Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's taken about 20 years, but today I finally sat my first practical driving test.

In that time, the number of teachers that I've had is staggering.

Phil on a farm in Cowfold.
Pope in a Butlins holiday camp.
Anna-Lisa on a farm in Matamata.
Tracy in London.
Legh in London.
Pat in Auckland CBD.
Jack in Big Manly.
Israel in Greenlane.
David in Howick. (2007-2011, although not continuously)

If I've observed nothing else, it's that everybody has their own unique version of the rules, which they all consider to be the one endorsed by law. Consequently, every time I've had a new instructor, I've had to in some way start over. It's really no wonder that we have road rage.

During this time I've also sat no less than three theory tests, passing on each occasion. And all this after, in 1994, starting the whole ball rolling by applying for a UK Provisional Licence. This I was also awarded first time, because it was so long ago that there was no test for it in those days.

Ultimately though, today it all boiled down to 20 minutes sitting in a car in East Auckland, with yet another person to my left telling me what to do. What would turn out to be his rules? There was only one way to find out.

I'd done everything that I could to up my chances of a smooth pass. As well as taking all the lessons, I'd bought DVDs, asked friends for advice, stood at a roundabout watching how traffic behaved, got a good night's sleep, taken the day off work, prayed, eaten some starch, drunk plenty of water, been to the toilet, and booked a (hopefully) final lesson immediately prior to my test to warm up.

We (my latest instructor and I) showed up well ahead of time too. I'd scheduled the test for the early afternoon, in order to miss both lunch and the rush hour.

Unfortunately I had failed to factor in the afternoon schools-run.

Why, I'd have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those peddling kids…

Mind you, perhaps I'd been prepared for negotiating them by all that cattle I'd had to avoid on the farm?

In the event though, my examiner was also keen to avoid the stampeding herd of human livestock becoming a carvery, so my early arrival was quickly rewarded by a similarly early departure.

Most of my lessons lately have been at the busy 4pm slot, but 3pm made Meadowlands feel like a ghost town. We went through the according roundabouts, reversed into the requested driveway, did a practical U-turn around a tiny roundabout, and charged along an empty road at 60, but only when the signs said to.

Sure, I also made a few mistakes, and he asked if I was feeling nervous. No, I really wasn't, but despite this my hand announced that it felt like doing some shaking today anyway.

Ahh, the traditional driving-test nerves. I'd wanted to reassure myself that if I failed, then I could just retake the test again the following week. The problem was that next week I have to pop home to the UK for a sixth time, which was putting yet another full stop on things. I'd tried to get this test organised before leaving NZ the last time too, but not been able to.

But, if you'll excuse the pun, there was one thing that was really driving me to pass today - the simple fact that I had once said I would do it.

When I first moved to NZ in 2004, I had a four-point 'todo' list:

1. Join a church. (done - twice!)
2. Find somewhere to flat. (done - twice!)
3. Get a job that I believe in. (done - twice!)
4. Get a driver's licence.

See how annoying that blank space after the last one looks? I expected to get that one nailed first!

I think the years have proved that I do not need to drive. Being a city boy, I regularly run, walk or bus everywhere. If I lived in the countryside, well, then I can see the need.

However I don't think many people like to let their words fall to the ground. Please permit me a momentary biblical detour to express this...

In 1 Samuel, God visits the titular Samuel, who overcomes his fear of speaking about it to give the world an honest account of this and a lifetime of subsequent culturally contemptible revelations.

Many years later, God tells the aged Samuel that he approves Saul to become King. So Samuel anoints Saul King, but despite Saul's good intentions, his rule becomes self-centred. So God sadly aborts Saul's kingship before he can do any more inadvertent damage to Israel.

Despite having personally promised Saul to Samuel / Israel, God now has to ironically save them from him. That's more important to God than following his plan.

At this, Samuel is described as rather upset.

"And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night."

- 1 Samuel 15:11b (KJV)

It may simply be that he is grieved on Saul's behalf, and indeed Israel's, but I have an additional reasoning.

We're told in chapter 3 verses 19-21 of Samuel's unbroken public track-record in telling the truth. Now however many will look upon Samuel's broken prediction, and mistakenly scoff that he is a liar, or corrupt, or mad.

Though God knew Samuel's honesty actually remained intact, the damage to how people treated him, and his words, must have been huge. This possible aspect of his grieving is the one that resonates with me the most. Not because I think I'm especially honest or anything, but because it's a core value that I do believe in. Biblical detour over.

Anyway, all that to say, I once spoke that I would get a driver's licence (though not that God would get me one), and I don't like the idea of people calling me a liar either. :) Hence my driving quest.

Finally today, we parked-up in a frankly rather empty car park back at base. It was all looking rather positive.

And the result? He actually said he had a hard time faulting me. His one area of feedback was that I was signalling too early, giving the impression that I might be about to turn into a driveway, but thankfully that wasn't enough to lose me the licence.

Yes, today, after all these years of trying, I am finally legally allowed to drive on my own in New Zealand.

Or, to put it another way, I never have to drive another car ever again…


(Did I mention how much I dislike driving?)

Now, let's see you all run that distance.


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