Root Beer Salvation

Yakima was a sleepy town in the 60s, and much different from the stretch of northern California coastline where I grew up. Cold in the winter and hot in the summer, that’s what I remember about Yakima from when I was a kid.

We had family there, so every couple of years we loaded up the wagon and rented a trailer to haul behind us and drove a couple of days to get there. My grandparents lived in a little house well-situated for a kid like me, because less than a stone’s throw from their front porch was an A&W Root Beer stand. This wasn’t like one of those fast food restaurants you see nowadays. This was a place where you walked up to the counter under an awning, ordered your hamburger and root beer and sat down to eat at a picnic table outside. Or at your grandmother’s house if she was practically next door.

I drank a lot of root beer when I was at Grandma’s house.

I was 6 or so when my grandfather died, and my grandmother moved in with my aunt and her family. That was in a different part of town, so going for visits didn’t include as much root beer drinking.

Grandma remarried a few years later and moved out of her daughter’s house. Her new home was back on the same street as the root beer stand, but a lot more than a stone’s throw away. Ten blocks was way too far for a kid like me to walk on my own.


I must have been 12 when our summer visit coincided with my Dad’s cousin, Jack, being in town visiting family too. Cousin Jack was a bit older than Dad, and he’d never lost the Wyoming western drawl that characterized the older members of a family that traced itself to Sheridan in the late 19th Century. Jack always looked and sounded like he just rode off the range from a cattle drive.

I must have looked and sounded like I was bored silly sitting there outside my grandmother’s back door, because Cousin Jack walked over to me and said these wonderful words.

“Tim, d’yew lack root bahr?”

Root bahr. I knew what he meant. “Yes.”

“Hawp in thuh truck.”

So I did. Cousin Jack’s pickup truck had seen the other side of a split rail fence, that’s for sure. He started it up, let the clutch out as he eased it into first gear, and drove down the road. The further he drove away from Grandma’s house, the closer we got to that oasis of froth.

And soon we pulled up at A&W.

Cousin Jack asked the woman at the counter for a gallon of root bahr, and she turned to pull the handle on the tap to fill a glass jug with the heavenly nectar.

Back in the truck we went and drove to Grandma’s. Once there Jack said, “Hep yuh sef, Tim,” so I did.

“Do you want a glass, Cousin Jack?”

“No thanks, Tim, I cain’t drink thet stuff.”

Two things about that: first, my 12-year-old self couldn’t believe there was anyone on the planet who didn’t drink root beer; second, I suddenly realized that Cousin Jack had bought a gallon of root beer just for me.

I was almost speechless, but managed to come up with “Thanks, Cousin Jack.”

The Words I Didn’t Even Know I Wanted To Hear

Back then I didn’t have the word for what Cousin Jack did for me, but I do now. His act was extravagant. Jack bought something he didn’t need and couldn’t use, and he did it for me. And he bought more root beer than I’d ever had, all to myself.

His actions remind me of Jesus.

I have a Savior who paid for something he didn’t need. He paid for the forgiveness of sins he didn’t commit. In his extravagant grace, he offered his own body, his own blood, his very life, to set me free. The debt he paid was one I owed, not him, and it was a debt I could never hope to repay, not in a million years, not in eternity.

Jesus paid that price for me and then he said these wonderful words, words I didn’t even know I wanted to hear.

“Tim, you are mine. Forever mine.”

Forever his. And now I drink from a fountain that flows from within me, one that leaves me never thirsty again but always wanting to drink more of my Savior.

Thanks, Jesus.

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28 Responses to Root Beer Salvation

  1. Awesome! My grandparents on my mom’s side lived in Selah outside of Yakima and had an apple orchard. But when we visited we missed out on going to the big town of Yakima for root beer. Those strict Swedes didn’t want to drink real beer, but some of them grew hops to make beer I heard and I thought they were hypocrites, but didn’t dare say so.

  2. Judy says:

    I can just about taste the root beer. Thank you for sharing a beautiful moment and reminding me of God’s extravagant love.

  3. Jeannie says:

    That’s a great story. I wondered if Uncle Jack was saying “Do you like root beer?” or “Do you lack root beer?” Either way the answer was yes! This reminds me of my own extravagant uncles and aunts but is a wonderful picture of God, too.

    • Tim says:

      You’re right: I lacked it and I liked it!

      • Jeannie says:

        Just to add … many years ago my husband & I were involved in a ministry to international students at the university; and one of our new friends from China told us about going to a grocery store to buy what he thought was beer but was actually root beer. He said, “I thought, Canadian beer is SO BAD!!” 🙂

        • Tim says:

          The other day I had some outstanding ginger beer from a specialty market in town. If anyone thought they were drinking water, barley malt and hops, though, they’d have been surprised!

  4. michellevl says:

    For what it’s worth, I read it as “lack”. It sounded like something a Wyoming cowboy-gentleman might ask.

    What a lovely reminiscence, and a beautiful spiritual application. Thanks.

  5. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Sarsaparilla salvation: I love it!

    • Tim says:

      There’s a great saloon in the Columbia ghost town that serves ice cold sarsaparilla, Bronwyn. Just what you need on a hot dusty day there!

  6. Robert Martin says:

    A&W is OK.. but if you want REAL Root Beer salvation, you’ll head to Lancaster County, PA, where almost every back road has a farm lane with a sign at the end that reads “Cold, Homebrewed Root Beer for sale (No Sales on Sunday)”.

    But I hear ya, though… we had a young woman in our church give the children’s message on God’s extravagant love… I still remember her illustration of “extravagant”… it included at least 2 gallons of fresh churned ice cream, a whole bottle of chocolate syrup, a bag of M&M’s, a bag of chocolate chips, and a whole spray bottle of whipped cream… and after service, all the children were invited to the fellowship hall to grab a spoon and dig in… An ice-cream Sunday is good… being given an ice-cream Sunday is love… but to have an ice-cream Sunday that makes a grown man weep given to you… that’s EXTRAVAGANT love…

    • Tim says:

      Present day A&W might not compare to the back country home brew, Robert, but let me tell you that the stuff back in the 60s was the real deal!

      And that Sunday School ice cream sundae illustration sounds perfect. It’d bring a tear to my eye too.

  7. Aimee Byrd says:

    1) Your titles crack me up, Tim.
    2) Great story.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Aimee. What’s the drink of choice on the country lanes of West Virginia?

      And on titles, I once heard Rick Warren say that he spent a lot of time on the titles for his messages. I think it’s where the story starts, and hope it adds to the reader’s experience. Some are clunkers, but some seem to really hit the mark. God’s grace either way is what makes them have any significance.

  8. Adriana says:

    “Oasis of froth.” 🙂 This post is SWEET!

  9. laruspress says:

    Breathlessly beautiful analogy, Tim. Thanks!

  10. Tuija says:

    Wonderful story and application, Tim!
    As for root beer, I’m with Cousin Jack 😉 – perfectly happy to give it to someone who loves it, but it’s not my drink of choice…

    • Tim says:

      What do you think of ginger beer then, Tuija? Sarsaparilla? Cream soda? Anything?

      • Tuija says:

        Well, Tim, I’m not sure I have ever tasted ginger beer.
        Sarsaparilla – I had the Taiwanese version in Taiwan and honestly, the taste reminded me mostly of toothpaste. 🙂 For all I know, the American version might be very different.
        Cream soda – I have tried it and it was good, but almost too sweet (my son definitely loved it).

        Most of those you mentioned are available in Finland, but only in very well-stocked huge supermarkets, in their “American specialities” section, and a can costs the equivalent of about $2.50. (Yes. I’m talking about one 12 fl oz can.) CocaCola/Pepsi/Fanta/Sprite and such are more common and significantly less expensive, and there are some local varieties, too. If I had to name a favourite soft drink, it would be diet Sprite (with Orangina a close second).

        But I’m always open to try new things. When we travel, we like to check out local specialities, but the “problem” in the USA is that there are so many wonderful local specialities, we just couldn’t do everything in the limited time we had… 🙂

  11. Tuija says:

    Tim – you don’t ‘walk through’ that section, you gotta stop so you don’t walk right past it 😉
    In the supermarket I’m thinking about, it’s some shelves with items like JellO, pop tarts, peanut butter, marshmallow (and Fluff), Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s chocolate… Mind you, you’d probably spot many familiar products and trademarks on the ‘regular’ shelves, too.
    (I have no clue who selects what gets imported here, and on what basis. Popularity? Requests from American expats? Anyhow, I’m guessing that the price here is at least double the price in USA… which is why I don’t buy products from that shelf very often.)

    • Tim says:

      You’ve reminded me of my time living in England and going into pubs where they stocked American Budweiser as an imported exotic beer, and charged accordingly!

  12. That’s so wonderful! I am glad that Jesus is extravagant for us as well. Everything we own is His and He gives an over abundance when He doesn’t need to do anything. . .He gave Himself! How wonderful!
    As for the story of your cousin not liking root beer. . .I’ve never even had it. Not interested. Smells odd to me. I only tried my first sip of soda last year though and hated it. . .so I would have dumbfounded your 12 year old self too. haha. That was really nice of him to buy you all that root beer. May we all learn such lessons like this.

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