I’ve been pondering the character of Hagar in the Bible. Her name has come up several times in different situations so I thought I’d take a bit of time and take another look at a story that has become so familiar to me that I assume I know it and don’t think much about it.
Her name means stranger, or forsaken. She was a north African slave of Abram and Sarai. Most of the churches I grew up in used the King James Version’s euphemism of servant, giving a modern reader the notion that being a servant could have been a career choice. A more careful reading of the story tells us that Hagar had no choices.
I wonder how many slaves Sarai had and I wonder what made her think Hagar would make a good surrogate. I wonder how the pregnancy made Hagar forget she was a slave. Was it the hormonal change to protect her child or were promises whispered to her?
I don’t know. I know in the end when her son was around 14 or so she was forsaken again in a big way. She was given insufficient food and water and sent out into the desert with her son. They didn’t even get a donkey to haul adequate supplies. Just bread and water on her shoulders and sent away. By Abraham. A man lauded for his faith.
Utterly forsaken by everyone. Her family sold her as a child into slavery. Her mistress trafficked her. The father of her child rejected her. Her son was dying in the desert. She had nothing. When God spoke to her as she was sobbing off on her own, He said, “I have heard the boy crying.” What about Hagar’s tears?
I can come up with no easy answers here. But I do note a couple of things. Hagar is one of the few people in the bible who have actually spoken directly to God. The encounter was so important to her that she gave God a name - El Roi. The God who sees me. Usually it was God who named or renamed people. But not only did he let a slave woman name him, he put it in scripture for all to see through the ages.
The abandoned slave woman called him ‘The God who sees me’. Finally, she was no longer forsaken.
I wonder what that means to me as we’re (hopefully) coming out of the pandemic and out of isolation. I have been greatly saddened by this past year. Deaths of friends and family. Many relationships either past the point of repair, or not worth repairing. Yet, God sees me.
And that gives me a glimmer of hope.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.