The Sunday before each holiday, my Sunday school teacher would bring a small paper bag to class with her.
The contents were dependent upon the season.
One thing was certain – each student received one of the delicious, individually wrapped Russell Stover Candy treats hidden within the bag.
I was a child, and like most children, accepted a gift willingly without considering the cost to the giver. It cost me nothing and that was all that mattered, I suppose.
At some point I realized these treats cost her – she had to forgo something for herself to purchase the treats for us.
Wow! It was free to me – but it cost her.
I thought of refusing the gift…of thanking her and saying “no thank you.” But, that wouldn’t resolve my problem because I would have to do so BEFORE she purchased the treats. That would have been presumptive on my part – showing I expected the gift. And, somehow my childish mind knew it wasn’t truly a gift freely given if I expected it.
As much as any child present, I wanted the gift. But, I wanted it without the price…without the cost to her.
And, as much as my mind wrestled with this, I was unable to figure out a way to obtain the gift without her paying the price.
And, then I realized…no one was making her purchase the treats. This wasn’t a condition placed upon her when she agreed to serve as teacher. She was paying the cost willingly. And, whether we had behaved in class that day or not, or were thankful or ungrateful, we received one. The gift wasn’t dependent on anything we were or did. She had done everything.
My childish mind, at first, thought the gift was to buy our affection. After all, that’s how children do things at times (If I give you this gift, you will like me.) And, then I realized she didn’t care if we liked her or not. She was our teacher. She disciplined us, taught us, corrected us, prayed over us, and loved us.
She loved us.
That’s why she bought those treats. That’s why she gave them as gifts. That’s why the “good kids” as well as the “bad” received equally. That’s why she paid the price.
She taught me things she had no idea I was learning. They weren’t taught in her lessons, or from our book. They were taught through her living example of love.
From the writings of Paul via The Message by Eugene H. Peterson
…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Yes, the best is love!
Thank you, Juanita Nicholson, for loving us, for gifting us with such a wonderful life lesson on love. Every time I see a small, individual pack of Russell Stover Candy, I think of you and of your sacrificial and unconditional gift. And, I think of Another, of whom you taught, who gave all so that I may have all.
I love you!