To Go All In

by Stuart Fail

At one point in my life, I felt certain I was going to be somebody big. I graduated in 2012 with a master’s degree in screenwriting from UCLA. I was ready for the big time, but I only got various work-for-hire writing jobs, never got the big sale or big production. I didn’t make it as I had hoped, so I worked in a warehouse, a fast food kitchen, delivered newspapers. I couldn’t find a teaching job, so I was living hand to mouth, barely paying bills, getting behind in student loans. I was homeless a few times but stayed in extended stay hotels when I could muster enough money from teaching.

I was in a cheap motel on my last dime in St. Petersburg, Florida, when I wrapped my belt around my neck and tied the belt to the bathroom door handle. I had decided to end my life. I had blown it. Two failed marriages, financial failures, broken dreams, bad choices. I was done living. But fear of hell struck me. I didn’t want hell, I wanted heaven. I believed right then I could end up in hell if I killed myself. I cried out to God for help. “God, please help me. I’m so empty and lost. I have nothing, I am nothing. Please guide me into the life you want for me and release me from this bondage.”

 Two days later, I found myself lying on an air mattress on the garage floor of a friend’s mother’s house thinking to myself, “Where do I go from here? I know there is more. I know God wants more for me. He pulled me from the depths of suicidal despair.” I prayed for guidance and found myself driving down the road on my way to see a weekly rental home when I saw Countryside Christian Church. I felt a tug at my heart. I pulled into the parking lot and prayed for guidance. That Sunday, I went to church for the first time in several years. I was a lukewarm Christian, which meant I went to the occasional holiday service or when I was desperate and needed God for help.

But that Sunday, December 30th, 2018. I heard the message to go all in. Completely give your life to Christ. I thought I had done that before but hadn’t, not really. I’d feel alive on Sunday and by Tuesday I’d be angry with God because I felt he wasn’t doing anything for me. I had no way of knowing he was at work, but I didn’t see immediate results, so I was certain he didn’t care about my situation. But God was at work. On December 30th I fully gave my life to Christ. I went all in. I took the message to heart and knew I wanted a deep relationship with Jesus. I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me with peace and joy.

The suffering didn’t stop, however. I moved into what was similar to a half-way house filled with five other strange men. A weekly rent scenario. I cried myself to sleep many nights. I slept on a bed filled with bedbugs. My depression was deep, but I prayed and stayed true to my commitment to God. I took a job as a teacher, something I had done off and on for years while seeking my dreams. I was able to put the odd jobs at fast-food joints and warehouses behind me. I had no savings but prayed to God to provide so I could get an apartment, a real apartment, not a hotel or half-way house.

Then things started to turn around for me. I found a roommate and moved into an apartment with him. We lived together for a year. I could see God moving. But suddenly I hit a rock. I lost my teaching job. A friend took me in to his home so I could save money. God provided financially as the school paid me severance. I was able to find a place of my own with my new kitten. God provided me with a new teaching position, so I had a home where I was living alone.

Finally, after all the suffering for years and tears at night, I had a furry companion, and I had a home and new job. God provided. I am reminded at Countryside by my great pastor Glenn Davis that God loves me so much and he wants what’s right and good for me, so I praise the Lord, and give him all the glory for my new life. As I keep my eyes on Him and my goals on his goals, I know I’m pleasing God.

I occasionally beat myself up for my failures, but God provides and I live with peace knowing he’s with me. And his plans for me are not finished, never will be finished. I owe him everything. From a noose around my neck to a home and a life, I am a child of God.

Stuart Fail holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, 2012. Stuart is a produced screenwriter, playwright and published novelist. He is also an actor and director of theater, film and television. Stuart was a Runner Up at the Table Read Screenplay Competition held in Sundance Film Festival 2011 for his Thriller Blood Market. Stuart won the Jack Nicholson Award for Screenwriting two consecutive years while attending UCLA: 2011 and 2012. The awards were for his thrillers On the Rock and Splinter Stuart co-wrote the sitcom pilot Around the Basket for RanFree productions in 2013.

Stuart wrote the screenplay Soccer Chimp for Good Deed Entertainment in 2015.  He has ghost written 8 screenplays, is credited for two children’s animated series’ for Ugandan television: Grandma Emma and Akida’s Adventures. Stuart’s play Consider the Lilies was produced Off Broadway in 2017 at the Barrow Group Theatre. Stuart was commissioned to write Mirage spring 2019. His short script Redeemed in is Pre-Production in Brazil. Stuart is a professor at the University of Tampa in the film department.

2 thoughts on “To Go All In

  1. What an amazing testimony!
    God is good!
    Would love to be able to catch up with you sometime soon. You were my all time favorite teacher at Starr’s Mill High School. Someone I considered a friend.


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