Hagar (Genesis 16)
No one saw her leave.
She had considered waiting until nightfall to escape; biding her time until everyone was preoccupied bedding down the sheep, or even until the dead of night when the whole camp was asleep. “Why bother,” she thought as she strode resolutely out of camp.
She was confident no one would see her leave, because no one ever saw her.
Still, she looked back once or twice, checking to see if she was being followed. She wasn’t. No one, it seemed, had seen her departure. Didn’t see, or, perhaps, didn’t care.
Hagar had grown accustomed to no one seeing her. She was used to being invisible; used to being summoned when there was a water jug to fill or a meal to be made and then fading back into the shadows when the job was done. Such was the life and lot of the enslaved, to never be seen.
And yet, she longed to be seen. She longed for someone to see her, to hear her. She longed for someone to listen to the story of her past, to witness the pain of her present, to hope with her for a different future. Hagar longed to be seen, and for a brief moment, she thought she might be. She was, after all, carrying Abram’s child. Within her womb grew his future, his legacy. But she was wrong. Even now, no one saw her. No one, that is, except for Sarai.
Sarai, Abram’s wife, saw her. She saw Hagar’s pregnant belly, carrying within it the child she could not bear and her heart broke. Sarai’s sadness turned to anger, her heartbreak to jealousy, and she vented all of it on Hagar. Until, one day, Hagar could take no more and she walked away.
Now Hagar found herself in the midst of the wilderness, alone. She came upon a spring and sat down beside it, tired and thirsty. She had just finished quenching her thirst and was now sitting, staring into the cool, clear water when she heard it; a voice speaking her name.
“Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She turned, eyes searching for the person who had called her by name. “Who’s there?” she asked, wondering if she’d been followed after all, but she did not recognize the person standing nearby.
“Hagar,” they said again, “please, tell me. Where have you come from and where are you going?”
Hagar’s breath caught as she looked up and realized they were looking directly into her eyes. They were looking at her, seeing her.
Hagar began to speak. She told the story of her past and the pain of her present. The words flowed forth, like a balm for her wounded soul.
As she finished her story. She looked again at the person who had spoken to her. Their eyes had never left her as they listened intently to all she said, they saw her.
“I know who you are.” She said at last. “You are El-roi. You are the God who sees. You see me, don’t you.”
“Yes.” They said, “I see you.”
Questions to ponder
What was your favorite part of the story?
Where did you see God in the story?
What is God inviting you to try on today in light of the story?
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