Hagar in the Desert
I wanted to spend today on what undoubtedly will be a shorter post, but one I think is important.
I love the stories of women in the Bible because they are given without caveat. As in, they don’t begin with:
“She was a woman, but look at what she did anyway.” (Ugh)
They don’t even begin with:
“Women often did not have as many rights as men back then, but here’s what she did in spite of that.” (Bleh)
You may be wondering why the second one still gets an bleh from me. Let me explain.
For the past, I don’t know, gazillion years, us women have been reminded by some form of narrator or character comment, before or during nearly every story involving a woman, that this person is a woman. Therefore, we should be more (or less) impressed by her forthcoming accomplishments and story. Or something.
I think we are all aware that there are biological differences between women and men and are all aware of the historical and (in some cases) present differences in the treatment of women and men. I, therefore, tend to find it immensely refreshing when a woman is introduced without caveat. As just, well, a person. Since we all know about such things, it isn’t necessary to lay it out for us once again and then tell us how to react to it. We can analyze it for ourselves.
Hence my love for the stories of women in the Bible. They are just introduced. Boom. Here she is. Another just a person in a long list of just people and their relationships with God.
Amidst the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis, a woman named Hagar gets quite a bit of attention. The gist of her story is this: she was a concubine of Abraham, whom we talked about a couple weeks ago (yes, I know, this polygamy thing gets on my nerves too). Sarah, Abraham’s actual wife, wasn’t happy once Hagar became pregnant and Hagar started showing scorn towards the childless Sarah, even though Sarah was considered her superior (there’s a lot more to this story, check out Genesis for the full picture).
Two times over the next several years, Hagar gets driven out of the household by Sarah. The second time, she’s sent away with her son, Ishmael, and it’s permanent.
There’s a lot of factors to consider here. Firstly, Hagar is probably not always the nicest person, being nasty to Sarah (note, Sarah is also not the nicest person, being horrible in return). Secondly, Hagar’s son, Ishmael, is not the nicest person either. He is shown making fun of his toddler half-brother (Isaac, Sarah’s miracle son) at an evert honoring him, when Ishmael is around sixteen years old.
However, each time Hagar is driven out, desperate, into the desolation of the desert, God finds her.
And that’s the thing about God. We have all had times when we are horrible people and when people are horrible to us. Indeed, we all have situations (you know the ones) that predispose us to be nasty to others. Maybe they bring up feelings of stress, or jealousy, or anger. Some are infinitely more severe than even the one described above. Some are intensely unfair. Some are more minor.
But when we have trust in God, He sees us, regardless. He is not going to turn away from us because of these moments or situations or how we act or react.
“Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Hagar asks herself after her first encounter with God (Genesis 16:13). In this same verse, she gives God the first name for Him recorded in the Bible. El Roi, “the God who sees me”.
And God indeed sees. He understands her situation deeply. He even sees fit to acknowledge to her that her son is, and will grow up to be, a bit of a jerk.
The key is, that neither Hagar nor her son’s behavior is the point. Despite prior poor decisions, Hagar is willing to trust God, and He knows this. This is what matters to God – not that we behave perfectly all the time (though He wants to teach us to be more and more like Him, like His Son), but that we are willing to come to Him and trust in Him.
God is the God who reaches out, despite everything we have done.
He knows you. He sees you.
And He wants you to reach out in return.