Rod Barks

Unexpected vehicle for God’s grace

Tales of Christmas hope warm the soul like no other.

In that spirit, I invite you to slip into something comfortable, sip a hot chocolate and allow me to share a childhood memory – one of my all-time favourites.

Joy to the world had passed over our household that Christmas. It was the first without my mother, who had succumbed to leukemia five months previous. Eight children were left behind, the eldest but 12 years old — I was five.

My father teetered on the brink of depression, understandably overwhelmed by the severity of circumstances.

Enter the Salvation Army. Like Magi of old, these Christian soldiers showed up at our door one Saturday in mid-December, laden with gifts. Little eyes grew wide as boxes were unpacked one treasure at a time: a turkey, oranges and best of all, presents for all. One bore my name — Rodney.

I’m certain other gifts were received that Christmas, but that one alone is remembered. When the time came for unwrapping, paper was attacked and shredded, revealing the most glorious golden dump truck ever manufactured on the face of the earth. It initiated hours of play that stretched into days, then months of delight.

Those uneducated in the ways of children would describe it as cheap plastic. But the truth is that truck dumped more than dirt; it deposited love into a lonely child — and that truth set me free.

I was free to forget the pain of the past few years.

Tears and turmoil disappeared in the miniature rear view mirror as “tons” of precious cargo was delivered across the living room. Powered by a steady “brmmmmm” that flowed past my tiny tongue, the toy would travel down the hall, through the kitchen and eventually be parked beside my bed for the night.

It was driven to the washroom and even into the bathtub where it proved quite helpful in the delivery of soap and shampoo to a dirt-caked child. The truck allowed but one companion in the tiny passenger seat, and Joy squeezed in, leaving no room for Sorrow.

I was also free to imagine a hopeful future. My little world had been clouded by questions for so long that a shadowed existence had become the norm. A sense of foreboding hovered over each day. But the sun broke through that Christmas morn.

Annie sang, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Well, my tomorrow had arrived.

If God could provide such an extraordinary gift, was there anything impossible? Perhaps laughter could ring once more in our home. Maybe Dad could be happy again. Who knows, God could even custom design and deliver another mother.

If faith is the “substance of the things hoped for,” it was in abundant supply that day. And take it from this father, nothing touches the heart of our heavenly Daddy like a child who begins to believe in what was supposed impossible.

God began to shift the reality at our house.

Peace took up residency in our household. Dad began to grin again.

Dad`s joy would increase when he met a fine woman, who sparkled with compassion for his eight children. Within a year, she became my mother.

The miracle of the incarnation continues to amaze us today; God on earth, born of a virgin, the Divine in an Earth-suit.

But the miracle for me is just as astounding – the realization that God sometimes drives into our lives in a dump truck.

Rod Barks is a Saskatchewan pastor and can be reached at

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