Fighting the good fight!!
by MICHAEL GERARD JAMES
On a brisk, winter Saturday evening in Hayward, California. I decided to leave my apartment for a couple hours and take a bus ride downtown to the main library. I arrived at the library around 3:30pm. My usual routine would be to look up available jobs in the classified section of the local newspapers. I'd also read some of my favorite magazines. This habit was one way for me to relieve the stress in my personal life. However, this release would only be temporary. Times in my life were getting excruciatingly hard for me to cope with. My rough ride started in the summer of 1992. I had moved to Northern California in July, 1987 because I hadn't seen my grandmother for all of my childhood in New York. I wanted to make up for all of the lost time of my youth and get re-acquainted with her. Because she was a big fan of the Oakland Athletics, we went to some of the home games at the Coliseum. Every 4th of July, my grandma would get all of my aunt and uncles together and have a barbecue at her place. During these gatherings, I'd always wind up meeting a distant relative with whom I've never seen before. It was a festive occasion filled with chicken and ribs roasted on a barbecue pit, potato salad and her own special sweet potato pie that would make your mouth water. One day in June, my uncle Melvin phoned me and told me news that would effect me to this day. My grandmother was dying and the doctors didn't expect her to live for very long. The news of her illness came down on me hard. I cried for days on end because I wanted to spend more time with her. All of my family members from all over the country (including my mother who flew in from New York and my father from Georgia, who were both divorced and could not stand each other) came to see her. As I visited by her bedside it broke my heart to see the same energetic, vibrant woman, the same one I went to baseball games with, now lying helpless in her bed. Me and my parents spent whatever time we had keeping her comfortable. Being that she was a church going woman, my mom would read passages from the Bible or selections from her own book collections. Anything we would do to keep her happy, we would do for her. Finally the end came in the early morning on July 4th. That was the day I was planning to spend the whole day with her. I could only sit in my lonely apartment, crying over my loss.
Almost simultaneously, my job working in a hospital business office was getting on my nerves. The people I was working with were not very supportive. I was among people who were only there to have job security and not because they enjoyed the work. Originally, the plan was that I was supposed to be there for 2 years and then I was to start looking in the communications field. Well, 2 years became 3 years, 3 years became 4 years, 4 years became 5 years. After the 5th year, after all the abuse, the headaches and the anger contests, I said to myself, "Wait a minute, this isn't what I wanted to be doing in the first place. My ambition was to work in television production." Disgusted with where was at, I took a challenge. The most calculated risk in my life and turned in my letter of resignation. It was easier doing it than I would have expected. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the pain and hardship I would have to endure to keep my sanity. I would have to make extremely tough decisions that would effect my future. Within 6 months, I would have to give up my car because it was just too expensive to maintain and this with only 2 years to go on payments. I had more creditors hounding me than I could ever imagine. Bills were piling up left and right. It was evident that I had to do the unthinkable, a plan that never thought I'd end up in, Bankruptcy. Financially broke, and all alone in California with my spirit dampened by failure and disappointment, my world now became a life or death struggle.
After getting all the information I needed from the library, I didn't feel like going back to my apartment and getting myself depressed over the troubles in my life. I decided to take a walk. In the twilight of the evening, I saw a church made in the Spanish style setting of the old west of the late 1800's. The building was visible from the library, all lighted up as if it was ready to conduct an evening service. It had been 15 years since I had attended church on a regular basis. I only went church because my parents wanted me to follow a good moral ground, and not because I wanted to. There were so many questions that went unanswered about church. Why God allowed so many terrible consequences to happen in my life. Those unanswered questions led me to stop attending church. But now, with my life hitting almost at bottom, I came back to church searching for answers to all of the problems in my life. I thought to myself as I walked towards the church, "given my state of mind, prayer was not a bad idea to do. Maybe the experience will make me feel better." As I entered the chapel doors, someone handed me a church bulletin. "Good evening.", said the greeter, a short gray haired man in his early 70's, with lots of enthusiasm. He went on to say to me, "Would you like a calendar?" I obliged myself and took his offer. "Thank you very much.", I said, and headed to one of the available pews so I could take a seat. I almost immediately, my state of mind slowly started to change from anxiety to confidence. I knelled down and prayed for a long time, asking God for forgiveness for the circumstances in my past. I raised my head up and I was astounded at the art work of the cathedral. It was apparent that the church was made in the Catholic denomination. There was one sculpture of Jesus Christ, depicted after he was crucified, taken off the cross and placed in the arms of his mother, Mary. Amazingly, the work had survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with minimal damage. When the service convened, a lector, who reads Bible verses during every mass, started reading a passage that was so timely for my situation that I would not soon forget it. The answer to all of my problems came to me as bright and sparkling clear as it could be. The lector said, "Fight the good fight of faith..." (1 Timothy 6:12). I needed to accept the fact that the life I had before could never be brought back. I had to get my life together and move on no matter how bad things may seem right now. I had to start a new path in my life. But this time, Jesus Christ was going to be leading my life. At one time I was on the top of the world. A fast car, a job with all kinds of benefits, money in the bank, all the credit cards in the world (7 to be exact), my loving grandmother. Everything you could think of that was hip and "in", I did it. Now my fun time is over. All of my "so called" friends are not here to cushion my fall from grace. I must now come to terms with my mistakes and face the music. And with Jesus Christ leading as my personal savior, I'll never be afraid of the future circumstances anymore.
After the mass, I left the cathedral and looked out at the beautiful sky to the west. The sky was painted gold, yellow and blue with the mountain hills of the San Francisco peninsula as a backdrop. Like my problems, I looked at them like the sunset on the horizon, with a great deal of optimism. I started going to mass every Sunday again. I studied the Bible more often and discovered more wonderful verses I could be inspired upon. I give thanks to the Lord every day by way of prayer, for giving me another day to live on this earth. In return, the Lord provided me with the strength and confidence to encounter any problem I come across in my life. The most important thing you have to remember though is that no matter how hard things get in your life, no matter how impossible it may seem, no matter how discouraging word you may get from people in general, you must keep going. Keep, "fighting the good fight of faith." And with the lord's help, you will get there. It might not be when you want it, but your day will come. Because giving up on your dreams means giving upon life itself and on the future that awaits you.