One warm October evening, my friends and I dressed in our Halloween costumes for a neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt. Coming around the corner toward our host’s house for the next clue, I found Ally sitting alone on the porch steps. Dressed as a black cat, she held her tail between her hands and tried not to smudge her painted-on whiskers as she wiped away tears. My spirit grew quiet as I sat down beside her. “What’s wrong?” I asked. After a minute, she answered, “Courtney keeps stepping on my tail.” “Was it an accident?” Ally shook her head, and I reached my arms around her shoulders.
When I read that the angel found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness (v. 8), my spirit grows still in the same way it did with Ally. I imagine the angel stepping carefully nearer to sit beside her. Like my friend, Hagar had been intentionally hurt by a woman she should have been able to trust. First Sarai compelled Hagar into a sexual relationship with her husband, then she was so cruel to her that Hagar decided her chances of survival were better in the wilderness.
Although Hagar is alone and vulnerable, she is not unseen or unloved. God comforts her, speaks to her about her son’s future, and instructs her to name her baby boy Ishmael. In return, Hagar names God El-roi, meaning “God who sees” because of two impossibilities God made true. First, the Creator God of the universe sees her suffering and has compassion on her (v. 13). Second, she, a mortal and a slave, saw God and didn’t die (v. 13). This remarkable story helps us know more about the One we worship. God feels unique compassion for the wounded and repeatedly draws near to comfort them, often in quiet ways.
When have you been comforted by the words or deeds of a stranger? Who is someone you could show more compassion toward today?
Thank you for being the God who sees, who comes and sits beside me when I’m alone and hurting. Allow me to be a messenger of your presence and love to others. Amen.