A collaboration of Adena Hodges and Sandi Padilla
Have you ever felt invisible? Most of us have at one time or another. To some it might seem a cool superhero ability to have. Yet, at the heart of it, we all have a desire to be seen and known for who we truly are.
God created us with this desire—to be seen and known as a unique individual. Not one among many, but special, set-apart, and amazing. Yet most live feeling unseen, unheard and essentially invisible. The question arises, “Does anyone really know me?” “Does anyone care?” “Does anyone want me, for me?” Sometimes, when we feel unseen, we try to play hide and seek with God. Adam and Eve tried. But God already knew they had crossed the boundary He had set. Sadly, they had eaten from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was the One who created them, knew every detail about them, and daily walked and talked with them. Why did they think they could hide from Him?
Guilt. Shame. Pride. Fear.
Hagar felt that way. A slave taken from her homeland of Egypt. Used and abused. Forced to conceive a child, and then despised by a jealous wife. (If you haven’t read the story recently, check out Genesis 16.) Abraham gave Sarah permission to do whatever she wanted to Hagar. After treating her harshly, Hagar fled.
The interesting thing is that the name “Hagar” has a possible meaning of “to flee.” Hagar did what her name indicated, seeking to run from her troubles and hope for something better. Many times, we too want to get far away from whatever is currently bothering us, believing that something “over there” must be better than our present circumstances. But running isn’t the answer. Hagar ended up in the wilderness, alone, fearful and rejected – a pregnant, run-away slave.
Fortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. God met Hagar where she was. He saw her. Really saw her. God asked her, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8). God didn’t ask the question because He needed information, but because of what the question would unlock for her. It was a moment for Hagar to take stock of her situation. Where had she been and where was she going? Before God can speak into our lives and give us direction, we need to understand how we got to where we are and where we think we are going.
Are you and I that different from Hagar? Our reactions to crisis and chaos in our lives often reveal that we believe it’s easier to run away or escape from our problems. We bury ourselves in work, numb our minds with TV, movies and media or possibly just check out and sleep our troubles away. Incredibly, God relentlessly chases us, finds us and meets us right where we are. For Hagar, that was right in the middle of the desert. Alone and desperate I’m sure it wasn’t long before she was tired and worn out from her rugged journey. Maybe as she sat at the well to draw water she saw her reflection glistening back at her. Did Hagar’s tears fall making ripples in the water as she dared to cry out, “Does God even see me? Does He even care?” I imagine that at some point she may have feared for her life and with every breath she could muster she probably began praying to God for help.
Hagar replied: “I’m fleeing from the presence of my mistress, Sarai.” She could tell God where she’d come from, but she had no clue what was next. Hagar was in a very difficult situation, pregnant, alone and without any resources, yet God cared enough for her to personally visit her. He knew her past, her present and had a plan for her future. No matter the mess that had been made, God still cared about Hagar.
Then in the darkest hour, Hagar heard the angel’s instructions to go back to her mistress and submit to her. How could God ask her to return to Sarai when it was such a difficult situation for her? In the next part of the story we receive the answer. The angel said, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” He also told her the details of her situation. “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael for the Lord has heard of your misery,” the angel told her. (The name Ishmael means, “God hears.”)
Hagar came from Egypt where many gods were worshipped. We don’t know how many she was forced to worship in her experience there. We don’t even know how much she knew of the Hebrew God from Abraham and Sarah before this encounter. But it changed her. She could probably recite the names of many gods and their attributes, but this was a God who saw her, not as one of many in a crowd of worshippers, but for who she really was. In that moment, she experienced a God who knew the deepest parts of her and cared for her intimately. It rocked her world.
It was then that Hagar gave the name “El Roi” to the Lord who spoke to her because she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). And just as it was foretold Hagar bore Abram a son, Abram named him Ishmael. As God met Hagar in her most desolate hour, He showed her divine love and care. As she responded in obedience and faith He blessed her whole family.
Why did she do what the Lord said? Because He didn’t just tell her what to do. He saw her. Not just a causal glance, but a deep, penetrating gaze. He didn’t paint a rosy picture or give her great promises. He spoke the truth and He saw her. That look changed everything.
Psalm 33:18 says, “The eyes of the Lord are upon even the weakest worshipers who love him- those who wait in hope and expectation for the strong, steady love of God.” (TPT) Whether you feel like it or not, He sees you. Not in a scary or judgmental way, but with infinite compassion and mercy. If, like Hagar, you’ve gotten off track or have been used or abused by others, He is ready to give you encouragement about your future and to redeem your past. His love never fails. If you feel alone and a failure, He wants to bring hope for your future. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Ponder these words from Psalm 121, “He will not let your foot slip. He who watches you will not slumber, The Lord watches over you, The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life––watch your coming and going both now and for evermore.” As little kids we might have thought at first that our parents never slept, but they did. However, El Roi never sleeps. You always have his undivided attention.
And you don’t need to work to earn it. You might have had parents who you felt you needed to please (or act out) to get their attention. But with God, you already have His focused gaze. Every moment of every day, He is right there, ready to have a conversation with you, to smile and sing over you. He sees you.
What we can know for sure is what the Psalmist David reminds us, “Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, and upon them that hope in His mercy” (Psalm 38:18-19). Another beautiful promise is that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
The truth is that God sees our secrets. God knows our battle scars. God sees our strength.
Today, we can rely on God, our “El Roi,” and gratefully receive the gift of His presence. He is unceasingly watching us and unfolding His perfect plan for our lives. And just like Hagar we will find that when God is at work His providence always leads to a promise. What we need is to encounter the God who sees us intimately because that look––it changes everything.