Salty tears streaked my face.
I longed to rest from my desert trek.
But I couldn’t.
I wasn’t safe.
I’d fled under the cover of night, but dawn was breaking.
Would Sarai send Abram’s men to force my return?
Returning wasn’t an option.
Sarai’s rage was at an all-time high.
I feared for my life,
and for the little one growing inside me.
I rubbed my belly and couldn’t help but smile.
I already loved this precious child, even though he wouldn’t really be mine.
Like me, he belonged to Sarai, to Abram.
I choked back more tears and wished somehow I could drink them.
My parched throat longed for water.
I was ill-prepared for my escape.
While I was familiar with Sarai’s cruelty, something snapped in her yesterday.
Perhaps the reality I was carrying Abram’s child while she remained barren broke her already hardened heart.
I silenced the nagging voice inside, “. . . and you missed no opportunity to remind her of that, did you?”
Decades after God promised my master a son, Sarai’s womb remained empty.
Desperate, she dreamed up a plan, and I was her pawn.
As a slave, obedience was my only choice.
So I entered Abram’s tent.
When I left, my sorrow came with me.
Weeks later, when I realized I was pregnant, emotions flooded in.
I would be a mother!
But my baby wasn’t mine.
Sarai and Abram would get their promised child.
I would lose mine.
But when I dared speak of my pregnancy,
I watched Sarai’s face blanch in pain . . .
And suddenly, for the first time in my life, I felt power.
Through its lens, I looked with pride at my body,
fresh and glowing, softly swelling with life.
And then I looked at Sarai,
thinning white hair crowning a wrinkled husk of a body.
Her pathetic hope to bear a child, to fulfill God’s promise, was beyond ridiculous.
I was filled with contempt for Sarai.
And as Abram’s gaze began to swerve my way more frequently,
I saw an opportunity to change my future.
I stirred up enmity between Abram and Sarai,
Encouraged comparisons between her and myself,
Knowing I carried the promise Abram wanted more than anything.
I was the one feeling the baby kick, not her.
Sarai’s growing depression only spurred me on.
Had she forgotten this was HER idea to push me into her husband’s tent?
Finally, Sarai confronted Abram.
My haughtiness turned to panic as he flicked a dismissive glance in my direction, giving Sarai free reign to do with me as she pleased.
So Sarai loosed years of bitterness, disappointment, and anger . . . on me.
She exchanged words for a whip, or rod, or clay pot.
After yesterday’s beating, I had to leave.
To protect myself.
And my baby, who I imagined was a boy.
I ran all night.
I had no destination; I was running away.
Away from Abram and Sarai.
Away from abuse and death.
Now lost, the barren wilderness stretched endlessly before me.
Overwhelmed with despair, I sank to my knees.
I pounded the cracked earth and cried out for help,
help I knew wouldn’t come.
Death stalked me.
With the last of my energy, I lowered myself to the ground.
This would be my grave.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Certain Abram’s men found me, I cowered,
bracing for death’s blow.
But then, I heard my name.
Spoken with kindness.
Peace washed over me.
“Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
I replied honestly, explaining my desperation to escape Sarai, hoping the stranger would mercifully lead me to safety.
The stranger knelt, handing me bread and a new skin of water.
I bit off a huge chunk of bread and gulped down water.
Once I finished eating, the stranger helped me up.
At his touch, new energy surged within me.
He looked into my eyes.
For the first time in my life, I felt SEEN.
Just as I began to hope, the stranger’s words rocked me to the core.
“Go back to Sarai and submit to her.”
The stranger kept talking.
This time, his words were full of promise.
“You baby is indeed a boy. When he is born, name him Ishmael.”
I whispered it out loud, daring to add, “I love you, Ishmael.”
When I spoke his name, I understood.
God will hear.
The Lord HEARD me.
He SAW me.
Here in the desert, as I waited to die.
He sent this stranger to save us.
I felt Ishmael kick, as if in celebration.
A solid kick, the strongest yet.
The stranger’s words rang in my ears, “He will be a wild donkey of a man.”
I laughed and turned to share my joy with the stranger . . .
But he’d vanished.
I was alone.
Yet, the peace accompanying the stranger lingered.
In the place he’d stood, there was now a well.
Bewildered, I ran to it, drawing water and drinking my fill.
I splashed water on my face, washing away the sweat and tears.
Then, I scrubbed my feet, wiping away the blood and dirt.
Like a carefree child, I threw a handful of water into the sky.
I watched in awe as the sunlit droplets danced.
Tiny rainbows landed on my hair as I lifted my hands in praise.
I shouted, “El-Roi, El-Roi!!! You are the God who sees!”
I began the trek back home.
Unsure of what awaited me,
I only knew I was returning a changed woman.
No matter what happened, God would be with me.
If He was with me in the wilderness, when I was alone and on the cusp of death, I trusted Him to remain with me now.
If He heard my cries in the desert, I knew He could hear me anywhere.
If He saw me at my worst, and loved me even then, I believed His love would be steadfast the rest of my days.
The following months were NOT easy.
But when my son was born, and Abram announced, “The boy’s name is Ishmael,”
I knew God was with me, and He saw me and loved me,
me and my son.
Maybe you relate to Hagar and feel alone in a wilderness, overwhelmed, defeated, and full of despair. Call out to Jesus. He HEARS you. He SEES you. He is with you, ready to fill you with His peace, power, strength, hope, joy, wisdom, and love. May you experience Him as Hagar did, as El-Roi, the God who sees.
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