Tag Archives: God

A Crooked Soul Trying to Stay Up Straight

(Image/nature.com)

(Image/nature.com)

I’d like to tell you I’m a man of deep, unshakable faith. I’d like to tell you I know the real, actual truth about the universe and meaning of life so I could share the secret with you.

That’s a big deal when you’re a Christian. Certainty. Certainty wearing a “Hello, my name is Faith” sticker.

Maybe it’s a big deal for Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Atheists, too. Maybe you’re only a good member of your faith community if you believe everything you’re taught.

Understand something about me: I only saw good, kind, decent versions of Christians growing up—loving and charitable people who I only witnessed doing good things, and never doing bad things. I think that’s why I always felt ashamed when I was younger for wanting to make out with the cute girl in the church pew in front of me, or for questioning whether I’m literally supposed to believe that God once lost His temper and intentionally flooded the entire world killing every man, woman, child, animal, and plant which wasn’t on a giant wooden boat built by Noah and his family large enough to house two of every type of animal on Earth, followed by Noah’s family incestuously repopulating the world.

I nonetheless had mountains of evidence that Christians were good people. And since I knew a bunch of them, and had no reason to doubt them, I grew up believing all of the finer points of Catholic Christianity.

And let me tell you, that’s not an easy thing. I was just a kid. A pretty good and nice one too.

There wasn’t any ambiguity in our rules:

Any orgasm outside of marriage?

Going to Hell.

A hit off a joint or one too many drinks at a party?

You’re gonna burn.

Profane language?

Holy shit! An eternity of torturous fiery terror and torment!

That’s a lot to handle when you’re a 16-year-old boy, and your life revolves around girls, friends, sports, and daydreaming about going off to college, in that order, where you assume you magically become an adult and figure out what you’re going to be for the rest of your life, and maybe stop getting erections for no apparent reason.

Maybe Muslims and Atheists experience it differently. I hope for their sake that they do.

‘You Have an Obligation to Write About Your Faith’

People tell me that, sometimes. I always disagree with them, and then try to explain why.

I usually write about divorce, marriage and sustainable relationships, and I’ve earned some credibility with a group of people who think maybe I have a bunch of it figured out.

Here’s the thing: I can spit out a nice little playbook for how a man can make his wife feel loved, safe, secure and desired, and not want to divorce him as much as most women want to divorce their shitty husbands. I can. I’ve had THOUSANDS of wives, and even some husbands, write me to say so.

That doesn’t make what I believe true.

It just makes me confident.

Certain?

The only path to a good, forever-kind-of marriage is vigilantly practicing love—the verb—every day. It requires a healthy understanding of human psychology—how husbands’ and wives’ minds and bodies operate differently, and having the tools necessary to keep things from breaking.

For years and years, everyone was smoking. Even doctors. A bunch of people were dying from cancer and heart disease and we couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we did. And now we know smoking invites sickness and death faster than not smoking does.

There are three kinds of people now.

  1. The kind who do not smoke because they want to do what’s best for themselves and the people they love.
  2. The kind who smoke because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who smoke, know it’s bad and want to quit, but struggle with the addiction or habit for a variety of reasons.

On the subject of marriage and relationships, we are—as people—nowhere near as enlightened and educated as we are about the health ramifications of smoking cigarettes. Every day, people are accidentally and carelessly ruining relationships, damaging children, and tearing families apart.

There are three kinds of people who are married or in committed relationships, and unlike with smoking, the largest group has NO IDEA that what they’re doing (metaphorically smoking circa 1960) will invite sickness and death into their relationships.

  1. The kind who get it and do things the right—and frankly, only—way. Actively choosing to love their spouse and family every day, applying information they’ve learned about what makes their partner feel good to their daily lives. Proactively nurturing their marriages.
  2. The kind who abuse and lie and cheat and neglect because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who sometimes fall short, understand that they can do and be more, want to, but struggle in their hearts and minds for a variety of reasons.

Let’s call it doubt. Maybe a person doubts that monogamy can really work. Maybe a person doubts they can trust their partner to not abandon them. Maybe a person GOT EVERYTHING THEY WANTED IN LIFE AND STILL DOESN’T FEEL HAPPY.

That last thing happens to decent, intelligent people all the time. They were certain this was what would finally make them happy, but then it didn’t, and now they want more.

There must be more to life than this.

Life in the Margins

I don’t write about God and/or Jesus because I think it’s an ineffective way to communicate with strangers. People don’t like being judged or preached to.

It automatically divides and makes people feel unwelcome. Not only that, it’s a bullshit thing to do.

And the answer to this question is why I think so: When is the last time you witnessed two human beings with deeply held spiritual, theological, philosophical or political beliefs discuss their differences pleasantly or otherwise, and afterward hear one say: “Gee whiz. You’re right. I reject all my previous beliefs and agree with you now.”?

Even once? Ever?

I mean, yeah. I’m Catholic. Kind of a rogue, miscreant one. I believe many things unique to Catholicism. I’m a regular churchgoer.

But I also have a bunch of stuff I’m not sure about. I used to feel guilty about that but now I don’t.

I don’t murder, because that makes sense. I don’t rape, because that makes sense. Can I really be damned for eternity for using birth control during married sex because money’s a little tight right now?

I’m tired of people acting like they know. No one knows. Zero people.

We know precisely dick.

We’ve had the world’s most-intelligent and thoughtful people trying to get to the root of what’s true about life and the universe since before the words “science” or “philosophy” were ever uttered. And no subatomic-particle physicist, pastor, atheist, teacher, scholar, prophet, rabbi, tribal chief or jungle medicine man has solved it.

Their argument and evidence would be convincing if they had. Like when the doctors proved to us that smoking caused cancer, and we believed them and made new choices.

We all want to feel certain.

I want to feel certain. I don’t want to believe in fairy tales. And I don’t know how to believe in nothing, Lebowski. I need meaning and reason and purpose, or I can’t make sense of anything. If the entire point of living is hedonism before the lights inevitably go off, why aren’t we all shooting heroin, hosting orgies and encouraging everyone we know to do the same?

But I’m NOT certain.

I don’t know.

Not for sure. Is what I feel faith and belief? Or is it just 36 years of habit reinforced by like-minded people within an unchanging faith community?

If no one ever told me the truth about Santa and someone kept sneaking “From Santa” gifts under the Christmas tree every year, might I still believe in him?

If Carl Sagan was my father and nothing bad ever happened to me for believing everything he taught me, would I look at the world completely differently?

If I didn’t have a father, money, education, enough food, or experienced love from family or friends, might I be willing to join a violent group of religious militants intent on spreading mayhem and murdering innocent people who believed a different God story than me?

The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

When you strip away all the bullshit, we’re all just a bunch of people who behave the way we do because of our beliefs and habits.

That’s why we usually believe whatever our parents taught us, so long as no negative consequences came from doing so. When it felt bad, we did something different than them.

I don’t know anything. I never have. I just believe things which make sense to me.

I don’t know that what I write about in terms of love and marriage actually works. I just believe it strongly because I’ve read, discussed, and thought a lot about it and it made sense to me.

Maybe some really good guy out there has been married twice and did everything right both times, but in both marriages, his wife took advantage of him financially and slept with his best friend. Maybe now that guy can’t believe what I believe anymore.

I’m done pretending I know what it’s like to be another person.

Maybe some people can’t believe in God because they watched their mother die of a horrible disease she didn’t deserve to get, or because they lost family on Sept. 11, 2001, or because their parents told them there is no God, and since thousands of children die every day in Africa from asshole warlords and no sanitary water, that story made sense to them.

Something is true, and I don’t know what it is. But I like trying to figure it out.

The only thing I really know is what it’s like being me.

A flawed, broken, uneven human being who can feel joyful and grateful one day, and a little bit sad and empty the next.

A guy who does all kinds of things my faith community warns me could send me straight to Hell.

That might be total bullshit. Or 100-percent true.

I won’t know until I’m dead. That’s when we will all learn the truth OR when the lights go out and our consciousness insta-shuts off, and the book of our life ends, maybe mid-sentence and unresolved.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you I don’t believe in God.

Do I doubt some of the details of thousands-year-old religious texts which include mountains of symbolism and metaphor? Sure!

But do I doubt God’s existence, goodness, or power? How could I? Why would I want to?

Some people don’t like God and religion. But it’s not because of God and religion. It’s because some religious people do heinous, horrible things in the name of their faith, thereby making every sane person on earth despise them and reject their beliefs.

That makes sense to me.

If the only Christians you ever knew screamed “God hates fags!” at your gay friend or family member, or staged protests at the funeral of your neighbor killed in military combat, or bombed women’s health clinics because they’re somehow convinced God’s preferred solution to ending abortion is murdering people with guns and explosives, would you like them or want to practice the same faith?

Isn’t that what many Muslims deal with now? Judgment and squinty-eyed suspicion based on the actions of a few?

Life has clearly demonstrated that one size does not fit all.

I think everyone feels the emptiness sometimes. Every faith. Every walk of life.

Things just feel off, sometimes. We can’t figure out why because when we write it all down on paper, our lives are exactly what we think we want.

I HAVE EVERYTHING I WANT AND STILL DON’T FEEL HAPPY.

I love my wife and I want to be married, but I don’t always feel like sacrificing for her. I don’t always feel like not putting my penis in others I’m attracted to. My marriage didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, so what’s the point?

There will always be that third group. The group too damaged to love themselves or others. Who just want to watch the world burn.

Then there’s the rest of us. With all our doubts. All our ignorance. All our guilt. All our shame.

Crooked souls trying to stay up straight.

The longer we live, the more bad things we experience. We collect more scars. We lose more innocence.

It’s so easy to embrace the cynicism now. To abandon hope while the politicians scream, and the fanatics shoot, and greedy abuse, and our friends fail us, and our marriages burn while we cry.

But here we are. Still trying.

We pray and we hope. We try to be good, for the sake of being good. We do things that are difficult or inconvenient because it’s what’s right.

People keep waiting for a blinding light. For God to speak thunderously from a mountaintop or burning bush. To feel certain again. Like when we were kids and less afraid of everything.

God doesn’t yell. We’d all know if that were true.

He whispers. Whispers are hard to hear.

I think when people have everything they ever wanted and still don’t feel happy, or genuinely love their spouse and family and want to be married, but still feel empty?

I think that might be a whisper.

I think that’s when we’re supposed to cede control. For God to fill the gaps. I think God likes working in the margins.

I’m never going to suggest you need to be saved. That you should believe what I believe. That I have some answer you don’t. I don’t know. And I think most, if not all, people who say they know are mistaken or lying.

I will always try to ask the right questions, though.

When it seems as if all options have been exhausted, is it possible the only thing you’ve never tried is a legitimate leap of faith? Is it possible that could make the pain and fear go away?

I’ll always say what I believe and why and let others form opinions about it. To decide for themselves whether the nagging emptiness we don’t usually talk about might be a whisper. A nudge to wake up inside.

Maybe there’s no love without hate.

Maybe there’s no hot without cold.

Maybe there’s no light without darkness.

What do I believe? That the shadow proves the sunshine.

 

(Thanks to Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman for writing this beautiful song, and inspiring this post.)

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Hypocrisy, Dating & God Hating Me

This_happened_LOGO_S

(Image/thishappened.podbean.com)

So, I met a girl.

She seems to like me.

It’s weird, because that never happens. (Yes, that’s hyperbole.)

But it’s also not weird because when it DOES happen, there’s always some obstacle, major inconvenience or unusual challenge attached to it. Always.

It’s The Matt Way®. Things can never just be normal and easy. Not with me. Luck might have something to do with it. Maybe ADHD, too. But all signs seem to point to this unfortunate probability: God must totally hate me.

I’m an asshole. Let me put that out there. I don’t mean that I’m mean and treat people poorly. I just mean, in a 50-percent-serious, self-deprecating sort of way, I’m an asshole.

Why am I an asshole, you ask?

Because I met her on an online dating site, which you might consider strange, if not impossible, since I swore off online dating more than two years ago and have constantly railed against it as shitty and horrible and unnatural and couldn’t POSSIBLY have an online dating account! And that makes total sense that you’d think that.

If it’s any consolation, I promise I’m really embarrassed about it, and that it’s not my first time being kind of a hypocrite.

A few weeks ago, because I’m a shitty planner, I let a weekend sneak up on me without making plans. One of my friends and I were going to go out for a few drinks. But then he got sick and needed to stay home. And then, because all my local friends are married and/or have children and don’t live in Asshole Single Guy World where smart planning has forsaken these lands, everyone already had full calendars and I ended up spending most of the weekend alone in my house, and that was that. I’d had enough.

Some people like being alone. I’m one of them, sometimes. I was an only child, and I love writing, reading, and poker—all things best accomplished alone or among strangers you don’t really want to talk to. Creeping up on three years removed from my marriage, I’m totally fine being alone.

The flipside? I’m ridiculously social. If I could ONLY choose company or solitude for the rest of my life, I would choose company for sure. Maybe even a lot of people. A lot of people is good. I like energy and connectedness and togetherness and all that shit. Very much. It’s life-giving to me. I’m at my very best in a room full of 40 people I know and love who brought along 10 strangers for me to befriend.

But there I was, watching HBO and football, and writing from my couch two weekend nights in a row, and I was done.

This is bullshit, I thought.

Match—the online dating site I used for a few months when I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating two and a half years ago—had sent me one of their crap emails telling me someone had winked at me, or whatever.

I texted my friend: “Remind me again that I hate online dating and don’t want to do it.”

Huge mistake. He’s super-smart and I usually listen to him. Even worse? He is more than a year in with a new girlfriend (an excellent one) he met through Match.

I don’t remember what he said, but it felt like a two-handed shove toward the vortex of suck, and I fell in.

Also, I want to deflect some of the blame.

I used to whine here that no girls liked me on Match.

But then I read my profile that was still live from spring/summer 2013. It sounded EXACTLY like an insane, insecure, whiny, crying mess of non-sexy loserness had written it.

Good God, this is bad. No wonder that shit didn’t work.

I rewrote it.

I can’t be certain it’s the best-written Match profile of all time, but there’s a fair chance it’s the best in my 50-mile radius. Girls liked me. I talked to some of them, but there was nothing there. Even though it wasn’t a rejection festival to the degree it was more than two years ago, it still sucked ass.

I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m either someone who passes your primal attractiveness test, or I’m not. And if I do? You’re probably going to like me because, cocky as it may sound, I don’t make it hard. I’m not the smartest, funniest, wittiest, sexiest or most charming, but I have enough of all that stuff to make it work in real life.

But not so much on Match. And that’s what I hate about online dating. It takes away the one thing I tend to excel at: one-on-one interaction.

Even though I’m kind of a hypocrite about online dating, I’m not a hypocrite WHILE online dating. I try hard to be fair. And it’s perfectly fair for women to want to date tall, never-married, childless men. Those aren’t unreasonable preferences. I have preferences, too.

Match would be amazing for casual dating. If it was all about dating simply for the sake of having something to do. And I’d be all for that if I thought legitimate platonic friendships might result from doing so. But it doesn’t work like that. And if something can’t end well, I have a hard time investing in it. Even when I really like the other person and believe it could go somewhere if things were different.

People hear me say that and assume I’m wife hunting.

Not true.

I don’t crave marriage. It’s scary. I don’t even crave a committed, monogamous relationship. That has never been my objective, or even my hope.

My only hope?

To meet someone so amazing that I would want those things with her.

I’ve met some great people since becoming single. Under other circumstances, things could have gone differently.

But no previous encounter had a viable happy ending. Single parents put their children first. And when your loyalties are (appropriately) with your children, it often makes single adulthood more challenging.

Not that this thing now is less challenging.

She lives three hours away, even though she used to live in my town, because God’s hilarious.

Some people don’t think that’s a big deal, but I intentionally don’t date people who live even an hour away. Want to know why? Because that’s three hours, roundtrip on a wintry Tuesday night for dinner and a movie, and that’s some serious bullshit.

I don’t do it because I’m selfish and I want to actually see and spend time with the person I like.

I don’t do it because I think, fundamentally, long-distance relationships are unsustainable.

So, here’s the deal: I’m breaking a ton of my dating rules on this thing. But I’m not compromising ANY values. Not one.

Whether it was radical differences in life philosophy or personality, insurmountable geography, or a bunch of really bad timing, a fatal flaw in any potential relationship tended to rear its head immediately.

But not this time. Even with all the rule breakage. Not this time.

She lives three hours away.

She’s an insanely busy person, personally and professionally, which keeps communication comparatively infrequent.

She’s a mother of three. (I had a no-more-than-two-kids rule, because I already have enough trouble with time- and money-management.)

She might be a fraction of an inch taller than me. (Classic, right?)

Any of those four things would filter you out of my online dating preferences if these hadn’t been particularly unique and unusual circumstances, quite possibly orchestrated by a God intent on smiting me. “Hey guys, check out this dude, Matt. I kind of hate him. Watch this!”

And then, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Alakazam!

This thing.

And it’s way too early to know what “This thing” is, but I insta-turned off my Match account after meeting her and that felt like something.

And it’s way too early to be scared, but it still feels scary.

And it’s way too early to make judgments or predictions about anything, because really? Who knows anything, ever?

I only know that it’s different.

No matter what happens next, this time’s a little bit different. Because I’m still single. But I’m not still available. And that feels like something, too.

Wow, two and a half years feels like a lifetime ago.

Wow, this is crazy and different.

Wow, I’m going to hit Publish.

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The Purple Shirt Theory

Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he's a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this. I don't know. But isn't it worth trying to figure it out?

Maybe Bruce Banner will get a pass since he’s a fictional character. Maybe actor Mark Ruffalo is going to burn for this grave offense. I don’t know. But isn’t it worth trying to figure out?

Is there a God?

That’s not something I ever asked myself growing up because I was raised in a pretty religious household and pretty much only knew other religious people in my small Ohio town.

I never asked it until I was older, divorced and felt like dying.

It’s a question that makes us feel something on the inside. Maybe comfort. Maybe discomfort. Most of us don’t talk about it because it has become impolite to talk about such things. Some people will kill you if you don’t believe what they believe. Others will hate you.

But you’re safe here.

I won’t kill you.

I won’t hate you.

I just want to tell you about the Purple Shirt Theory, because I think it’s interesting.

Relativism n. – the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

I’m guilty of engaging in relativism from time to time. It’s one of the ways I justify some bad thing I’ve done, or justify not doing some good thing I should be doing. I think everyone does it once in a while.

We think: Well at least I’m not like [insert person you think sucks here]! What an asshole!

And all the sudden we feel better about the times we were assholes because it was less assholey than the times that suckier person over there was.

I’m Catholic.

There are a lot of rules and frankly, I’m not the best Catholic in the world. I don’t mean I might be second place, either. I mean, I’m probably in like 118 millionth place.

The reasons I’m not a great Catholic generally revolve around sex and drinking, which is likely the reason most people aren’t great at being one.

Here’s what people like me do. We look around at the world and we see all the people who are bigger assholes than we are. (Which might not even be true. We just think it is.)

Guys are married and their wives are pissed at them, but sometimes they think: At least I’m not like Roger! That guy cheats on his wife all the time! At least I’m not like Larry! That guy gambles his paycheck every week! At least I’m not like Freddy! That guy gets drunk every night! At least I’m not like Michael! That guy hits his wife and kids!

And because we don’t cheat, and we don’t gamble away our savings, and we don’t drink excessively, and we don’t physically abuse anyone, all the sudden we feel morally outraged because our wives or whoever are criticizing us about something. And it could be so much worse! we think. They should be grateful!

Because we’re getting a C on our report card while other people are getting Ds and Fs, we sometimes feel like we’re doing a good job.

It’s because people like to lie to themselves in order to feel better and sleep at night. I’ve done that before.

Getting Cs isn’t so bad!

It kind of is. C grades are shitty.

There is much debate about what’s right and what’s wrong. People disagree all the time about what is okay and not okay to do. It’s at the very heart of the cultural and political wars being waged globally.

I don’t know what’s right.

I don’t know what’s wrong.

I only know how certain things make me feel. I know some things seem okay to me. And some things do not. And that’s how I decide for myself.

And this is the part where it gets scary.

The Search for Truth

The following is indisputable: SOMETHING is true.

What I mean by that is, if you knew everything there was to know, you would know all of the true things from all of the false things. And for the purpose of this conversation, I’m mostly talking about what’s good or bad, or right or wrong. No ambiguity. No guessing.

There are people—many of them—who believe everyone gets to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong. That’s relativism. And I promise I’m as guilty of practicing it as anyone.

But what I’m absolutely sure of is that SOMETHING is true. Something is right. Something is real.

And that anyone on a quest to live the best, most-fulfilled life possible is OBLIGATED to seek it. We must seek truth. 

The Purple Shirt Theory

There either is a God. Or there isn’t. If there is no creator and everything is random and there is no such thing as right or wrong, then life is meaningless.

The Purple Shirt Theory only matters for people who believe in God, or believe it’s possible there is a divine creator or supreme being that started this whole life thing.

It goes like this:

IF you believe in God, then you believe there is an all-powerful creator who made the universe. Yahweh. The Boss. The Artist.

Ergo, what we think or feel or believe doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whatever the facts are. Whatever the truth is.

If God is true and God exists, then God makes the rules.

Sometimes, humans say that God made some rules and I don’t always agree with them. About things I should or shouldn’t do. About things I should or shouldn’t say. About who people choose to love and live with.

And we argue and we bicker, and maybe some of us are right, or maybe all of us are wrong.

I just think it’s REALLY important to always keep the truth in mind.

And the truth is this: IF there is a God. God makes the rules. Not us. Not the ants.

And no matter how unreasonable or incorrect or unfair we consider a rule or law or truth to be, our feelings and opinions on the matter mean precisely dick.

There is truth. Something is true. Something is certain. Something is real.

And it might be (it might!) that God says the greatest sin or moral crime you can commit is: Wearing a purple shirt.

We think it’s silly. OF COURSE it’s okay to wear a purple shirt! we all think. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would punish me for that! If that’s the kind of God he/she/it is, I don’t want to know him/her/it anyway!!!

We’ve all heard, said or thought that.

But we’re wrong—dead wrong—every time we resort to our feelings and opinions to justify an action or belief.

If life has no meaning… then I guess life has no meaning, and this is the most-pointless thing I’ve ever written.

But maybe it does have meaning.

Because SOMETHING is true.

We are wise to pursue whatever the truth is. We are foolish to not.

Maybe it’s okay to wear purple shirts. I think it probably is. But I wonder what the truth is.

Because maybe it’s not.

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When Life Erodes Faith

(Image courtesy of saludconabundancia.org)

(Image courtesy of saludconabundancia.org)

Maybe it’s different when all you know is hopelessness.

When warlords kidnap your children and force them to murder.

When mosquito bites or severe weather or missile attacks annihilate your village.

When all you ever know is poverty and illness and violence and death.

Maybe then, life is so bleak that you never really care whether you live or die. Maybe death and an eternity of nothingness sounds like sweet relief when nothing good ever happens anyway.

That’s not how it was for me.

Even though my earliest memories are living in a trailer park.

Even though my parents divorced when I was 4 and I didn’t get to see my dad very much because he lived 500 miles away.

Even though we never had a lot of money to do a lot of things other kids I knew were doing growing up.

Everything was great. I didn’t just feel loved. I felt special. I think it’s because my mom and grandparents were trying to compensate for my parents’ divorce by telling me how great I was all the time. Over and over again, my family would recount the story to me and anyone who would listen about how I wasn’t even supposed to be here.

The doctors told my parents I wasn’t going to make it on the day of my birth in 1979. The nurses took to calling me “the Miracle Baby.”

The unlikely human.

That’s me, I guess. I can’t remember much before about age 4, so I’ve never been particularly moved by the story.

I was showered with love and affection from my mother’s rather large extended family. There was no shortage of attention.

“Do you know how special you are, Matt?” my grandmother liked to ask me.

When you’re a child, you believe everything you hear, especially from parents and other trusted adults.

They told me things. My parents and other adults. And they could never lie or be wrong because when you’re little, it seems like they’re never wrong.

We believe fantastic stories.

Santa Claus. Delivering presents to every little boy and girl in the world in one night. Magic.

The Easter Bunny. I never imagined an actual bunny. More like a guy in a large bunny outfit. And that somehow didn’t give me nightmares.

The Tooth Fairy. I pictured someone small and Tinkerbell-like. But she had full-size money.

Mythical beings. I believed all of them to exist at varying points in my life.

When you accept these things on faith, and you grow up going to Sunday school classes followed by 12 years of Catholic school, it’s really not that hard to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, or that Jonah survived inside a whale for three days, or that the entire world was once flooded and everyone died except for Noah and his family who survived on a really large hand-built boat with a bunch of animals they rescued.

When you’re a kid, you just think: Sure! Noah and his incestuous family repopulated the Earth! Makes sense to me!

I used to get uncomfortable when I’d hear people ask questions that challenged any of my beliefs. You’re supposed to just BELIEVE! Like me! Trust me! I’m right! My parents told me and they’re never wrong!

Then my uncle died in a hit-and-run car accident and his murderer was never found.

Then I was a student leader on a Christian retreat in high school when total chaos erupted because my friend was accused of raping my other friend in one of the dorm rooms. So, either I’m friends with a rapist, or I’m friends with someone who lies about being raped.

Then my mom left my stepdad after 20 years.

Then we lost my father-in-law and my wife was never the same.

Then she stopped being my wife because I apparently wasn’t THAT special, grandma.

Then I sort of stopped caring whether I died because—honestly? Fuck this.

It’s totally unsettling when all the stories you ever believed about life and yourself turn out to be wrong.

Not lies.

Not fake.

But, wrong.

You find out secrets about people you know and then you can never think of them the same and you wish you didn’t know the secrets.

Your friends get divorced and everything feels a little bit tainted and broken after that.

People die. And you use to think: I’m sad that you’re gone, but I hope you have an amazing time in heaven and that I get to see you someday.

But now, you just think: I hope they’re there, but what if they’re not?

What if this is all there is?, and you scare yourself because now you know that you don’t know. Now, people talk about heaven, and in the back of your mind, you secretly think: I want you to be right, but I don’t want you to know how unsure I feel about that.

The loss of innocence that happens, usually incrementally, between childhood and adulthood is a quandary. Better to have everyone go through the shock-and-awe process? Or maybe, should we be doing a better job of preparing children for some of life’s harsh realities?

Protect and preserve their innocence for as long as possible? Let kids be kids? Or try to make it so the adult transition is less of a brutal mind job?

You have to be an adult before you learn there are no easy answers.

The sun shone through the gorgeous stained-glass window. St. Matthew’s name is at the bottom. There’s a purple flower I can’t identify just above the Star of David.

The priest was speaking from the pulpit. About faith.

Per the Gospel reading, Christ had resurrected from the dead. But Thomas was doubting the story his friends and fellow Christ followers were telling him because people just don’t come back from the dead. Doubting Thomas needed to see for himself.

Per the story, Jesus shows up. Lets Thomas touch him. See his wounds. Hear him speak. And, of course, Thomas believes now. Physical evidence of the greatest miracle ever told.

I use to feel sorry for Thomas because he couldn’t have faith like me. But now, I just totally get him. A sobering and depressing realization.

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,” Jesus said to Thomas and all within earshot.

But now I’m sitting in the pew, no longer knowing what I use to know.

I’m not saying I don’t believe it. I’m saying: I don’t know. And I need it to be okay with everyone that I don’t know because that’s what’s true, and truth shouldn’t need defended.

The priest talked about how when people don’t eat intelligently and don’t take care of their physical bodies, they tend to get sick and die.

When you do eat smartly and build your body up, you tend to feel youthful and vibrant and prolong your life.

Then he transitioned to matters of faith.

“This is why we PRACTICE our faith,” he said. We always get better at things when we practice them.

The only way to have a strong, youthful, vibrant, unwavering faith? To practice it, he said. When you neglect your spiritual health, your faith erodes, he said.

Withers away into nothingness like our dead bodies in the ground.

I was reading a space encyclopedia for kids with my son. A pretty thorough explanation of our solar system and what we currently know about the universe.

As best as science can tell us, everything we know to be physical matter—that is STUFF, like planets and stars and comets; all physical objects—makes up about 5 percent of the known universe. That’s it. Five percent.

“26.8% of matter is ‘dark’, we know it’s there because on large, cosmic, scales stuff moves around faster than it should and because the way that galaxies strew themselves across space is consistent with the existence of vast amounts of slow-moving gravitating ‘stuff’ that never turns into stars or planets or anything, just stays as diffuse, invisible, incredibly antisocial particles,” wrote Caleb Scharf, director of Columbia University’s Astrobiology Center, in Scientific American.

We don’t really know anything about those particles, either.

The largest percentage of stuff in the universe is called “dark energy.”

“Something is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. It didn’t used to. Until about 5 or 6 billion years ago the stretching of space following the Big Bang was in decline, but then something started to counter that, another unseen component, perhaps a type of vacuum energy density that fills up space as space itself grows. What exactly is it? We do not know. We have lots of ideas though, which is great, always good to have ideas about 68.3% of the universe,” Scharf wrote.

It’s possible that life is meaningless and that how we spend our time and how we treat others doesn’t matter.

But it doesn’t feel that way. No matter how right or wrong my parents were, it very much feels to me like our choices matter.

I look around and see an astounding amount of beauty. Spring has sprung where I live. Color and life returning as it does each year. Rebirth.

A cycle that feels entirely too intricate to me to have just happened by chance.

I really look.

I don’t see random chaos.

I see order.

I see creativity.

I see design.

Scharf said it all.

What EXACTLY is it? We don’t know. We have lots of ideas, though. Which is great. It’s always good to have ideas about the universe. About all that stuff we can’t explain.

Hello, God. It’s me, Matt.

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The Flammable Heart

heart-on-fire

I used to be homophobic, an unabashed litterer, and so pro-life that I would argue passionately against the idea that women should have a right to choose whether to abort babies.

I used to believe all illegal immigrants should be deported. I used to believe that any system rewarding racial or gender quotas was shitty and unfair. I used to believe racism wasn’t a problem in the United States and was limited to a few uneducated rednecks with nothing better to do than hate people.

I used to think that if you didn’t believe Jesus was God, you were ignorant, uneducated and doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and an unpredictable afterlife.

And if you didn’t agree with me, you were wrong.

I don’t like to write about religion or politics or any controversial subjects where, afterward, you might decide you don’t like me because we don’t agree on the same things.

Because that happens.

Really conservative people find out Matt Damon and LeBron James stumped for President Obama and all the sudden both guys are morons and “I’m never watching Good Will Hunting or the NBA again!!!”

Really liberal people find out Gene Simmons is conservative and that Ted Nugent is a gun advocate and enthusiast and all the sudden both guys are morons and “I never liked their shitty music anyway!!!”

I don’t want to write things that cause division.

I don’t want to write things that cause anger.

I don’t want to write things that could lead to you thinking I’m a bad or stupid or foolish person.

I like exploring all of the things that connect us and not the things that divide us.

But today? I want to write about what I think and why.

And I want to write about the process of believing one thing and then changing my mind, and what that might mean.

Maybe I’ll offend you. Maybe you won’t like me afterward. I hope that’s not what happens. And if you do disagree I hope you’ll tell me why because I love to discover other perspectives that help me evolve.

That’s So Gay

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a really conservative, Catholic environment in a small Ohio town where boys played football and never wore pink. But I was always homophobic growing up.

As far as I knew, I didn’t know any gay people, but they probably all had AIDS and wore leather chaps. And if they were guys? They all probably wanted to shower with me naked and touch my penis and convert me to gaydom.

I was also taught that God got soooo angry at gay people during Old Testament times that he destroyed an entire city with fire where everyone was apparently having gay sex. It was soooo bad that if you turned around and looked at the city while it was being destroyed you turned into salt.

Being gay must be REALLY bad!

And then I grew up and met a bunch of gay people. Not ONE has mistreated me or displayed a tendency for unkindness. Ever. Not one ever wore leather chaps in front of me. No one ever tried to hook up with me except for creeper Giovanni that one time.

EVEN IF you subscribe to the premise that the act of homosexual sex is sinful because the Bible says so, it dawned on me one day that a bunch of straight people have sex all the time too even if they aren’t married and that THAT is also a sin, according to biblical teachings. Yet, we don’t see this huge groundswell of anti-premarital sex opponents boycotting organizations or forming lobbying groups against pre-marital sex rights.

Want to know why?

Because basically everyone thinks about sex all the time and wants to do it and most people actually do even if they’re not married. And because people are hypocrites and capable of justifying damn near anything, they think their straight sins are less bad than gay sins.

I don’t like hypocrisy. And I don’t think I’m in ANY position to start “ranking” sins. So one day I stopped.

And now? I want people to do what’s in their heart. And to love who they love.

If the God I believe in exists, that all-powerful creator will sort out all the nonsense in the next life.

If my God doesn’t exist, my consciousness will simply shut off like a light bulb when I die and I’ll decompose in the ground and worms and insects will eat me, and being unkind to people because they liked to have sex with people of the same gender will not have done me any good.

Oh, Those Environmentalist Whackos!

I used to litter all the time, mostly by chucking cigarette butts out my car window. But I would also sometimes throw out empty cans or used napkins or whatever else. Garbage that would end up in a country road ditch.

This lasted until I was 22 and moved to Florida and started hanging out by the whitest sand and clearest water I’d ever seen.

I’d find cigarette butts and discarded trash on the beach. How could they do that!?!?, I’d think.

Then I realized what a hypocritical douchebag I was being and stopped throwing cigarette butts out the window for someone else to clean up or to wind up in that beautiful water.

I was also a newspaper reporter and I covered the power companies in Florida. I began to research and report on stories about certain power plant emissions into the air and discharge into nearby waters.

The mercury levels in fish got so bad near one power plant that people couldn’t eat it. I learned about how high mercury levels in your body are virtually irreversible and can cause serious illness over time.

I started to think about how the planet was here long before me and how it will be here long after I’m gone. I started thinking about how our ancestors were such good stewards of the land, and how we’re so shitty at it. We just mow down trees and wipe out various species because we want to build another strip mall, or build a new deck from exotic Brazilian hardwoods.

I decided it was bullshit. I’m not for punishing businesses based on incomplete science. But I am absolutely for erring on the side of taking good care of the world around us. And I’m absolutely blown away that it has become a political issue.

There’s a place in the Pacific Ocean called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” because it has so many plastic particles floating on or near the surface. I want to know what political party is in favor of that.

The Right to Choose

Is there a more divisive topic? I don’t think so. It scares me to talk about and write about. Especially because I’m a guy and believe my opinions are worth about 20 percent of what a (potential) mother’s opinion is worth because I will NEVER be faced with some of the very difficult choices pregnant women sometimes face.

For all my life, I believed abortion isn’t a whole lot different than killing a baby.  I’ve never understood the argument that an eight-month-old baby in her mother’s womb is different from a two-week-old baby outside the womb. I have a couple cousins in their 20s who were born premature. After six or seven months.

And my brain is simply incapable of coming to a conclusion that we MUST protect that baby outside the womb, but that deciding the fate of the child still in the womb is somehow optional, even though, mathematically, the child in utero may actually be older.

It’s all very messy and confusing.

I’ve come to believe that Roe vs. Wade is unlikely to ever be overturned, and that even if it was, it wouldn’t stop abortions from happening.

I have made a choice to not debate it. The only pregnancy that is any of my business in the history of the world is the one that involved my wife and son. The rest are not my business.

Some people are so passionate against abortion that they protest outside of abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood buildings and intimidate young women who might be scared and need help. They usually do this in the name of Christianity despite acting NOTHING like Jesus ever did. A few of them have even bombed clinics or killed doctors who perform abortions. I can’t stand with people like that.

The Immigration Issue

Because I was ignorant, I used to think of immigrants as only being poor people from places like Mexico or Cuba. I never took any time to think about the fact that my great-grandparents immigrated to this country in the 1930s, and opened a bakery in Cincinnati, Ohio before getting freaky and making my grandmother who loves Liam Neeson and remains alive and well.

Did my great-grandparents do it all legally and pay taxes? Yes. And is there a difference between that and the way some people sneak across the border and live undocumented in the United States and other countries? Sure.

But imagine being a young child growing up in Mexico. And your grandfather and your father and your uncles and your older brothers all snuck into the United States and worked for cash and sent money back home so your family could eat food. Imagine if that was the only thing you ever knew. How could you ever believe it was wrong?

While I very much want people working in this country to pay taxes and contribute because our country is essentially a failing business right now that needs to find a way to become a profitable one if we’re going to survive into the future, I have to be a human being first.

And anyone who thinks money is more important than people will never find themselves on the same side of a debate as me.

People have to matter most.

No Racism Because Obama, Jordan, Hendrix!

Because I was obsessed with Michael Jordan and most of my sports heroes were black and Eddie Murphy was the funniest man alive, there’s no way racism was still a problem in America.

Lincoln freed the slaves in 1836!!!

I used to think that when I was a kid. Want to know why? Because I’m white and despite growing up a little poor, I STILL was able to attend private school and almost never had anything really bad or dangerous happen around me. Because police never once suspected I might be up to no good because of my skin color or because of how I dressed.

I’m a white, straight man. As the hilarious Louis CK once said: You can’t even offend me. That’s how good straight white guys have it. I’m trying to think of a time someone discriminated against me and I thought it was unfair and was somehow denied an opportunity because of it.

I’m drawing a blank.

And if you’re like me? And you can’t think of a time like that either? Maybe it would be wise to join me in my quest to be less of an asshole and pretend like I understand what it’s like to be black or female or gay or an immigrant in the United States.

I Have Faith, But I Don’t Know

I have believed in God my entire life but I can’t and won’t say that I know there’s a God.

I’m sorry. I can’t do it.

I don’t know.

I believe, based on my personal experiences, that there’s a God. God makes sense to me. I look around at all the miracles and intricacies that make up this amazing and awe-inspiring world and universe we live in. And I see purpose. Intent. Design.

Other people look around at war and kids with cancer and injustice and ask: How could a benevolent God allow such things?

It’s a fair question. And I don’t have any answers. Some of the best people I know are tested the hardest. They don’t deserve it. Other people are heathens, and they seem to have everything in life go their way.

Why?

The most important thing to happen to me as an adult is when I realized and admitted that I just don’t know.

Don’t know, what?

Don’t know anything. Not in any sort of big-picture sense. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I die. And I’m not going to act like a lunatic and pretend that I do. It’s foolish and a time-waste.

But I know things about how my mind and body respond to things that happen around me.

I know that injustice makes me feel rage.

I know that tragedy makes me feel sad.

I know that being helpful and giving more than I take gives me meaning and purpose.

I know that love—not just romantic love—but the love I feel for us, for people, sets my heart on fire.

And if that isn’t a good compass to follow for how we should live, then I’ll never know what is.

I don’t have any answers but I have a whole bunch of questions.

Sometimes, things make me feel shitty. I’m going to try to not do those things.

And some things make me feel awesome. Like I really am connected to you and him and her and them, no matter what they think and no matter who they have sex with and no matter what color skin they have and no matter who or what they pray to.

We’re all going to die. But not today.

And the things we used to do or think that were wrong have no bearing on who or what we are now.

None of us can change the entire world.

But every one of us can change our own.

Maybe go tell someone you love them. Right now.

Then do something about it.

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The Human Mosaic

mosaic tiles

“I love pizza.”

“I love pizza, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What’s your favorite kind?”

“Deep dish with white sauce and chicken, tomato and spinach!”

“Wait. What? That’s barely even pizza.”

“Of course it’s pizza. I get it from pizza makers. What’s your favorite kind?”

“Normal stuff! Pepperoni. Sausage. Mushroom. Extra cheese. Tomato sauce. New York-style crust, preferably.”

“Sausage? Thin crust? Gross!”

A couple of human beings with a shared passion. And still disagreeing.

One of the worst things about me is my ability to make people feel like I don’t respect them when my personal tastes differ from theirs.

It might even be why I’m not married anymore.

Because my perfectly intelligent wife couldn’t flip through TV stations and pause on 16 and Pregnant or some other morally bankrupt show without me making some snide comment about it that made her feel like I didn’t respect her.

Because everything I do is so smart and righteous!!! Excuse me while I drink too much and air hump something, puke in the bathroom, and play Grand Theft Auto V all morning while I recover from the hangover.

I’m such an asshole sometimes.

“I love music.”

“I love music, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What’s your favorite band?”

“I mostly listen to whatever is popular on the radio!”

“…”

“What!?”

“I love peanut butter.”

“I love peanut butter, too! It’s my favorite!”

“Crunchy or creamy?”

“Creamy, of course!”

“God.”

“I love wine.”

“I love wine, too! It’s my favorite! What’s your favorite kind?”

“I like many wines, but lean heavily toward dry reds.”

“Ohhh. You’re one of ‘those’! I like sweet wines!”

“Like boxed white zin?”

“Yes!”

“God.”

I wonder why it is that so many of us have so much trouble accepting that other people have radically different tastes and points of view, then embracing and acknowledging that it’s not only okay, but preferable to everyone liking the exact same things.

“I love God and want to go to heaven!”

“I love God and want to go to heaven, too! Also I’m gay and pro-choice.”

“Burn in hell, sinner.”

Why do we fight it? Politics? Is that why? The political arena is a useful place for healthy debate and exchanging ideas. But out here, where 99 percent of us live, why do we treat people like shit because they voted for the other guy in the last election?

If an asteroid was going to destroy the planet tomorrow, I wonder how many people would care about who voted for who.

“I love reading.”

“I love reading, too! It’s my favorite!”

“What do you like to read?”

“French poetry, biographies, and romance novels. Want to borrow a book?”

“…”

We’re all different. But we’re all the same, too. We all have different interests and passions and beliefs.

Many people like sports! But golf fans don’t have much to discuss with auto racing fans. Soccer fans don’t have much to discuss with baseball fans.

Many people like sex! But straight people don’t like the same things as gay people. And the things that make one person feel good can feel like a violation to another.

Many people love beer and movies and food and clothes and dancing and charitable causes and writing and pets and an infinite number of other things.

Hobbies and passions that unite massive amounts of people. Yet, even within those groups of common interests, there are people with radically different tastes and opinions about what is “right” or what is “best.”

People knew it was okay to enslave African people like property and treat them shitty.

People knew if they hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings that they would die martyrs and be rewarded in heaven.

People knew the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

People knew Y2K was going to cripple the world’s infrastructure.

People knew Bill Cosby was a good man.

People know they’re right and people who disagree are wrong. The people who are wrong know they’re right.

Maybe nobody really knows anything. And maybe thinking we do is holding us back from being the best versions of ourselves.

Maybe creamy peanut butter is actually better than extra crunchy peanut butter.

Maybe popular music is actually awesome. After all, it’s popular!

Maybe people who don’t like craft beer actually still like beer.

Maybe people who prefer white pizza actually do qualify as pizza lovers.

Maybe we’re always just too close to the mosaic to see what everything really looks like from the big-picture perspective. To see why that piece is here and that piece is there. And why they’re all different shapes and sizes and colors.

Step back and look.

A little bit further.

There.

Beautiful.

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The Underdog

Rocky. Great underdog. Eye. Of. The. Tiger. I got it. You just don't know it.

Rocky. Great underdog. Eye. Of. The. Tiger. I got it. You just don’t know it.

I have to set the record straight.

Because a lot of people seem to think I’m this big mess of self-doubt with no self-confidence.

It became clear yesterday when the author of Broken American Dream Diaries wrote the following to me:

“Dude, you might need to do some dating affirmations because only women in similarly desperate situations (moi!) find such a lack of confidence endearing.

“Say this in the mirror 10 times every morning:

“I am fuckable.

“I am cute.

“I will get laid.

“I am attractive to others.

“Etc.”

I smiled. She’s just looking out for me and offering some practical advice I already know to be true. Please visit her blog if you’re interested in good, honest writing.

Women have always and will always be attracted to confidence.

Well, hold onto your vaginas ladies because I’ve got some news for you: I am totally confident. About a great many things. Most things, in fact.

Dear female readers: Don’t be alarmed by all the blood rushing to your privates. That’s just you thinking: Whoa. I KNEW I wanted to bang that guy!

David and Goliath

Who doesn’t like a good underdog story?

People who suck, that’s who.

Everyone else likes them. Especially me.

Always have. Always will.

You like Mario? I like Luigi.

You like Mickey? I like Donald.

You like Ferris? I like Cameron.

I loved it when Napoleon Dynamite danced. And maybe even found a girlfriend in the end.

I loved it when Rocky took out Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

I loved it when Rudy got that sack for the Notre Dame football team against impossible odds.

I love underdogs.

I root for underdogs.

And I love to be the underdog.

The Art of Self-Deprecation

I can’t decide whether I’m really good, or really bad, at self-deprecation.

It’s just my shtick.

There’s probably some beautiful sweet spot between humble and cocky where we’re supposed to live.

But because I think humility is such a wonderful human characteristic, and cockiness, such a shitty one, I err on the side of self-deprecation.

And if that makes me come off whiny and unattractive sometimes, so be it. Because I’d much rather be that than vomiting cocksure self-puffery all the time and leading people to believe I think I’m better than others.

Because I most certainly do not.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m kind of awesome.

Because… (*lowers voice to a whisper*)… I am kind of awesome.

Don’t tell anyone.

My I-Don’t-Suck Affirmations

I like who I am.

And I’m smart enough to try to change the things about myself I don’t like. I will always look for opportunities to grow in that way.

But today, we shine light on my positives:

I am kind.

I am. On the inside. I feel empathy for others. I want to help people. I don’t want to be mean, ever. I’m sensitive about people’s feelings and work hard to be someone who lifts people up and not someone who tears people down. This is not something I earned or worked for. I have always felt this way about people. I was blessed to grow up surrounded by a lot of loving and caring people. That, combined with my genetic code, yielded me. A pretty nice guy. Probably nicer than average. And I would not trade my propensity for kindness for any other human trait. I don’t know if I want anything for my son more than I want him to display kindness to others. I think it’s fundamental to succeeding in life.

I am smart.

Not like Harvard smart. And not like old-grandfather wise. But I’m relatively good at figuring things out. Being smart is important. Being smart keeps me from hating that gorgeous young woman who was crowned Miss America because she’s of Indian descent. Being smart allows me to string grammatically correct sentences together. And read stuff. Being smart allows me to think critically, ask good questions and draw fair and reasonable conclusions. These are important things.

I am funny-ish.

Humor is relative. My ex-wife thought I was less funny than most other people do. I’m rarely the funniest guy in the room. But I’m almost never the biggest stick in the mud, either. If 10 is some super-funny person, like Will Ferrell or Daniel Tosh or Louis CK, and 1 is some humorless lump—like, say a ham radio enthusiast or Dane Cook—I’m probably like a 7 or 7.5, depending on my alcohol intake and the number of kids present.

I have values.

I’m not good all the time. I’m cross-the-line flirty. I like drinking more than most productive and successful human beings. If my job didn’t randomly drug test, I’d probably smoke pot once in a while. But I also have a moral code, and for the most part, I stand by it. I believe in my God. I aspire to Christian principles, which I like to break down into three simple steps: 1. Love people. 2. Give more than you take. 3. Don’t be a dick. I think having some level of baseline values is important.

I’m good in the kitchen.

And I don’t just mean when I’m licking chocolate syrup off my dinner date. I very much enjoy food. There was a long time in my youth when I wanted to go to culinary school and be a chef. But I decided it would be hard to have a family working 70-hour weeks, and being absent every Friday and Saturday on the busy restaurant nights. Glad that decision worked out so well! In the meantime, I very much enjoy preparing meals for friends. And I’m pretty good at it, too. Reason #162 on the Why Dating Matt Is A Good Idea list, is that you definitely want me bringing you omelets and French toast in bed before you orgasm for the second time that morning. Which brings us to…

I am unselfish (in the bedroom).

Because I’m a person, I’m totally selfish about lots of things. Everybody is. But you know what I’m really good at? Not being a selfish douchebag in the bedroom. I take immense pleasure from the person I’m with enjoying herself. I love making people feel good by saying something nice to them, or helping them with something they’re working on. Multiply that times 69 for how much I enjoy making a girl feel in the bedroom. I’m no Adonis. I am not God’s gift to women, physically. But for the women who deem me physically attractive enough to de-robe, I am a viable bedroom partner. And by viable, I mean totally rad.

The Not-So Grand Finale

You get the idea.

I can sit around all day long and tell you nice things about myself. I was raised by wonderful people. I’m God-fearing and aspire to love everyone—literally everyone. That automatically makes me easier to get along with than about 70 percent of the world’s population.

I’ve spent my entire life having very positive feedback from people.

When I was young, my friends’ parents always liked me because I was polite and respectful.

When I was in college, most people liked me because I went out of my way to introduce everyone I could to everyone else. And I was almost never a dick.

When I was a newspaper reporter, sources liked me because I never burnt anyone. And even when I wrote something they didn’t like, it was always based in fact and completely on the up and up.

People tend to like me at business networking events.

People tend to like me at parties.

People tend to like me at work.

I have an entire lifetime of people responding to me mostly in positive ways.

I am kind. Friendly. Respectful. Polite. Well-mannered. Thoughtful. And fun-loving.

There are only four kinds of people in this world who don’t like me:

1. My ex-wife

2. Terrorists

3. Girls on Match.com

4. Dicks

Are we all good now? Are you convinced that I like myself?

May I go back to cracking on myself and whining about stuff?

Cool.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program of me not being tall enough…

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“Be Still and Know that I am God”

Strictly from a faith standpoint, this is my toughest test.

Strictly from a faith standpoint, this is my toughest test.

God talks to me.

Not from a burning bush.

Not from the heavens above.

Not in my dreams.

Not through any voices in my head.

Nothing weird.

But, once in a great while—as in just a few times in my life—He talks to me.

And the message I’ve been getting since Easter weekend—just hours before finding out my wife was leaving—is Psalm 46:10 from the all-time No. 1 bestseller which I’ve still never read all the way through.

Be still and know that I am God.

We Walk by Faith, and Not by Sight

At least, I’ve said that in church before. But I don’t always do it.

I have a little trouble letting go sometimes.

I was raised in the Catholic church. I don’t like to say that to too many people because I don’t want to give Catholics or Christians a bad name.

I don’t Bible thump.

I don’t judge other people’s personal choices.

And I don’t think I’m better than anyone. Ever. Quite the opposite, actually.

I don’t go to church every Sunday, even though I believe I should.

I don’t do a lot of things I believe would be best for my mind, heart and soul.

We’ve all got a little self-destructiveness in us. And I’ve been dabbling in that lately.

Drinking a lot. Even by my proud-to-be-a-social-drinker standards.

Smoking. Even though it’s a disgusting habit I kicked when I found out I was going to be a father six years ago.

And on the spiritual side of things, I’ve been angry and lazy and lax in my prayers.

I pray for my son.

I pray for my friends—particularly those who are going through tough times.

I pray for my family.

But most often these days, I pray for strength and courage. I pray for wisdom. I pray that I can be brave enough to walk the tougher path.

The one with steeper hills. The one that doesn’t have any “easy” shortcuts. The one that promises a real sense of accomplishment upon completion.

God Said it in the Bathroom

It was the Saturday before Easter.

And I was using a restroom in the home of one of my lifelong best friends. He and his wife are my son’s godparents. He is representing both my ex and I in this “amicable” dissolution which will conclude on Wednesday. My son’s godmother is an incredible example of how to do things even when they’re hard and inconvenient. She’s inspiring.

In their bathroom, they have a black-framed photo of a boat dock jutting out into a lake.

Printed on it: Be Still and Know that I am God.

And it stopped me in my tracks. And I just stared at it for a long time, thinking about its meaning. Wondering whether I really obtain the faith to cede control of my life during my most-challenging moments.

I still, in my heart and soul, believed my marriage could survive in that moment. That there was still a chance.

That very day, in fact, while my friend and I were rifling through old football cards like we were in grade school again, his wife—a good friend of my ex—looked me in the eye and said: “She’s not giving up, Matt. She sat right here last week, and I asked her: ‘Are you done?’ And she said no. She said she’s not done. There’s still hope.”

It was hard to believe. She’d grown more distant than ever. But I wanted to believe. I wanted us to make it.

Be still and know that I am God.

God Said it in my Grandmother’s Kitchen

My grandmother is ridiculously kind and sweet.

She is nice to everyone.

She loves her family.

And she loves her God.

She’s not afraid to supply chocolate bunnies, and plastic treat-filled eggs, and large food spreads. But you’re also not walking out without at least one token designed to remind you what Easter is supposed to be about for the faithful.

This year, my grandmother was handing out these little gray plastic fake stones. When they’re upside down they look real enough. Maybe three inches wide, two inches tall, and an inch thick. Faux stone finish.

There was a short Bible verse on the bottom side of these—all of them unique, no repeats—in this huge bucket of fake gray stones.

As people arrived, my grandma would hold out the container and ask us to take one.

It’s the kind of thing I normally would have thought was cute then never looked at again after that day.

But then I flipped it over.

Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God.

There were a lot of stones in that bowl. But that’s the one I grabbed.

Message received.

Are you There God? It’s me, Matt

Four hours later, after my son and I made the drive back home, I sat on one of the living room couches I no longer possess. It only took me a minute to notice.

She wasn’t wearing her wedding ring.

I’ll never forget that exact moment. It stopped me mid-sentence, and I don’t even remember what I was talking about.

She didn’t want to talk about it in front of our son. I remember dreading that walk downstairs to see her after kissing my son goodnight.

The last night we were a family.

She moved out the next day. My life has felt wrong and surreal ever since.

Most of the things that have happened between then and now have been documented here.

One month at a time. One week at a time. One day at a time.

I keep learning little things. I keep piecing more of the puzzle together. I keep learning things that make it hurt more.

I have just one priority as it pertains to my failed marriage: I want my son Owen to grow up feeling loved, safe, and being able to count on both of his parents to provide a stable, supportive foundation for him.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I found out yesterday that my ex has officially made plans to co-habitat with Rich Guy. My son told me.

I’ve found out over the course of the past few months, one small nugget of information at a time, what a horrible human being Rich Guy is.

He’s not a man that I can, in good conscience, allow to be part of Team Raising Owen.

He’s a man with no moral code. He’s a man with no ethics. He’s a man who doesn’t value family. Not his own, nor others. He’s a man who liked sex better than his high-paying job. But it doesn’t matter. Because he’s a trust fund baby who has always been able to buy his way out of trouble.

I want to burn this motherfucker down.

But I also want to maintain dignity and discipline.

I want to destroy their bullshit, poisonous, built-on-lies relationship.

But I also want to always take the high road—to be a good person even when it’s inconvenient. Because way too much has been broken already.

I want to expose this fraudulent asshole to my ex and to everyone else. Because, in the deepest recesses of my soul, I believe he’s a bad person.

And I have a real problem with bad people.

And I have a real problem with doing what I should.

And I have a real problem with having faith when life keeps delivering sucker punches.

Be still and know that I am God.

Man, I’m trying, Lord. And I know things happen on your schedule, not mine.

But please. Pretty please. Show me the way on this one.

Because I’m trying to walk the walk.

But I’m fresh out of walking shoes.

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