Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A massive night’s sleep, punctuated by unpleasant dreams in which everyone I knew in New Zealand was pressing me for work of some sort.

Arriving at St Mary’s catholic church, Scottish Dave, Fionnuala (both pictured above), Nigel and myself all saw what we had come for – our long-lost Irish friend Johnny B marrying Mel B. (the pop-celebrity names are genuine)

Above all, it was long. First there was a long wait for it to start. Then there was a lot of it. Then there was a sermon. But the time-factor didn’t matter a bit – we were happy and relaxed on a leisurely day with friends.

Then came communion. There’d been much discussion already this weekend between Dave (presbyterian), Nigel (catholic) and myself (drifter) about catholic protocols for non-catholics talking communion. Dave in particular, being passionate about church unity, specialised a bit in uncovering little-known precedents regarding the catholic church’s acceptance of people of other faiths and denominations. Nigel had suggested that I cross my arms as a signal to the priest to just give a blessing, but as we were going-up, Scottish Dave just had to flex his intellectual muscles.

“Why don’t you ask him what he thinks about consubstantiation?” he asked.

After I’d foolishly asked him for clarification, Dave went on to explain that consubstantiation was the belief that Christ was present in the bread and wine, but not necessarily physically the bread and wine. I looked forwards down the queue. I’d earlier told Nigel that I would “go for that blessing thing”, but Dave had just given me an opportunity, and I don’t generally like to turn those down, lest I judge myself to be weak.

So when I got to the front of the queue, trusting that Dave’s advice had been sound and that he hadn’t just hilariously set me up to volunteer for becoming a nun, I said to the priest “I’m a Christian, but I believe in consubstantiation.” This wasn’t necessarily true, but simplified my uncertainty enough for the brevity of the moment. The priest looked a little uncertain himself.

“Oh. Well I suppose I’d better give you a blessing then,” he concluded, holding out his hand as I followed Nigel’s advice and obediently crossed my arms. Then he stopped and added, “Hang on a minute, what do you want to do?”

It was all off again.

I answered “I really don’t mind, I just want to do what you want to do.”

“Oh, okay then.” It was on again. “But what do you want to do?” It was off again. Sheesh this was like trying to watch any TV series on the BBC.

“I just want to do the right thing.”

We both stood there in indecision. Oh great. Around me, John’s wedding, already a slow-burner, was grinding to a halt, and it was all my fault for trying not to offend anyone.

Anyway, he gave me the blessing, and I returned to my pew to report back to Dave on the results of his masterplan. “Troublemaker.”

Afterwards photos were taken, people stood around, the priest came and actually apologised to me (he really seemed as unbothered about it as I was) and somewhere along the line, significantly later than planned, we found ourselves an hour away at Lodge at the Inlet in Pauahatanui for the reception. Here Scottish Dave wasted no time in making a new friend…

I kid you not – they are actually comparing each other's kilts in this picture.

For myself, I got talking to a couple and their kids at my table. The woman – Margaret – was telling me that they had in fact been invited to two wedding receptions this evening, so she and her family all had to rush off halfway through this one to put in an appearance at the other. It all sounded like a bit of a sitcom plot to me.

Keeping with the comedy, the speeches were funny too, offering several different perspectives on the same events. Even the bride got a speech, (I don’t think I’ve seen one of those before) and the food was absolutely awesome. Somewhere in the breakneck speed of everything, I even got the photo that I wanted of all five of us reunited.

(looks like the Englishman has had one fruit-juice too many)

As the crowd began to subtley thin out a bit, Johnny B returned to our table to ask how we’d all got on with our table-guests, in particular how I’d got on with single girl Margaret. “No no, she’s married” I corrected him. “Her husband and two kids were here, but they had to all shoot off to another wedding reception.” Yes, I’d spent the entire evening calling the wrong woman Margaret.

The post-dinner dancing got started, Nigel introduced me to Aaron regarding finding a room to stay in tomorrow night, and I eventually found myself sitting alone at the table.

The music was pumping, everyone was on the dance floor, so I went to try some different layers of wedding cake.

A tipsy girl suddenly started touching me and claiming that she knew me from Wellington Hospital. I tried not to suppose what she might have been a patient there for. I quickly put some distance between us and sat down alone again, ate the cake and watched everyone else dancing.

And I went to the toilet, and I watched everyone else dancing.

I’d been here before.

A birthday party at the Richmond Hill hotel in 1990. University Pizza in Bacău, Romania. Those dance sessons in Crete. That late night alone with one of my close-ish long-term female friends, who was even gently dancing to some music by herself in front of me, but I daren’t even pull a minor facial expression.

It’s not fear. My paralysis is far too deep to just be that.

Mere minutes had passed, but the tipsy girl was already dancing with another guy, running her finger down his shirt-front and circling his naval. I was glad that wasn’t me.

A few friends tried to get me to join them on the dance floor, but I knew their ideas of old before they had even thought of them, so I was ready. I didn’t budge, and I knew how to refuse in such a way as they would quickly take their pity away.

As I stood against a pillar and watched them all, I reflected on my ever-lengthening muse about God’s will versus our will. Despite God’s all-powerful omnipotence, I knew that right now he was totally unable to make my feet touch that dance floor.

And I was proved right.

Even though I knew it would probably be better for me to have a go, everyone in that room couldn’t have budged me.

Afterwards in the car, Fionnuala, with good intentions, teasingly began to name-drop her single girl friends in Sydney… Rita… Mary-Ann… there was something ironic about her forgetting that I knew who these people were from when I was over there 2 years ago. Still, it was nice to hear Rita’s name again.

Day #1 of 4 here.
Day #3 of 4 here.
Day #4 of 4 here.


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