Friday, December 29, 2017

Stories for My Back Pocket

“Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith." ~ 2 Timothy 4:7
It was an economic downturn that threw Mateo and his family off track.  Earlier that spring and typically a busy time for construction work, he sat home for weeks without any jobs lined up.  That had never happened in all the years he’d been an independent contractor.  Hard times were coming.
He tried desperately to find steady job with a construction company but by then, no one was hiring. They no longer had the extra income needed to support his wife’s fledgling bookkeeping business.  That went under too.
He filed for bankruptcy, his house was foreclosed on and his car repossessed.  Unemployed for the first time in his life, 42 year-old Mateo had lost everything.
He was broken; shattered really.  His heart beat without purpose; his mind desperate for some reason to live.  Any notion of hope quickly vanished like a desert mirage.
Eventually he landed a job as a night custodian at the local college.  The pay cut bled clear to the proverbial bone and the work triggered little satisfaction.  But the college offered free tuition.  So while his college classmates were in the library studying together at night, Mateo was buffing floors and picking up their trash.
He did schoolwork early in the mornings and after class in the afternoons before he started his 3 to 11 shift.  He rarely saw his wife, who’d gone back to school as well to get a teaching degree.  She worked days, he worked nights.  And when he was home he was studying.
Initially, Mateo took classes just to occupy his mind and keep despair from coagulating in his veins.  After completing the basic coursework, he set his sights on an undergraduate degree.  The thought energized him.  Others noticed a buoyancy in his step that hadn’t been there before.
Nearly a decade after his life unraveled, Mateo graduated with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering.  As he walked (more like strutted) across the stage to accept his diploma, the crowd exploded in applause for him.
It had taken more than a decade to get his degree.  It took him less than a month to land a dream job (while continuing his custodial chores, of course).  He never lost hope.
Friends, as we ponder our New Year’s Resolution, let’s be honest.  Few of us really want things to be completely different.  We just want life to get better, or easier.  We can handle a tune-up or face-lift, but drastic change?  Medication, yes; surgery, no.
So my resolution for 2018 is to tuck stories like this one into my back pocket, and when I’m upset or feeling down on my luck, I resolve to pull these out and re-read them for inspiration.  Then I’ll look up … and trust the One who holds my future.
Friends - may this new year be a time of deep spiritual growth, a time of welcoming the Lord’s graces and gifts, a time for forgiving freely and unconditionally, a time for growing.  Best Wishes for 2018!