“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I am running away from my mistress,” she said.
Then the angel of the Lord said, “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority. I will give you more descendants than you can count. You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (God hears), for the Lord has heard about your misery.”
Thereafter Hager referred to the Lord, who had spoken to her, as El-Roi, “the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have seen the One who sees me!”
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from?”
I am running, running away from my mistress. I can answer you this, for it runs in my mind like a wheel. I am running, I am running away.
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where are you going?”
Do not ask me where I am going, oh shining one. I cannot answer. I am only running and I do not know where. Far away, far away, far away.
Surely you do not mean it?
To your mistress—
Oh shining one I cannot, I cannot. To the proud mistress who treated me harshly, to the jealous mistress I supplanted, to the barren mistress before whom I tossed my shining hair and paraded my growing belly and rolled my sated eyes? I am filled with hatred for myself and for her.
And submit to her authority.”
In my mouth the bitter tastes of desert thirst and hard obedience are mingled. I do not ask you why, for there is righteousness in your command to me, but I ask you—how? This thing you are asking will be death to me and my child and I ask you this question—how can I?
“I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
The fragile life of my baby flutters against me, so frail, so helpless. This is not the end?
“You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.”
A son! I feared I could not carry him to completion, a penalty for my pride. I feared that, born, he would fall prey to my jealous mistress. A thousand things could snuff out this tiny life, and she will never give me the chance to win another. You say he will live? He will prosper?
“You are to name him Ishmael (God hears), for the Lord has heard about your misery.”
Can it be? Here in the desert with a frail life fluttering and a heart sick crying, you heard and you saw. There in his tent you saw her hand raised against me, you heard her cruel words of shame. Not one tear, one task, one flinch escaped your view. You noticed.
Shining one, you have answered. I will give my son this name Ishmael and when I speak it, I will remember we are not forgotten. We are not lost in a void. We are not a cosmic mistake.
Your eyes are on us forever. And mine, at last, have looked up and met them.
Come, darling. Come, most precious unborn son. Mama has a long walk to take…
When I speak of my faith being shaken, I mean this question most of all: Does God notice? My husband and I have walked in a long eight months of silence, waiting for God’s next move. Like every good chess player, He spends much time in thought and I am tempted to believe His mind is elsewhere. Hagar named him The God Who Sees, and it was my mentor who first spoke this sentence to me: His eyes are on you forever. Somehow, then, I know I can bear it…
If you are by chance walking in a similar time of doubt and silence, I pray He will meet you as El-Roi.