During this time of pandemic, we are living in our own little worlds within our own four walls. How deeply we miss the familiar bridges to community that join us together. As we live physically distanced from each other, we can live unseen. It is both challenging and strange.
There is some comfort in knowing this is a problem for all of humanity, and that we are not alone in hardships we might be facing. But it is also isolating. We feel lost in the big picture, certain that this pandemic is not about us, and yet undeniably our lives have been completely turned upside down. We all are living through the same threat, yet each story is unique, and how the catalytic threat has impacted our lives varies. We long for someone to see our stuggle,–our heart and the particulars of our hard.
I recently re-read the story of Hagar and was freshly struck by her story. Hagar was the slave of Abraham and Sarah. They were becoming impatient with God’s timeline for fulfilling His promise of a son, so Sarah proposed to Abraham something which was a common custom in their culture: she would give her maidservant to Abraham that they might have a son together, but the child would legally be Sarah’s. Hagar became pregnant through this scheme, and haughty, so Sarah began treating her harshly. In desperation, Hagar fled into the desert, a pregnant slave, all alone with no plan or provisions. She sat down at a spring to weep, and there she was visited by an angel of the Lord. He spoke to her, calling her by name, counseled her, and sent her back to her former situation with a promise of blessing.
Genesis 16:13 says Hagar gave the name El Roi to the Lord who spoke to her. “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.” This is the only time that the name El Roi (the God who sees) is used in the Bible, but God’s character trait of seeing, of intimately knowing, people is woven throughout scripture.
How comforting would it be, how miraculous would it seem, in a land of stone idols to have a personal encounter with the God who sees? How would it feel for a slave who was probably never seen – who was probably looked at with contempt, scorn, and shame, but never seen? How much Hagar must have longed to be seen.
And how much do we long for the same thing? Alone in our homes, living through unprecedented world events, dealing with challenging children, struggling to pay bills, grieving the bitter disappointments brought on by this pandemic, we wonder like Hagar, “Does anyone know what I’m going through? Does anyone care?”
The answer to that is an unequivocal, YES! El Roi sees me and He sees you. In fact, His gaze is fixed on you. God’s seeing you is an extension of His great love for you. The God who created the universe and sustains it by His mighty hand, stoops down to see you and meet you in your challenging human circumstances. He loves you and longs to offer you the gift of Himself.
God seeing Hagar allowed Hagar to see Him. He revealed Himself to her in her greatest moment of need. As she said, “I have seen the God who sees me.” In the same way, we have direct access to the God who sees us, and He graciously allows us to see Him as well. He longs for us to draw near to him, to rely on His wisdom, comfort, and guidance, and to give us the grace to live the life He’s unfolding before us.
Like Hagar, we have no choice about the situation we are in. We are under submission to our leaders’ decisions, and even if they are the right decisions, they are causing us hardships. Hagar tried to run away, but God saw her there at the spring and sent her back. I have to think that after a personal encounter with El Roi, she returned a changed woman. We cannot run away either. Nor can we quit. We must stick it out here in this pandemic-world. We have no choice. But we can choose to fix our gaze upon the God who sees us in our pain, in our worry, and in our fear. We can cling whole-heartedly to the God who sees us and whose strength and peace will see us through. When we emerge from this, may we be changed as well.
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.