I've never been one to watch the soaps. I know that some soap operas have gone on for years and counting...and I would not be the one to tell you what they are called or even who the actors are. The times I have seen clips, I was quite unimpressed with all the drama. My attitude was: Why become emotionally invested in all the characters' problems, when they are not even real? On a whim, when I was pregnant with Uriah, I began to watch a Mexican soap opera. Mexican soaps are over the top- much more dramatic and exaggerated than anything you would see in the U.S. For a number reasons, I found myself interested in the storyline of this particular soap, and continued to watch until the drama ended months later. During my soap-stint, I learned that people's problems hurt me. Real problems in real life, or contrived problems on a TV set, it made no difference. My mind still began to work, taking on the task of finding solutions to the heart-wrenching problems that I saw on the television screen. Thankfully, watching problems unfold in a soap is nothing like dealing with them in real life- and the solutions are quite easy to find. In my opinion, the problems I was seeing on the soap were so unrealistic. I was certain that there was no one out there really living through all the lies, deceit, and heartbreak that was being portrayed. It took a little more living to find out just how wrong I was.
Neighbor #1: A young woman that I have known for years is living out a life story that I only recently uncovered. She lives with her boyfriend and they have several children. The boyfriend does drugs. Only one of their children is actually his- the others belong to another guy whom the woman is still seeing on a regular basis. The boyfriend knows all about it, and happily allows the situation to continue. Why? Because the other guy is a member of the drug cartel, and he sends them a substantial sum of money every month to support his children.
Neighbor #2: A woman and her husband are having marital problems. It should be something very personal, but there's no such thing as a secret in a small town. Everyone knows about it. He hits her and then goes off and gets drunk. While he's drunk, he is sleeping around with many other women. The husband's family blames the wife for his problems- after all, if she were a better wife, he wouldn't have to get drunk. Usually he only drinks for a day, and then goes back to work. This time, 5 days have passed and he continues to drink. His reason why? Usually he goes and buys drugs to get high and stop drinking. This time he can't get the drugs because the dealer is being watched too closely by the police and the military.
Neighbor #3: A young, working, single man is trying to help his family out financially. Times are tough, at least economically speaking, and sometimes there is only so much you can obtain through honest work. Unfortunately, other ways to get money are too easy to come by, and one of the easiest here is by prostitution- especially homosexual prostitution. Most of the time, this young man would never give it a thought- but he never counted on the fact that he would be propositioned 3 times just this week. He has friends that have already done it, and they are telling him how easy it is, how it is worth it for the money.
Neighbor #4: A young mother has 3 children and is fleeing her abusive, alcoholic husband. She doesn't have any family nearby, but thankfully she is able to rent a room in a small town. She is thankful, but her children are scared, and not too impressed with their new living quarters. You wouldn't be impressed either- one room, concrete floor, one light bulb, and the bare minimum for furniture, if you can even call it that. She has to work full-time and leave her children in the care of another neighbor. Unfortunately, her husband has now found them, and is threatening her to try to get her to come back to him.
These are real-life soaps. They have not been invented or embellished. They are the realities that real people are living with everyday. The saddest part is that it was not hard to find these stories. There were many more to choose from, and all of these stories could apply to several different families. My emotions are involved, and my mind is working constantly to find ways that we can help. A personal relationship with Christ is an obvious missing ingredient in all of these cases, but there are also so many needs to be met on a practical level that at times it's hard to know where to start. My husband and I just look at each other, oftentimes not knowing what to do next. We weep and pray, and weep and pray some more, for this town, this nation, for all of us. We ask God for wisdom, we speak words of encouragement when given the opportunity, we buy groceries, offer to babysit...and then we weep and pray once again. If we didn't have hope in Christ, believing that there is no situation that is impossible for him to handle, it would seem like a futile battle. After all, problems in real life don't get wrapped up in a neat little package like they do for the soap opera finale.
Pray. Pray for Mexico. Pray for the United States. Pray for whichever nation you are living in, whichever nation God puts on your heart. Pray for your neighbors who could be living out stories much darker and more painful than you could've ever imagined. Give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry. Visit the sick, the criminals. Do it all as unto Him. We may never be able to resolve the problems, and we may never see the hurting accept the solution that Christ offers, but we can be ministers. We can show His love. His compassion. His mercy. His grace. Him.