Recently I have had to travel the A14 several times. My journeys have taken me to Cambridge and beyond and, in so doing, have taken me past the village of Higham, where I spent the first eighteen months of my life.
I cannot travel that stretch of road without thinking of the day when my father stood at the bottom of Heath Farm Drive, waiting to see the first car drive on the A14 (it wasn’t known by that name then). It was little more than just a rough track. They waited, and waited, but the car never came – it had broken down. I also remember another story he told which I think you will find interesting.
My father worked the land at Heath Farm and had taken delivery of a new combination seed drill. This was pulled by an open cab tractor. It wasn’t exactly high-tech because, as the tractor reached the end of each row, the driver had to lean back, pull a piece of string to stop the seed and, once the turn was made, do the same again to release the seed into the new rows. After one of these turns, my father learnt back to reach the string, the tractor hit a large clod of earth and bounced hard enough to throw him off the back of the tractor and under the drill. He went right under the machine and found himself pinned down by the shoulder, by one of the large trailing tines. For those of you who know the old tractors with the throttle on the steering column, you will remember that the machine doesn’t stop when it’s driverless. There was my father, being dragged up the field, unable to do anything about it. As he told me the story, he said, “I wasn’t afraid to die”. He had become a Christian some years earlier. What he did say was that he knew there was a copse ahead, full of brambles, and he didn’t fancy getting shredded by being dragged through all that.
What was he to do? There was only one thing left. He prayed. He called out to God to help – and the tractor stopped. It didn’t splutter – just stopped. But Dad was still trapped. He shouted as loudly as he could, flat on his back in the field, and some council employees working on the Tuddenham Road heard him and came running over. They lifted the drill and heard his story about how the tractor instantly stopped when he called out to God. One of them was sceptical and thought it had conveniently run out of fuel, so he put the starting handle in, cranked the engine and it fired instantly into life. God truly had saved my father’s life.
I’m glad he did. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here, nor any of my children. That’s quite a thought that we are meant to be here. We are not in a meaningless universe. We have just celebrated the fact that God entered the stream of human history so he could walk this journey of life with all who receive him. We were never meant to be alone. Life was never meant to be meaningless. It’s a New Year. We have all opened our Christmas gifts by now. Don’t leave unpacked the greatest and most valuable gift of God’s love for you – the offer of his presence, peace and hope.