I return again and again to very strange story (Genesis 16:1-16). Hagar was a woman in a difficult situation. She was Sarai’s servant (Sarai was Abraham’s wife, a.k.a. Sarah). Because Sarai was unable to get pregnant, she asked her husband to sleep with Hagar, hoping for a child through her. (Don’t ask me. I don’t get it). When Hagar became pregnant, she despised Sarai. Sarai complained to Abraham and he allowed Sarai to deal harshly with Hagar. Pregnant and distraught, Hagar fled into the desert.
“The angel of the Lord” (a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus) spoke to her at a spring. He identified her by name: “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
He knew her name. He knew where she came from. Yet He asked. The questions gave her an opportunity to tell her story. He didn’t need to hear her story, she did. Perhaps, only as she sought to answer the question (where are you going?) did she realize that she didn’t know. Often as we hear ourselves speak issues clarify in our own minds.
The angel of the Lord listened. Then, He counseled her: “Return to your mistress and submit to her. I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude. Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord listened to your affliction…”
He listened, then, he sent her back to the place of her unhappiness. But He didn’t send her back empty-handed. He gave her an amazing promise and, even, named her unborn son. Hagar returned with a belly-full of baby and the strength an encounter with God gives.
Now this is the part of the story I like the most. “So she called on the name of the Lord who spoke to Hagar, ‘You are a God of seeing. Truly I have seen him who looks after me.’”
God knew and called her by name. He named her unborn son. NOW, Hagar gives God a name, a name personal to her experience. She names Him: God of seeing. He SAW her. In that encounter Hagar knew that He saw it all: her hurt, her desperation, her hopes for her child. She knows God as the God who looks after her, who cares for her.
God already knows my name, situation and future, too. He asks me questions. He listens as I tell my story. He sees me and directs me. His direction is NOT always the RESCUE I hope for. Sometimes He sends me back into thick of things. But like Hagar, I do not go back alone or without resources. God sends me back fortified. I know I am seen.
YOU are seen. What questions is God asking you? Where is He directing you to go? What resource is He sending to fortify you? What personal name do you give God in the experience you are facing? Live the mystery.