The story of Hagar, which begins in Genesis 16, is overflowing with the proof of significance we all need, especially women. Stories like this one work into our earth-bound hearts more of our personal worth from God’s perspective. We are strengthened by the truth of how God’s focus is always upon us, and yet the average person struggles along in the day-to-day without the stamina and confidence this knowledge brings. Why is it so hard to believe? Time walking in relationship with God brings the surety we need and is sometimes found only by looking into the rear view mirror of life and seeing His hand stretched out across a desert we could never have crossed alone.
The truth of our significance to God is born out of a deep place in His heart for His children. He is the perfect Father. He continually calls to our spirits and as we respond and draw closer to Him, we find the blessing that comes with being known by the one who gave us life. From that intimate knowing, we go out to live our purpose as sons and daughters of the King. But we all begin in the same place of need.
In Hagar’s story, God found her when she had no hope of being found. Hagar was a slave in the home of Abraham and Sarah. In ancient Middle Eastern culture, she was only valued for the work and performance she could provide. Hagar’s resume’ would have read, “Experience in insignificance and undervalued as property of another, one successful forced pregnancy, first hand training in how to receive mistreatment, abuse, rejection, and fear, and extensive experience in desert travel and humility.”
Hagar was Sarah’s maidservant who was forced to sleep with Abraham so that God’s promise to them could be fulfilled. (Not the fulfillment God had in mind.) In becoming the surrogate mother of the promise and being the one who would give birth to the heir, she despised Sarah who severely mistreated her. Abraham, not giving the mother of his future child any protection, told his wife to do with Hagar whatever she wanted. So a young girl, great with child, was evicted from the home. Their front yard was the desert – hot, dry, and with no food or water, Hagar cried out to the God she’d heard about. With her earthly value on the bottom rung and her life in the balance, God’s view of Hagar had not changed. To Him, Hagar was an image bearer. She may have been treated like discarded refuse by everyone who knew her, but God treated Hagar with honor, sought her out, and stood before her. The Lord even called her by name, something Abraham had never done. Like other Daughters of Eve, the Lord knew everything about her and met her at her point of deepest need.
As usual, God’s love is redemptive and purpose-filled, and Hagar finds that she and her child are included in God’s plan and promise as well. In Lost Women of the Bible, Carolyn Custis James says it well. “In her encounter with the Angel of God, Hagar received dignity and meaning. The simple but unchanging truth that God’s eyes were fixed on her empowered her with a kind of freedom no one could ever take away. She was not alone. She did matter. This freed her to do the extraordinary” and return as a servant under Abraham and Sarah’s roof to serve the God she’d met while on hot sand.
Before her encounter was complete, she had responded to God with her heart’s desire fulfilled. Hagar gave God a name saying, “You are El Roi, the God who sees me. I have seen the One who sees me.” No one else in scripture ever names God. This moment was personal. No longer is Hagar alone or invisible. Forever her life would be changed. This encounter would enable her to live out her role in God’s plan for humanity.
We are like Hagar. When we have experienced a life changing moment with God, we discard one place for another as He moves us forward in truth. We are no more able to stay the same as an ice-cube is able to retain the properties of a solid in South Carolina in July. Forever changed, hearts melted before Him! We may feel worthless or alone or without hope in our own desert, but when we know we are seen by the One whose eyes are always focused on us, it lifts the false identity from our hearts and we are able to walk out with eyes lifted forward instead of cast down at our feet.
In my life, while unemployed for many months, the Lord met me while on a walk in the woods. I was tired of praying, weary from crying, and had headed outside to do something, anything. In a vision flash, I saw a scene from The Bourne Identity where Marie has given Jason Bourne, suffering from amnesia, a ride to Paris to try to find out who he really is. They’re about to part company when she says, “You’ll probably just forget about me.” Jason responds with “How could I forget you? You’re the only person I know.”
In the time it takes to blink the eyes, I knew what God was saying to me on that woods trail. Even though I felt forgotten and without much hope, He spoke clearly into my spirit and said, “My eyes are so upon you, upon every detail of your life, that it’s like you’re the only person I know.” Stopped in my tracks, hope filled me as I knew He was watching over my life. I did not doubt again that He would bring about His plan for me and like Hagar, He knew exactly where I was and what I needed and cared intimately for my well-being. Forever changed by being found by God.
In ancient patriarchal culture where Abraham ranked high, and Sarah as a woman scored maybe a one, a slave girl would be given a number below zero in human value. This story shouts loudly to the stars that women are important to God, that girls count, and are an important part of His plan for the earth. The Daughters of Eve matter. My Teacher has been the same God who appeared to Hagar in the desert and to me on the trail. And He sees and values me.
Your story, whether man or woman, inspires the faith of others. Have you had an encounter with God you would like to share? Please feel free to write about a time God found you. How did that affect your faith and future? How did that give you a sense of purpose to walk forward with Him?
(c) Robin Lawrimore, 2011