The neighborhood I grew up in was not frequented by an ice cream truck. Therefore, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to live in a neighborhood with an ice cream truck. For thirty one years, I’ve longed to hear the familiar cling-clang bell of everyone’s favorite yellow and white truck, grab my change jar, run up the street yelling “Ice Cream”, and then counting out my dollar and receiving that creamy goodness on a stick. Maybe a bomb pop, maybe a chocolate éclair, maybe the Mickey Mouse head with gumballs for eyes.
Well, folks, I must find a new dream, for last night all my wildest dreams came true.
With Sloan in Orlando on business, my friend Robin came over for dinner. We were chatting in the family room while Henry played with trains, when we heard the ice cream truck music. We stopped our conversation. “Was that the ice cream truck?” I asked.
“I think so.”
“Come on, Henry. We’ve got to catch that truck!” With bare feet I grabbed the boy, threw him at Robin, saying, “Go catch that truck! I’m going to get change.” Armed with Sloan’s change jar, I ran into our driveway as the ice cream truck drove out of view, turning left about a block away.
“Come back, ice cream truck,” I yelled. Some neighbors in their yards looked at me. “Come back…”
I explained to Robin my theory on ice cream trucks and why I will always run screaming after it. And that my children will ALWAYS be allowed to buy ice cream from the truck no matter what. No matter if we’re sitting down for dinner, tests have been failed, angry words have been thrown, or siblings been hit. You see, the ice cream truck brings ice cream to your house. You haven’t asked for it. You weren’t even aware you wanted it. You didn’t prepare ahead by going to the store for it. You don’t even deserve to have the ice cream truck show up, and yet, it goes cling clanging its bell with the grace of ice cream on a stick. And so, in some weird sort of way, the ice cream truck is a lot like Jesus. We were all just going about our lives down here on earth, bungling it all up, trodding down the wrong paths, and then clang-clang-clang went the God-man, Jesus, bringing his love and grace to our doorsteps. We don’t deserve it. We don’t think we need it. We don’t even realize that there is a hunger deep inside us for His great love. And yet, clang-clang-clang.
And both the knocking of Jesus and the clanging of the ice cream truck demand a response.
So I continued to yell, “Hey, ice cream truck, come back!” Robin and I used our best sonar to locate the truck in our neighborhood, wondering if we could catch it on our side street. Some women walking told us it was now in the streets across from us and that it wouldn’t pass by again.
Robin and I looked at each other. “Wanna hunt down that truck?” I asked.
“It would be an adventure,” Robin answered.
“Grab the boy while I get shoes and keys.” And we were off. With windows rolled down to listen for the clanging, we found the truck. With our jar of change, Robin and Henry got sour bomb pops (Henry wasn’t too crazy about the sour, but it was the only single Popsicle he had), and I got the Strawberry Shortcake—you know the one, the pink version of the chocolate éclair. Yum, Yum, Yummy Goodness. We came and tasted, and boy was it good.
There is a scene in the book Gilead to which the narrator, John Ames, keeps coming back. He is resting beneath a wagon with his best friend, in the rain watching people pull down a church that had burned. The refined women with their hair hanging down singing “The Old Rugged Cross.” At the end of the scene, his father brings him a charred biscuit. In the book, the narrator sees this as a sort of communion feast. He sees a community of faith rising out of the ashes and recognizes that he is witnessing something very commonplace, yet eternal and profound.
And as Robin and I sat on our front porch eating our ice cream, each sticky from having “helped” Henry with his bomb pop, I thought of that scene. I prayed that Henry would grow to always, at the drop of a hat, go running after God’s grace when he hears Jesus go a-clanging.
I also decided that Sloan’s change jar would move from the top of his dresser to its new summer home—the table in the foyer. Because when you hear that truck a-ringing ‘round the bend, you’d better believe that the Phillips family is running out the door, ever ready to “Come and taste that the Lord is good.”