As usual, there was tension on the wedding day. One of the children in the party, a big teenage boy, disappeared for a few moments just before the ceremony. The groom was furious when he found him in another room. I walked in on them as the older man yelled at the boy who was to be his stepson. The man’s red face radiated rage as he whipped off his belt and brandished it in front of the youth.
The boy was big but soft looking. He was scared and could hardly speak audibly in the face of the angry man.
That’s when I did something that made me ashamed.
I was so frightened that I made for the door, and then nearly ran across the courtyard to edge of the church property before I stopped myself.
Why was I literally running away?
This was not me. I stand up for the weak. Bullies don’t scare me. In fact I calm them down. Or back them down if necessary. But here I was, running like a coward when an oversized kid needed me.
I gritted my teeth, turned around, and forced myself to walk back to the building.
I paused at the door and tried to gather my wits and make my body quit shaking. When I entered the building, the father was standing there with a big smile. “Guess I overreacted there, Reverend. Shouldn’t have gotten so mad. How about we go on and do this wedding. Whaddaya say?”
I hated myself and him as I shook his outstretched hand. We went into the sanctuary where I performed the wedding.
It’s nearly a decade later, and I've puzzled over that moment many times. The shame has worn off as I recognize some factors that played into that moment. First, there was something about that big scared pudgy kid that I identified with. Second, I was still coming back from a lengthy illness and in some ways I really wasn’t myself.
I’m inclined to have some compassion on my younger self. I even feel a little pity for the man who was so angry.
But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have run away and left that boy alone.