Marijuana, Bible Studies, and Bridge Construction

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“Shit! I have to go.”

Everything was hazy and surreal in the smoke-filled room. It’s because four of us just burned a massive blunt. I was pretty high. There was nothing particularly weird about that. In college, I was often pretty high.

“Where do you have to go?” my friends asked.

“Bible study,” I said. “I forgot all about it.”

“Bible study!? You can’t go to bible study!” my roommate said. He didn’t say it because he, or anyone else in the room, had a problem with faith or bible studies. He said it because I looked and smelled and was acting exactly like someone who had just smoked a lot of marijuana, and he figured—perhaps correctly—that it wasn’t an appropriate time to study Scripture.

“Gotta do it, man,” I said. And then I ran off on my 10-minute trek to meet a guy whose name I can’t remember to discuss a chapter in the New Testament I can’t remember discussing.

You know, because in college, I was often pretty high.

Can’t Stay Hidden Forever

In January, an exceptional guy about my age died. Everything was fine. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child. He was in excellent physical condition. Then, the doctors told him he had cancer the day after Christmas. And he was gone a month later.

Just like that.

The story hit me hard. I had never met Paul Coakley. But I knew quite a few people who were close to him in college and stayed in touch into our adult years. The story was tragic and touching and I wrote about it.

A random Google search yesterday led one of Paul’s friends to that post. They shared it on social media and now several hundred people have read it, and many of them shared it some more.

Because that happened, more people I know in real life discovered this blog. The world closes in on me every time that happens. More people to judge the adult version of me. A version of me so different from the one they might remember when I was young, confident, always positive and optimistic, strong, brave, and afraid of little.

Now, they’ll find someone else.

A divorced single father who hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. A guy who failed to achieve professionally, socially and spiritually, the life I’d always envisioned.

I’ve been writing here for two years now. I’ve grown accustomed to many people reading the things I write.

But it feels so different when it’s someone you know. People you respect deeply and maybe wish didn’t know about all your skeletons. The skeletons on display here. I used to joke a lot about my mother and grandmother finding this place and freaking out. That will probably happen one day.

I use my first name and I show my face because I feel like a fraudulent coward if I don’t at least do that.

Someday, I’ll have to own all of it. It still scares me, even though I’m actively trying to care less.

You can’t stay hidden forever.

What I’m Doing Here

Relativism (the reality of things being relative to one another—not the philosophical doctrine) is a funny thing.

Some people have seen and done things many of us can barely fathom. Especially some kid from a quiet little Ohio town, like me. Those people read about me smoking pot and all the keg parties and my bouts with conscience regarding sexual desire as a young kid in church, and probably roll their eyes, because to them—Who cares!?

Others living purer, more disciplined lifestyles might be more offended by my casual references to sex or my somewhat cavalier use of bad words. And I still worry about what other people think of me. It’s a weakness. I’m working on it.

Except, here’s the thing: I KNOW everyone feels most of the same things I feel. Because I’ve been alive 36 years and that’s enough time to figure out a few things.

I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies when I was 13. I grew up in one of those houses.

So it makes total sense that I wanted to party when I got to college and lived on my own. It’s totally human to want to learn and experience things for oneself.

The sex stuff? Everyone who claims to not understand is a dirty liar. Most people just don’t talk about it.

Everyone has a different definition of good and bad.

Behaviorally, I’ve long been a I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints kind-of guy.

Philosophically, I’ve always wanted to be a good person.

The older I get, the less I understand what it means to be a good person.

I only know that’s what I want to be.

I don’t know if it’s possible to bridge the gap between the righteous and the fallen. Because most of us don’t even know for sure what either of those things mean. But if there is such a thing—a bridge?

That’s who and what I want to be.

I’m probably doing it wrong.

If This is Low, I’m Looking for High

Being stoned during bible study is a metaphor for my life ever since discovering there are emotional consequences to various life choices.

Using the loose definition of these words, I want to be bad and I want to be good. I can’t look you in the eye and honestly say that I don’t occasionally want to do things I loosely define as “bad.”

I don’t know what it means to be a good person, but a good, loose definition might be someone who follows their conscience. Someone who has principles and sticks to them.

I’m certainly guilty of not always doing that.

I got high a lot back in college because I liked having fun with my friends.

I went to bible study because I liked the idea of pursuing a higher path (no pun intended).

And I’m always trying to offset some of the bad with some good. Like maybe if I do a bunch of good things, I can erase some of the bad things, even though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.

Like I’m trying in vain to scrub away some dirt in a foolish attempt to convince people I’m better than I am.

But I’m not better. I’m just whatever I am.

And if I ever did get to the top, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself.

I’m sure the view is nice.

But, in truth?

I dig the climb.

46 thoughts on “Marijuana, Bible Studies, and Bridge Construction”

    1. Really appreciate the share, OM. I appreciate even more that you get this on a human level. Thank you very much.

  1. Matt,
    it just shows how human you are. We all have struggles and you seem to be dealing with those struggles very well. When we face our struggles we won’t feel quite so all alone because you have shared with us.

  2. It’s posts like these, honest and reflective and…somewhat looking upward that get me every time. I’m laughing and nodding when you say “Being stoned during Bible study is a metaphor for my life…”. I think that I am similar but opposite…exalted and yet secretly wanting to be bad….a little.

    Here’s what I really think though. The higher the ceiling, the higher the floor. Meaning the more me ascend to those things we aspire to the the father away those really bad things get….ya know? like, they become too low for us.

      1. It’s so true. I’ve always sort of wanted it all. Sometimes my pursuit of fun and adventure found me doing things I didn’t necessarily think I should be doing. But I always wanted to be one of the good guys anyway.

        I probably have mental issues.

  3. you will be more critical of yourself/actions then those around you…real friends won’t judge harshly, but might poke a little fun…best friends already know…and when your friends are electronic…me, I hide one very serious aspect of my past from the world…I just assume the world won’t understand…but we do grow up and learn from our past adventures and/or mistakes…great post

    1. Thank you for checking this out, sharing, and leaving a comment.

      I think you’re right, of course. Live and learn. Hence, the oft-used phrase.

      Most people probably don’t think much of it because everyone has their own version of this same story.

      But yeah. We’re always more sensitive about ours.

  4. First of all, the vulnerability that goes into writing openly about your life floors me. It’s not something I could do and I admire that.

    Secondly, we’re human. We’ve all done things that we could define as bad just because we wanted to, we’ve all hurt other people whether intentionally or unintentionally, we’ve all let ourselves down to some degree in relation to our own expectations. In my opinion what fundamentally makes a person good is the effort; the willingness and openness that goes into trying to be better and do better than we are. There’s a lot of people that don’t get that life is about evolving and trying to be a better version of where life’s taken you.

    “And if I ever did get to the top, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself.”

    I think I needed to read that today and I thank you for it!

    1. It took a little practice. I still get scared and hold back a lot, I assure you.

      And yes. All human, indeed. I don’t know whether that SHOULD be comforting, but it IS comforting.

      You’re totally welcome. Thank you for reading it. I hope you’re having an amazing day.

  5. I can’t help imagining you dissolving into a fit of giggles over some bible passage. it’s a great image. But seriously, isn’t good and bad about how we treat other people, other creatures, the earth we live on–the good we do, the bad we do–rather than how well we stick to a set of principles that may or may not themselves be a good guide?

    1. I laugh a lot stone-cold sober. So, it seems likely that I did after a vigorous pot-smoking session, PROBABLY because it seemed like an inappropriate time which is always when things are funniest.

      And yes. People without properly formed (I don’t know how to define that) consciences sticking to their principles won’t mean a lot in a good vs. bad discussion. You’re right. It’s more about the actual good we do.

      You could only fill every library in the world with thoughts on all that. 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  6. We all screw up. I think it is a case of setting out with faith in yourself each day that you are going to try to give more than you take from others.
    And as someone who is coming up 43 and is still searching for my niche in life, it can be tough making a breakthrough and realise “I tried my best” and that is all I can do until tomorrow when I make the next step.
    Great post Matt, honest and involving as always, carry on digging the journey.

    1. Many thanks, sir.

      Until I read this yesterday, I had no idea you were British. That made my brain explode for a few seconds, just so you know.

      1. Yep, you’ve outed me as a Brit, but so just all the relevant countries get the credit/blame for me – born in England, Irish parents, American grandmother.

        1. I hope that wasn’t supposed to be a secret, Frank.

          You spelled realised with an “S.”

          We use a “Z.” That’s how I knew.

          I knew Andrew Lincoln was British, but for all the American Walking Dead fans, it blew their minds the first time they heard Lincoln talk in an interview.

          A mini version of that happened to me when I saw that S.

          Good times. Surprises are fun.

          1. I thought it must be that little S giving me away.
            Every time I see Andrew Lincoln in the Walking Dead I think back to the first character I saw him play on British television ( the character was nicknamed Egg), I hear him speak American and think “but that is Egg.”

  7. Great post!!
    You just spoke from my heart bro..
    Just followed your blog, hope you do check out what’s happening on and please do follow back.

    1. I really appreciate you sharing this post. Thanks for reading it.

      I will come follow along, sir.

      Good luck on your writing journey.

  8. I completely get it.

    It’s not by coincidence that the tagline to my own blog is “Dope-Smoking, Bible-Thumping Granny” because that is my world in a nutshell.

    My 420 friends don’t understand (nor do they care) why my faith life is so important to me, so it’s not like I can talk theology with them. And the non-420 people in my world would be HORRIFIED to discover that I’m chronic, so it’s not something that we can relate to each other on.

    So when those world’s collide. ..boom. I kinda choke.

    I have a lot more skeletons in my closet than my love-affair with my bong. None of which, in and of themselves, define me as a person. I’m not simply a “bad” drug-user or a “good” Christian. I’m complicated, but I’m an integrated whole.

    I really wish I had the courage to let others see the whole of me. Once again, you inspire me.

    1. I was thinking about you the other day. Seemed like I hadn’t seen you in a while. Glad to see you pop up here.

      I’m also glad you get all this.

      I more than understand being complicated. Yin and Yang, and all that.

      Something hard to define.

      I’m learning to love and accept it all anyway.

      Excellent to hear from you.

  9. I usually pass by lengthy reads, but you have good style. I also dig the climb. You have a new follower and I look forward to reading more posts.

    1. I’m ENTIRELY too wordy, and I’m sure it turns a lot of people off.

      I don’t know how to write 300-word posts. I figure the people who care will read.

      Thank you for caring this one time. I appreciate it very much.

    1. Right!? The same thing happened to me.

      I listened to both songs on my drive home yesterday and everything worked out.

    1. In a lot of ways? Yes.

      But I’ve been thinking about something I call the Purple Shirt Theory which doesn’t necessarily play nicely with that philosophy. I think I’m going to write about it tomorrow.

      Just ’cause.

      Thank you for reading this. Hope all’s well.

  10. In college, at our favorite bar, the bartender once said, “I really like that Mary girl, but every time she gets wasted, she talks about Jesus”- During Paul’s Eulogy, I shared that I always kind of wondered why he was friends with a big ol’ pagan like me…the church laughed- I think quite a few of them because, frankly, they wondered the same thing.

    I probably should have asked you before sharing all up in the social media- sorry about that. Good stuff up there. The journey of discipleship is a journey that’s for sure.

    1. That a funny story, Mary.

      Hey. Favor request: please do not apologize. Pretty please. First, I write. I love when people read it. I’m grateful and flattered you did. Second, you have no way of knowing who I know. Third, you’re light years away from being responsible for my life choices, or being responsible for any insecurities I feel about them.

      I’m grateful you read, and I appreciate your willingness to be part of the conversation. Thank you for that. I hope you have a beautiful day.

  11. I had a similar initial reaction to both the idea that someone I know would read what I’ve written and find I was not who they remembered, and to the post you referenced. I took some comfort in your words that I wasn’t the only one who struggles with that, even as I don’t have much of a following. What you have to say is relevant, and the words are worth reading. Don’t let yourself, or anyone else, tell you different. 🙂

    1. I totally missed this a few weeks ago. I’m sorry!

      Thank you for this. For these words of affirmation and encouragement. They matter to me, and make me want to keep going.

    1. Flattered! Thank you! (I read a post you shared “There’s Nothing Wrong with You.” It was awesome. Thank you for that, too.)

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Matt Fray

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