Perhaps you know the feeling of being unseen. Whether through memories of the middle school cafeteria or more recent recollections of being overlooked, maybe you have watched the seconds tick past slowly while insecurities race through your mind. If you were fortunate, someone breached your internal isolation with eye contact and thoughtful conversation.
How healing it is to feel noticed, understood, and seen.
We know little about Hagar’s life, but Scripture shares enough that I know I wouldn’t want to switch places with her. Separated from family, enslaved, and abused, Hagar’s situation was dire. Her story highlights the messiness of this broken world. More specifically, it confronts us with the realities that 1) some people are born into more mess than others, and 2) our choices can exacerbate the mess for ourselves and others. Abraham and Sarah made a mistake and roped Hagar into it. Yet Hagar, in her position of vulnerability, was left facing the consequences. It may have been unwise or short-sighted to run into the desert, pregnant and empty-handed, but Hagar’s desperation explains her ill-conceived escape plan.
Here’s the thing: When God met Hagar in the desert, He didn’t treat her like a mistake to be flushed out. He didn’t criticize or lecture her. Rather, our all-knowing God honored her by seeking to understand. What’s your story? He asked, before giving her hope for her illegitimate son’s future. The impression God left on Hagar is unmistakable. A woman and a slave, she became the only person recorded in Scripture to give God a new name: El Roi—the God who sees me. As our world cries out for a Messiah, Christ invites us to sit with those feeling judged or invisible—and love them by seeing them.
Father, thank You for seeing and loving us. May we follow Your example of being present with others. Help us remember the healing power of noticing, acknowledging, and inquiring. Use us to show the world that You are a God who sees.
Written by Becky Svendsen Harbaugh, HOPE communications director