Here’s a story about something that happened once when I was teaching Sunday School that reveals how mean I am, and how good God is.
Let me set the stage for this story. We had a small class, only about 5 kids in lower elementary school. We started out with prayer and a snack, and after about 10 minutes, I would “get down to business” and start teaching.
Like anyone who teaches, I think that the whole point of this class is the lesson. I mean, the snack, the game, the craft- they’re just things to get through so we can do this important thing- to communicate this BIG TRUTH that is in the lesson!
Okay, so this particular week I made microwave popcorn. Nothing fancy. two bags for seven people. My husband was there, too, I should mention that we were in this together. I had also brought some juice. So I pass out this popcorn on napkins to each of the kids, and there is this one child- (I’m making some of this generic so I don’t embarrass anyone) there is is this one girl- I’ll call her Gracie- Gracie, okay, so, she asks me for a big pile. So I’m like, whatever, I don’t mind being generous, it’s popcorn, I pour the popcorn. I pour the juice, and by the time I’ve poured it all and passed it out to the other four, she has downed hers and asks for more.
I am, I admit it, irritated. Suddenly I’m facing these questions: Is it too sugary? Is one glass enough? Should she go get some water? I want to get to my lesson, do we have enough time? But I decide, again, to err on the side of generosity, and I pour her some more juice. We sit down to eat and talk.
As we have snack, I usually review our memory verses. When we are halfway through the second one, she finishes her popcorn, and asks for more. With a sigh, I pour her a little more.
Snack is slowing down, so I stand up to the board to start The Lesson.
The lesson this week is on the miracles of Jesus. The point of the lesson is that Jesus performed miracles because he loves us.
I know that all of these kids have been in church awhile, and they’ve heard all the stories of the miracles, and so one of the things I’m doing in the intro is trying to get them to list and tell me as many miracles as they can. They are doing well, raising their hands and joining in, and I’m making a list on the board.
The ones who are slower eaters are finishing, and mostly participating, and then there is Gracie.
She has already finished her second helping, and I see that she is giving her cup and napkin to my husband for thirds. He’s already poured the popcorn, but I intervene before she has more juice. (She’s had enough, I’m thinking. That’s enough sugary juice. She needs to pay attention, the lesson is more important than the snack. The snack is distracting her.)
I finish up the list exercise, and return to the table to do the next part of the lesson. Gracie asks to fill her cup with water in the bathroom, and I let her go. She comes back in a minute and still figits. I am almost boiling. Why can’t she just focus!?
We start the crafty part of the lesson, and I’m passing out papers, but she’s not interested in coloring. She’s quiet and not disturbing anyone, but she’s still packing in the popcorn. After a minute, as I’m listening to another child answer a question, she asks my husband for more. He starts to give it to her, but I put my hand on the bag.
I am full on irritated, so irritated. I mean, all I want her to do is HEAR the LESSON. JESUS LOVES HER, HE DID MIRACLES BECAUSE HE LOVES US.
“Snack time is over,” I say, as gently as I am physically able, which is not very gentle. “It’s time to pay attention.” And then I ask her the next question in the lesson, and to her credit, she answers it.
But as I move on to the next part of the lesson, I notice she just keeps staring at the popcorn. She is restless. Asks for more water, swings in her chair. figits, asks to use the bathroom. Whispers a question to my husband- can they have more popcorn after game time?
I am just a miserable wreck inside. Want to know my thoughts?
Why doesn’t this child know how to listen to a teacher? Why is she acting so entitled, rather than grateful that she already recieved? Why do I have to put up with this? I prepared a LESSON, an IMPORTANT LESSON, and she should be respectful to me and sit and listen! How dare she be uninterested, how dare she NOT CARE about what I have to say. Yep, I think all these things. I told you I’m not naturally nice. I don’t really NOTICE how nasty I am. I feel entirely justified and… well, righteous. After all, I’m there to teach them THAT JESUS LOVES THEM.
And then I am completely, one hundred percent rocked by the Holy Spirit.
You see, earlier that week, I felt really strongly that the Lord was leading me to read in James. I got to this part-
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?James 2:1-16
I had read this earlier in the week, and tried to search my heart- was I playing favorites in any way? I noticed a few things and situations that I could think of that might apply and tried to repent of them… Situations where I had favored someone I honored or respected or… envied.
But suddenly, this whole passage just SLAMS into my heart, and I realize something about Gracie.
I think she’s hungry.
“Hey,” I say impulsively, as she is eyeing the popcorn bag that I put away on the shelf. “What did you have for breakfast today?”
“Nothing,” she says, with her eyes glued to that bag. “We don’t get to eat on Sundays because my grandma picks us up early.”
My heart drops. It is almost eleven o clock. I, in my luxury, had made my family bagels and scrambled eggs that morning, had a mini-donut with my coffee in the foyer besides, and I’m already thinking about lunch.
I look back at the popcorn, and I feel like a total heel. Suddenly my whole lesson about Jesus and his miracles- feeding the 5,000, healing the lame and the lepers- raising the dead- Jesus doing miracles because he loves us- suddenly I realize that in these stories- I am the pharisee. I’m so hyper focused on my own goals, my own agenda- my own righteous LESSON- that I just about missed the miracle, the love, the thing that my Lord was walking around doing for 33 years.
I look at my husband and he nods. We are both very, very aware of what Jesus would do. We know what He wants here.
Feed my lambs.
All I have is popcorn, but I pick up the bag and pour the rest of it on to her napkin, let it spill over onto her blank coloring page, and her face lights up in surprise. I reach for her cup and fill it to the brim with the juice. Next week I’ll come prepared with milk and apples and raisins and peanut butter for crackers.
I think about this a lot when I’m with people at church. You never know who’s hungry. We come as teachers with an agenda- and a good one! We’re supposed to teach the Truth, preach the Gospel, disciple the nations.
But if a boy or girl is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Thanks for listening to my confession- both of my own sin and of how good God is. I’m so thankful that he led me to read James, I’m so thankful that the Spirit opened my eyes to let me be a part of what He was doing with his children. I’m so thankful that he loves Gracie enough to feed her, and he loves me enough to put up with my “help.”
I write fiction, you guys! My newest release is called CinderLouise. It’s a Sunday-Afternoon read for people who would like a little fairy tale, a little romance, and a little encouragement in their lives. It’s available on Kindle and in paperback, and soon on Audible! I’d love if you’d leave a review for me on Amazon or Goodreads! <3<3<3