Repost: The Time My Mom Was Right

I’m still working away on that special project (that I hope to have for you to enjoy by Thanksgiving or so), so here’s repost #2.  Thanks for bearing with me!

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The original post is here, but you can just keep reading. And to clarify, my mom has been right about a lot more than this one thing.

The week before I started high school, my mom took me aside to have One of Those Talks. As only a mother can, she worried that my charm and winning smile would attract a bevy of girls. And some of those girls might lead me down the path of vice.

If mom ever saw me talk to a girl, she’d know she had nothing to worry about. My tongue turned to lead. Sweat beaded down my forehead. And when I started talking, a small piece of my brain told me that I was a thin-wristed loser who wasn’t pulling off that shell necklace. It’s hard to find a girlfriend under those conditions.

As high school rolled through college and into young adulthood, my tongue stayed as lead as ever. But my mother started believing that I was staying single on purpose. This was partly because she still saw me through mom-colored goggles.

Also, that’s what I told her.

Toward the tail end of college I realized that the sweaty forehead would probably never change. But I could change how I framed it. Instead of being the guy too awkward to talk to girls, I became the guy with too many plans to waste time on women.

My Plan

To change my mind, mom developed a bad habit. She started setting me up with a string of “the nicest girls.” But I couldn’t do it. Even though my singleness started as a defense mechanism to social anxiety, it had become a principle.

I had told myself that being single was a deliberate act of rebellion enough times to believe it. If anyone asked me why I was single, I had plenty of reasons:

  • I was reacting against the culture’s obsession with romance. I was taking an especially brave stance against evangelical marriage culture. John Brown University, like many Christian colleges, had a saying around campus that girls should expect a “ring by Spring.” This was one of those jokes that wasn’t entirely a joke. For lots of classmates, the purpose of youth was finding a spouse and preparing to be a spouse.

I was going to be different. I was going to demand more from life.

  • I had killer plans that required singleness. I was going to hitchhike across Europe making pastel sketches. I was going to launch an artisan soda company. I was going to write an epic poem entirely in limerick. I was going to grow out my hair and tie it behind my head like a Samurai. I was going to get the Bayeux tapestry tattooed across my chest.

There was no room in those plans for a relationship.

  • I also found a brochure for a monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Though they might frown on my samurai hair….

The Candidates

But none of this deterred my mom from her would-be brides. Her phone calls down to JBU sowed the seeds months in advance:

“Matt, I met the sweetest girl at church today. She’s new in town, and was looking for a church where they preach the word. She said the funniest thing when I met her–just like something you’d say…”

When I visited home, the girl would get invited over for dessert. Or asked to join us at the park for Fourth of July. Or offered the seat next to me in the church pew.

Nothing against these girls–they were all nice, and they had no idea they were a pawn in my mom’s master plan. But there was nothing I could do. I had decided to live as a cool loner, the way I imagined Jack Kerouac did. And there was no time for romance.

Besides, these were the girls my mom picked out. I couldn’t let her be right about this.

Trouble

The summer before law school, I met this girl named Danielle at work. Danielle was different. Not only was she both pretty and smart–I  could actually talk to her without my tongue turning to lead. I’d never seen this combination before. Maybe I could actually…

No. There was nothing I could do.

I was a sophisticated single man going to find his fortune in California. I was free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change. Besides, that little part of my brain was pretty sure Danielle thought I was a loser who looked stupid in that paisley tie. Seriously, what was I thinking on that Kohl’s trip?

The Revelation

That may have been how things ended. But then I invited Danielle and some other friends over to my house one evening. Mom was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang1. She answered it. That’s when she saw Danielle for the first time.

Here’s how my mom explains what happened when she opened the door2:

The light from the setting sun was blinding. It radiated around Danielle’s golden hair, wrapping her in a halo of light. Birds sang. Flowers bloomed. Harps played in the background. Everything in Danielle’s countenance–her smile, her eyes, the graceful nod of her head–told my mom that her quest to find her son’s wife had finished.

Now she had a real problem.

Mom’s Dilemma

On one hand, if she tried to set me up with Danielle, I’d see what was happening and reject it on principle. So she couldn’t set us up. But on the other hand, if she did nothing, I would leave for law school without anything happening. So she couldn’t not set us up either. Quite the dilemma.

The plan she settled on was to set us up without “setting us up.” A fine line, to be sure. In practice, this meant she never talked with me about Danielle, but she made sure that Danielle was always around.

It was still clear what was happening. The fact that the only people invited to my Dad’s birthday brunch were me and Danielle made me raise an eyebrow. But the fact that mom never directly talked about it took the edge off.

And what’s more . . . I didn’t mind mom inviting Danielle places. You see, I liked spending time with her.

And that was a problem.

My Dilemma

One one hand, I liked Danielle. She was pretty and I could talk to her without lead-tongue disorder. As a bonus, that little part of my brain even stopped calling me a loser (but it still hated my paisley tie). On the other hand, dating her would give up my principles, my soda company, and the samurai hair.

It would also mean proving mom right.

Hmm…

A week before I left for law school, my family and I were driving back from a trip to Texas. Head leaned against the window, I glazed over the brown fields and abandoned oil rigs. Okay, so I wanted to date Danielle. We stopped at a small town gas station, dust swirling against the mirrors. But that would mean mom was right. I got out to squeegee the bugs off the windshield. Maybe that wouldn’t be the worst thing….

Ten minutes later, I was furiously typing on my phone.

“Who are you texting?” mom asked.

“. . .” I replied.

A couple hours after I got back, Danielle and I started “officially dating,” or whatever I’m supposed to call it. I haven’t looked back since. And, I have to say . . . that is, I mean . . . what I’m trying to communicate is . . . *deep breath* my mom was right.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

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1  YES, I was living with my parents. I was about to go to law school and needed to save money. Cut me some slack, will you?!?! Why are you all staring at me? It’s my shell necklace, isn’t it?

2  And she has told this story A LOT.

Re-Launch

Yeah, I know it’s been a while….

I should explain why I haven’t posted anything since . . . I’d rather not check. My plan was to take a “month off’ from writing the blog, and that turned into this. Because everybody loves excuses so much, I thought I’d share some of mine:

  • I’ve written a lot of posts. For those of you rolling your eyes (I’m looking at you, dad), check out my “old posts” catalogue. I’ve written a bunch on evangelicals and cynicism. And so, so, much on Trump. I got to the point where I wanted to write about literally anything else. Plus, I had a nice fiction project I’ve been toying with.1
  • Writing took a lot of time. As you may have noticed (and if you didn’t, don’t tell me), my blog posts were carefully-written. They had logical flow, were polished to a varnish, and were far longer than blog posts should be. They also took a long time. Time that I, as a lawyer, husband, and father of two, didn’t have in abundance (come on Dad, stop rolling your eyes!).
  • Most significantly, I’d started losing confidence in my topic. I’ve written about this before,2 but after Trump steamrolled to the presidency, and seemed to confirm every negative stereotype about evangelicals in the process, writing nice things about evangelicalism became a slog.

This was all made more complicated by a not-so-hidden secret about this project. The reason I started this blog in the first place was…

Continue reading “Re-Launch”

30 Years, 30 Lessons

If you’re reading this, that means I’m 30. Yes, today’s my 30th birthday. Sigh. I’m one of those people who hates their birthday–I don’t like the attention, I don’t like having to choose everything we do, and I don’t like all the reminders that I’m another year older. And 30 is a birthday I’ve been dreading. I may not be old, but I’m definitely not young anymore. Sigh.

But one benefit of being 30 is that I now have three decades of wisdom and observations to impose on the rest of you. So here it is: 30 life lessons for 30 years of life.

Continue reading “30 Years, 30 Lessons”

Why I’m Sorry About Being Sorry

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated the blog in awhile1. A big reason for this is that my posts had fallen into a rut, and I got frustrated.

Here’s my recent formula: I start with a very evangelical topic–prayer, missions, youth pastors, etc. I then carefully (oh so carefully) broach my difficulties with the topic. I do this through portraying myself as a sneering jerk lobbing unfair criticisms. But then I realized I was a jerk. After this breakthrough, I am free to love the topic, and admit that the only real problem was me.

There’s a reason all my posts hit these same beats–I didn’t want anyone to get mad at me.

Continue reading “Why I’m Sorry About Being Sorry”

The Time My Mom Was Right

The week before I started high school, my mom took me aside to have One of Those Talks. As only a mother can, she worried that my charm and winning smile would attract a bevy of girls. And some of those girls might lead me down the path of vice.

If mom ever saw me talk to a girl, she’d know she had nothing to worry about. My tongue turned to lead. Sweat beaded down my forehead. And when I started talking, a small piece of my brain told me that I was a thin-wristed loser who wasn’t pulling off that shell necklace. It’s hard to find a girlfriend under those conditions.

As high school rolled through college and into young adulthood, my tongue stayed as lead as ever. But my mother started believing that I was staying single on purpose. This was partly because she still saw me through mom-colored goggles.

Also, that’s what I told her. Continue reading “The Time My Mom Was Right”

The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy

I used to think that every one of “Those Evangelicals” hated liturgy.

You haven’t heard of Those Evangelicals? It’s simple. Those Evangelicals are the shadowy others out there in the world. Whenever I disagree with Those Evangelicals about something, it makes me feel smart and edgy. And Those Evangelicals have an irrational fear of liturgy.

During my cynical days, I spent a lot of time defending liturgical traditions like Episcopalianism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy against the ignorance of Those Evangelicals. I also spent time concocting theories about why they hated it. Continue reading “The Real Reason Your Parents Don’t Like Liturgy”

What They Don’t Tell You About the Evangelical Bubble

When I was a cynic, I loved talking about the “evangelical bubble.” It was a constant topic at my evangelical college, John Brown University1.

Cynics tell themselves that evangelicalism survives by hiding in its own cocoon. When exposed to the outside world, it shrivels in the light of reason and knowledge.

Evangelicalism may well be a bubble. But it’s one of many. When my cynical friends talk about seeing the “wider world of ideas,” they’re actually trading one bubble for another.

Continue reading “What They Don’t Tell You About the Evangelical Bubble”

Kids: How Not to Be a Cynical Jerk Toward Your Parents Forever

You may think I’ve been ragging on parents lately. That’s totally unfair. All I’ve done is write three consecutive posts (here, here, and here) detailing every single thing that parents can do wrong. Why so sensitive?

But seriously. I don’t mean to blame parents. For many evangelical cynics, their cynicism is more about their their own attitude than their parents’ mistakes.

That’s how it was for me. My parents weren’t ultimately responsible for my cynicism–I was.

Regardless, dealing with parents can be stressful. It’s even worse when you’re struggling with cynicism and doubt. So here’s my advice to kids when their parents are driving them crazy and they want to be cynical.

Continue reading “Kids: How Not to Be a Cynical Jerk Toward Your Parents Forever”

Why Do Cynics Love Knocking Evangelicals?

I’m about to start a series where I analyze the myriad reasons people become cynical about evangelicalism. But that begs the question: why does evangelicalism attract so much cynicism?

I think it’s the convergence of several factors. They include:

  • Evangelicals are sincere. Instead of the self-aware distance our culture adopts, evangelicals engage with people openly and directly. When somebody is so gosh-darn sincere about how his new beliefs changed his life, he’s wide open to cynicism.
  • Evangelicalism is simplified. At the risk of starting a larger theological argument, evangelicalism lacks the complexity of other Christian traditions. Evangelicalism is about a handful of simple ideas clearly presented.1 It’s easy to attack somebody whose beliefs are “simpler” than yours.

Continue reading “Why Do Cynics Love Knocking Evangelicals?”

What Makes a Person a Cynic?

Because my blog is about quitting cynicism toward evangelicals, in my last post I defined evangelical. In this post, I’ll keep defining things: what makes a person a cynic?

As a lawyer, the first thing I look for when researching a new legal topic are the terms of art. Certain terms and phrases get defined and redefined so much they take a specific legal definition that’s different from their everyday definition.

It’s not enough for a lawyer to use Webster’s dictionary for a term like “negligence,” or “fair use,” or a “reasonably prudent person.” They’re terms of art.

The same thing will happen with “cynicism” in this blog. So before I get too far in, I’m going to tell you what I mean by a “cynic.”

Continue reading “What Makes a Person a Cynic?”