(This is written from the perspective of Hagar, based on Genesis 12 after Hagar flees from Sarah.) Some people matter and others can die without anyone losing any sleep over it. I belonged to the latter category. Sarai gave me to Abram so that she could be built up. I wanted the gods to kill me right then and there. No one would have cared had I objected to Sarai’s proposition—that’s what happens when you’re property. I had learned that everything I was could be sold or given to someone else.
Their intended plan worked—I was pregnant. Sarai’s words became harsh. Her violence was motivated out of emotion. I don’t even know if she knew what she was feeling while she mistreated me.
When I left, I didn’t run. I didn’t cry. I half wanted someone to stop me and tell me I had value here, but I’ve learned that is never going to happen. Crying would express some kind of weakness I wasn’t willing to feel yet. I had no idea what I was headed toward. All I knew is that I was sick of the powerlessness. I was sick of the structure. I was sick of being stuck in a system I didn’t even believe was relevant.
I was getting closer to Egypt. What do I do? Go home? What was I going back to? All I knew was slavery. Was I going back to be an unwed mother with no way to live?
I collapsed under the weight of the unanswerable questions. I realized for the first time that I had no options. My defiance had melted. I wanted to die.
There was no way I could hold up my own head. I was laying against a stone structure when I heard the Voice. “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
“Hagar.” How long had it been since I had heard my own name? The Voice spoke it again. “Hagar.” Someone knew my name. I realized at that moment that Sarai always called me slave. Abram, in our short union, never once called me by name. I was given and taken like a borrowed pot.
My heart softened just hearing “Hagar.” I looked up and saw an angel—he looked like a man but he shone like the sun.
Do I talk back? Who is this? Why wasn’t I afraid?
Because he said my name.
I decided to tell him the truth. I answered that I was running away from Sarai. That was all I knew. There was no future to report, only a past to erase.
He told me to go back. To Sarai. To the place I hated. To the people who oppressed me.
This messenger who addressed me as one who knew me was telling me to go back to people who didn’t look me in the eye.
No. I’m never going back.
I will fight this messenger with all the might I have left. He has got to have something better to say to me than just “Go back.”
I didn’t say a word, but I know my face betrayed my opposition. I instinctively put my hand on the growing baby.
Then, the messenger added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.”
I was being promised seed. I was being promised a future. I had no future to speak of 10 seconds ago. Now, I was told I wouldn’t be able to count my descendants.
And Ishmael. God hears. Wait—this was God?!?!?
God was speaking this to me? I was standing before God? This must be the God Abram talks so much about.
This God of Abram shouldn’t be talking to me. Who am I? I am not a man. I am not one who believes in YHWH! I don’t know anything about YHWH! Yet, this didn't stop the God of Abram from appearing to me, Hagar.
It was then that I realized that the stone I was leaning on was a well. In the midst of this desert, I was leaning on a spring. In a place where I would expect no water, no refreshment, no reprieve, I had found a fountain.
I was overcome with emotion and awe. “You are the God who sees me.” “You are El Roi." I couldn’t keep it in. My statement wasn’t meant to be anything but a declaration of reality—I couldn’t filter it. This was God—a God who sees foreign, pregnant, abused, slave women. A God who knows names and identities. A God who speaks to the heart instead of the surface. A God who hears the cries we can’t make with our mouths.
YHWH didn’t tell me again to return to Sarai. He didn’t have to. I had met my future, and it wasn’t Sarai and it wasn’t Abram. It was much larger. It didn’t matter if I went back. I was different. Hope comes in the oddest ways. Today, hope came through hearing my name. I heard purpose called out of me. This God wasn’t speaking purpose into me—he was calling out the purpose that was already there.
You are the God who sees me. You are the God who hears.