by Stuart Fail
For seven years I was broken, lying in a valley. I prayed, I begged for help to bring me up from darkness. It was so terribly dark. Since 2012, after I graduated with my third master’s degree, I lived in a cheap motel in Los Angeles trying to make a name for myself in Hollywood as a screenwriter. I worked any job I could to pay bills, but I always fell short. Scars came, joy left. I blamed God for unanswered prayers. I asked him why he would allow me to suffer so needlessly. What I learned in 2018 was that the scars were meant to bring me closer to God, to get me to need him, rely on him, in a way I’d never done before. The thought scared me. He wanted my brokenness so he could put me back together. I needed to be broken to hear him. I would pray often, go to church, and make appearances, all while not listening for his voice. I was a part-time Christian expecting God to be there for me full time. I was selfish but thought he should be answering my prayers to be successful for my sake. If I had been the success I wanted to be, I would never have been as close to Jesus as I am now. I would never have had my life transformed by God. The scars would never have come and I would never have reached out to God in a cry of hope.
In 2018, I cried from despair, of having a noose around my neck and ready to end my life. With the belt around my neck, I pleaded to God for his guidance. Why had it come to this? Why was I about to die? I was sure I was going to be success because I went to a great university that saw many students make it in Hollywood. How did I get to a cheap motel in St. Petersburg, Florida? I thought I needed God before that day, but I had no way of knowing how badly I would need him in that motel room. I spent my last fifty dollars on that room and was ready to be done with life. God told me to stop and take the belt from around my neck. He pointed me to a place where I would hear His word loud and clear. That place was Countryside Christian Church in Clearwater, Florida. I thought how is going to church going to change anything. I’d been going to churches and felt little to nothing while there. This time it would prove to be different. I heard the pastor clearly and understood I needed to go all in. This time, I would need to give myself completely to Christ. I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior and very best friend. I needed Him to show me what He wanted me to be. But the pain didn’t stop there.
I couldn’t find a teaching job, which I believed God wanted me to do. Ironically, I had been a teacher for high schools after having been such a terrible high school student. I never graduated high school. I stood outside in my yard and listened to the graduation I should have been involved in. I lived near the football field where they held the ceremony. I listened for the names of students who were listed just before and after mine. My name never got called. I felt useless. I felt like the failure that people had told I had been. I went inside and tried to forget it.
Prior to my full commitment to Christ on May 30, 2018, I believed I was being punished for past sins, for two broken marriages. I asked for forgiveness but prayers for my success still went unanswered. My problem was I was praying for help to make me happy and not to fulfill his dream for me. It took six years of painful living trying to fulfill my dreams before I opened up to God’s voice, to accept His grace. I was certain God was indifferent to my hopes and wishes. I learned He had different plans for me from my own. Scars brought new life, they brought new hope, an ear for listening and eyes for seeing. I needed to suffer to get where I am today. No one wants to hear suffering will happen. No one wants to think that pain will come. But with that pain God is there to love and support and be gracious to us. My head was filled with the noise of my success and dreams. I needed to suffer scars, to be quiet to hear his words. He speaks so softly. In no way am I saying that we must suffer to be close to him, I’m saying suffering will come and if we pray for his loving voice, we’ll hear his words. He is there with us despite our hurting.
I survived all the hurt of loss and emptiness because God loved me. He loved me always, but I didn’t accept his love prior to 2018 because I didn’t allow myself to receive it. I’d pray to God on Sunday and be angry with him on Tuesday because the prayer wasn’t answered. My lack of patience and my fear of failure pushed me away from God instead of getting me closer. I could only get closer with more loss and failures. I would never want to go through what I went through before, but I’m glad it happened as it did so I could come to know Christ like I do. Scars will become a gracious gift from God if we seek him in our suffering. If we listen carefully for his word. If we pray to know his dreams for us, we can glorify his name. Scars will remind us who we are in Christ. Scars bring hope for all who suffer.
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.