As I started to wipe the shoes with my hair one girl questioned, "are those dirty?!" I smiled inside, knowing a new part of the story had just come alive. I truthfully answered "yes" and explained that Jesus' feet and shoes were probably even more dirty.
I set up the stage for this unexpected display by giving the kids facts about the perfume Mary used and some background into the culture. We talked about our prized possessions and how much perfume like that cost (a year's wages). This helped set the scene not only for the strangeness of what I was about to do, but how much more lavish and over the top the original actions of Mary were towards Jesus.
I can't say for sure what God did in the hearts of each of the kids. But as is often the case when I teach, the story has come alive in my own mind and imagination as I ponder the implications. To some level I can now better understand the powerful love and emotion that would have inspired such an act. Although mine was not nearly as sacrificial or outrageously inappropriate as Mary's was, it was still quite a humbling posture.
Both myself and the kids also experienced first hand the fragrance filling the room just as Luke recounted in the original story. I never realized that you could smell an act of worship! In addition as I still smell the fragrance in my hair, I realize how both Mary and Jesus probably smelled like nard for days. The memory of that lavish act lingered on long after the moment was past.
After the story, I asked my little group of kindergarteners if they thought maybe it was hard for Mary to do what she did, considering how expensive the perfume was. One little boy replied "no I don't think so. She loved Jesus so much. She loved the stuff a lot too. If she had loved the stuff more than Jesus it would have been hard, but she loved Jesus more than the stuff." Wow! I never realized that! I understood that it was a huge sacrifice, but assumed it must have hurt to do what she did. I may have even assumed that perhaps that was one of many reasons she was crying. But no, her love for Jesus was so overwhelming that the sacrifice was nothing compared to the love. I do believe this little boy understood the story better than I did.
Sometimes I wonder if God allows me to teach children not so that I can teach kids, but so that He can teach me. I learn from them, and through the process of teaching them so many amazing things about His love and what it means to love him. What a privilege it is to teach and be taught by children!
P.S. The word lavish so perfectly describes Mary's act, and is my favorite word for today. Microsoft word defines it's synonyms as: Extravagant, Profligate, Wasteful, Over-the-top, Immoderate, Unrestrained, Excessive. The antonym being frugal.
May you discover the beauty of lavish worship and the lavish worship that is unique to you! May you not only discover Jesus' lavish love for you but may you also find the beauty of loving Jesus like Mary did. A love that overshadows any pain of sacrificing dignity, wealth or prized possessions. Read two accounts of the story in John 12:1-8 and Matthew 26:6-13 and wonder with me at it all.