded like and I can barely even recall what she looked like. But I remember her still, because I remember that she loved me.