Being Heard and Being Seen
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
Welcome to March! Can you believe it’s been nearly a year since we did “normal” (without realizing it was normal)?
Somehow Lent this year feels quite appropriate--like a naming of that which has actually been true all year long. Lent’s “symbolic” forty days in the wilderness with Jesus comes on the heels of what has felt like a literal wilderness season of deprivation, stress, temptation, and endurance.
The Scriptures are filled with wilderness stories, especially in the Old Testament where God is carving out a space and a people in history to be His container for revelation and reconciliation. God’s work of revealing and reconciling often has a wilderness component. We’re taking the opportunity during Lent to look at some wilderness experiences of God’s people and let them guide us in our own journeys.
This week’s story:
Even before Moses met God in the wilderness, God met Hagar there.
As a woman, Hagar’s story is hard to read in its unvarnished form. In truth, she was oppressed and marginalized in multiple ways. She was an Egyptian serving in a household in Canaan. She was enslaved and far from her culture and context.
What’s more, her slavery included her sexuality. Out of Sarai’s anger at God over her infertility, she assigns Hagar’s body a job that effectively makes Hagar a sex-slave in service of fulfilling Sarai’s desire for a child.
Hagar can’t hide her contempt for Sarai. Sarai abuses the pregnant Hagar, and Hagar runs to the wilderness. (Genesis 16)
It’s hard to imagine Hagar’s powerlessness. She’s trapped. It’s also hard to imagine (and yet as women we can get there) and the power of her emotions that have caused her to run.
And yet God finds Hagar. She is the first person in the Scriptures to meet the “angel of the Lord,” which is the term used when God shows up on human turf in a visible, discernable way--like a person.
Let that sink in. God’s first face to face appearance is to an abused, enslaved, foreign woman. The person with the least power in the story.
Then God speaks and asks Hagar where she’s come from and where she’s going. Hagar, “what are you doing here?” God wants to hear Hagar’s story from her own mouth.
Let that sink in. God’s first words to Hagar are a question that invites her to tell her story--to unburden herself to Him.
Then God tells her to go back to Sarai but with the knowledge that her descendents also will be too many to count and with the instruction to name her son “Ishmael” which means “God Hears.”
Let that sink in. God invites Hagar back into the pain of her life but with assurance that her son will live and grow.
God sends Hagar back with the name Ishmael on her lips, so that every time she speaks her son’s name she will be reminded of God’s attentiveness to her.
And then Hagar names God. Genesis 16:13 says this, “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’”
Hagar’s God is El Roi. The God who sees.
Let that sink in. Hagar, the first person to give God a name in the Scriptures; Hagar, a woman without a voice and without agency; Hagar, whose most intimate body parts are used by others; this Hagar can face her life and her circumstances because she knows that the present, curious, attentive God finds her, hears her, and sees her.
What a wilderness moment.
A Wilderness Practice:
Today, would you be willing to go toward a wilderness encounter by way of Hagar’s experience with God? Set aside 15 minutes to pray with these prompts, perhaps using your journal or sitting in a quiet space outdoors with the Lord.
Before you begin, you could read Genesis 16 in a few versions like the NRSV, the Message, or the New Living Translation.
God Who Sees, today, my answer to your question, “What are you doing here?” looks and feels like this...
And, God Who Sees, today, my desire to be seen by you looks and feels like this…
As you finish, here is a prayer to offer back to God:
God who sees our joys and our sorrows,
You have made us in your image,
The image of a God who loves, who finds, and who inquires.
Remind us of your imminence in all of our wilderness places.
Show us that we are not alone and that you love us.
Help us to cast our anxieties on you, knowing that you hear us.
Help us to remember your promise that you are near to the brokenhearted.
In the name of Christ who wept, Jesus,
The Kaleid Team
P.S. - Only five spots remain for our Kaleid Spring Retreat! Join us at the Ignatius House Retreat Center April 24-25. Scholarships are available. Register here!
Prayer adapted from https://www.fbcdecatur.com/blogs/a-prayer-to-the-god-who-sees