Loved

Happy Valentine’s Day yesterday!

I teach a kindergarten Sunday school class, and thanks to the genius of my teaching partner, Miss Jackie, we had a wonderful party last week with the girls (Darien was absent – we missed you!).  Jackie had thoughtfully brought red plates, napkins, and cups along with goodie bags of candy – she went all out to make these sweet five-year-old ladies feel loved.

I had to ditch my crispy brownies (okay, slightly burned) and whip up some cupcakes with pink icing and sparkly sugar.  I also swiped an idea from John’s school teacher, Ms. Buttery (thank you!), and made the girls a personalized valentine.  The girls, Miss Jackie, and I sat around our feast table and shared things we appreciated about each other.  I jotted them down onto small colored paper hearts, and Miss Jackie glued them onto bigger paper hearts, one for each girl.

The center focal point of each heart was the phrase “God loves ____ (girl’s name)”.  Our hope was that each girl would walk away that day knowing she is loved not simply by her peers and teachers but more importantly by God.

That is one of our greatest desires as teachers, for the children to know God loves them.

It is also one of my greatest desires as a parent.

In the midst of all the Valentine chatter and activity, my son, John, informed me at the end of class that it was time to head downstairs and find Daddy so that we could go home for lunch.  I gathered my daughters and complied with John’s request, following my hungry boy down the stairs and up the sanctuary aisle.

The girls took a seat, but John stood still.  He slowly walked toward the pulpit, hand outstretched, eyes mesmerized.  Immediately I saw what he couldn’t resist: the crown of thorns hanging off the front.

My pastor had taken a team to Israel two years ago, and this gem had returned to New Jersey with him.  Once vibrant and green, it now hung there, beige and brittle, looking as if one flick of a finger would send it to the floor as dust.

I saw John grazing his index finger across the tip of the largest thorn, nearly two inches long.  He had a faraway look in his eye.  I walked over to him.

“Mom, look at how long this is!”  I nodded as we examined the thorns together.

Pastor Frank noticed him from afar and came over, rubbing his forearm.

“John, do you know that the big thorn on the backside there scraped nearly the length of my forearm last week?”  All three of us looked at his arm, but the injury had healed completely.  “I was walking by the pulpit, and that big thorn snagged my skin right here.”

He went on to explain that the thorns here in the U.S. tend to be short and squatty.  These thorns, however, resembled long, sturdy needles between one and two inches long.

“Ouch,” I said as Pastor Frank moved to speak to someone.  John continued to stare at them, slowly fingering each one.  “Can you imagine wearing that on your head?”

“No.”  He shook his head back and forth.  Then he smiled and looked into my eyes with tears.  “Jesus must really love me.”

“He does, John, He does.  So very much.”

May all of our children know the precious love of God all the days of their lives – and beyond.

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