Bible Reading: Genesis 16:7,8,13a,b.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” …Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD who had spoken to her. She said, “you are the God who sees me!” (NLT)
At 17, Mildred was hired to be one of the housekeepers in the home of a wealthy family. While Mildred was sleeping one night, in her designated quarters, she was awakened and ushered into her boss’ house. That night began a routine of sexual favors.
For weeks, Mildred remained silent until her rising abdomen confirmed her ill-feelings. She confessed to having mixed feelings but was not prepared for what followed. Abandoned by her boss and rejected by her own family, Mildred was left in a hole of despair, pain, and helplessness. What am I to do? Who can I turn to?
It was in the deepest moment of doubt, rejection, and hopelessness that the angel of God appeared to Hagar and asked: where are you coming from and where are you going? For ten years, Hagar was the faithful Egyptian servant in the household of the affluent Hebrew family of Abraham. Having complied with the common request to be a surrogate mother, Hagar was forced to flee twice during and after pregnancy (Genesis16:6, 21:14) to the wilderness of uncertainty.
Hagar dared to feel that she was entitled to the blessings and joys of motherhood her mistress, Sarah had. Hagar misjudged the fact that her intimate relationship with her Master did not change her social status as a marginalized and impoverished servant woman.
There remains today unimaginable exploitation and suffering of women and men at the hands of wealthy, the famous and the religious. Many are hurt, many are ashamed, and many are lonely.
The good news is that it is in such places of discomfort, in the wilderness, that God reveals God’s presence. It was there that the angel of the Lord met Hagar and gave her hope. God engaged Hagar in therapeutic dialogue. God instructed her to confront her past. God promised her a prosperous future.
“You are the God who sees me” was Hagar’s acknowledgement of the shalom she received through God’s compassion. Knowing that God sees and knows, assured Hagar of God’s blessings of healing.
Hagar’s story gives the assurance today that God does not leave nor forsake. It reminds us of a God who cares enough to seek after us and who alone has the power to make us well.
Why is the pain from the betrayal of intimate relationship more unbearable?
How do we frame a message of hope from Hagar’s story to share with the abandoned?
Rev. Dr Winelle Kirton-Roberts, pastor at the Moravian Church in Geneva, Switzerland
The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this reflection are the contributions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.