Text: Genesis 16:1-16, 21:8-21
The day you get married it seems that all the dreams you had when you were a young girl come to life. You have played house and played with dolls all those years and now the time has come to do it for real. You have walked into a sacred relationship, and the man who swept you off your feet will finally be your husband. Something even more magical happens when you become a mother, regardless of the situation in which your baby was conceived. The connection between you and your baby is so strong that nobody can break it.
But this fairy tale story of marriage and motherhood was not Hagar's story. Hagar conceived a baby with Abraham - the husband of the woman whom she served. The idea of someone forcing a woman to carry their master's child is grotesque and unimaginable, but in those times it was a normal practice. And even though Hagar was obedient to the orders of her master, in the end she was still kicked out of the house -- impoverished and with no means to provide for her son.
Have you ever felt this way? Perhaps you entered into a marriage full of hopes, but now you are confronted with problems and deception, and it feels like you are walking alone with your children in an unknown place. This was Hagar's story. But in the middle of this awful situation, God never forgot about this lonely woman. When Hagar and Ishmael were about to die in the middle of a hot desert, God showed up to provide them with water and a future. Ishmael, Hagar's pride and joy, was not forgotten. God promised he would become a prince of many nations.
Are you going through something similar in your life? You may have just gotten a divorce, or the man that once promised you love has changed his mind, and now you are all alone. Or maybe you are a mother struggling to provide for her children and give them a better future. Let me tell you that you are not forgotten; God has plans for you and for your children. Life is often not a fairy tale; it is full of heart-break, injustice, and struggles. But in the midst of it all God remembers and sees us.
In this two-part story of the early life of Hagar and Ishmael, the verb "to see" is the impetus for much of the drama. Hagar looks with contempt at Sarai after she sees that she has conceived for Abram when Sarai has been unable to; later, after the birth of Isaac, Sarah sees Ishmael laughing, and wants to send Hagar and her son away; and throughout the story God sees Hagar. The first two of these instances of seeing highlight the fact that it's possible to "see" without truly seeing.
This difference between seeing and truly seeing is lived out every day on the streets of NYC. How many times in a day do you pass people, seeing them enough to not bump into them but not seeing them enough to remember their faces? Or the person at your corner store -- do you see their face, but not truly see them as a person and know their name? Or how many times have you seen a mother struggle to carry a stroller down the subway stairs, and not one person has seen her enough to stop and help? Both Hagar and Sarah see each other, without truly seeing each other. Society and culture and sin and fear have trained them to see each other a certain way: maidservant and mistress, pregnant and barren, threat and threat. They are unable to see with God's eyes, to see each other with love and mercy.
But God -- He is the one who truly sees. And He is the one who can open our eyes. God sees this young servant girl, one overlooked by society and seen as property. He knows her name, He values her, He opens her eyes to see her way out -- the water she and her son so desperately need; He gives her an inheritance, and He calls her to follow and obey Him. God also sees Sarah -- her struggles as an elderly woman to believe that God can fulfill His promise and give her a son.
God continues to see the unseen today. He sees those enslaved and oppressed, He sees those shunned by society, He sees the lonely and broken-hearted, He sees and He provides. He provides by meeting our daily needs, but even more so by giving us His Son, that promised descendent of Abraham, and by giving us His Spirit.
Where do you long to be seen? Understood? Known? Where do you long to be cared for and provided for? Are there others in your life who may feel looked over, shunned, or forgotten? How can you begin to see them with God's eyes and give them hope by loving them with God's love?