Today’s reading: Genesis 16:1-15.
Do you ever get impatient with God? Sometimes it can seem like God’s timing is so slow that we want to take things into our own hands and make things happen in our lives.
That’s what Sarah did in our story today. God had promised that Abraham would have many descendents. The only problem was that his wife, Sarah, had no children and wasn’t getting any younger. It had been ten years since that promise was made and still no children. Sarah became impatient and did what, in our culture, was unthinkable. She forced Abraham on her young slave girl to get her pregnant.
Here we see another example of distorting God’s promises and forgetting the sacredness of all blood. Hagar was a slave and nothing more than property and a baby-producing animal in Sarah’s eyes. When Sarah looked at her she didn’t see a human, created in God’s image. She saw a means to an end. Ironically, the end that Sarah was seeking was the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Hagar did produce a child for Abraham. This conception also distorted Hagar’s vision of herself. Now, she thought, she was significant because she produced a son. She began to fight fire with fire and tried to diminish Sarah because Sarah was barren.
A power struggle developed between these two women and neither of them could see the truth. Sarah still had the upper hand, being the rightful wife of Abraham, and used that power to dispose of Hagar. Abraham ran her out, never to be seen again.
There they are. Sarah is still barren and more bitter. Abraham has essentially raped a young slave girl and then exiled her. Hagar is alone and more worthless and invisible than ever before. It’s a mess.
Then God shows up.
Do you think this scenario was part of God’s plan? I don’t think so. I think this story is a good example of how all our lives work. We all have a distorted vision of God’s promise, each other, and ourselves. We get impatient and force the situation, then justify it, saying that we are doing God’s work. We get high and mighty and look down on others, or worse, don’t even see them.
Notice how God treats Hagar. He treats her with dignity. He blesses her child, even though that child should have never been conceived. He makes a blessing out of a blunder.
God sees Hagar for the beautiful, messy creation that she is. Hagar calls God El-roi, which means “the God who sees.”
Perhaps today we can meditate on El-roi. May you see yourself, not as high and mighty, or as low and worthless, but as a precious part of God’s creation. May we see each other, not as a means to an end, or the one who has power over me, but as a partner in God’s Mission for the whole world.