Sunday, May 8, 2016

The God Who Sees Me

Nicole Johnson, a mother, wrote a beautiful article entitled: “I Am Invisible.”
It all began to make sense—the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I am on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. And inside I am thinking, Can't you see? I am on the phone. Obviously not. No one can see if I am on the phone or cooking or sweeping the floor or even standing on my head in the corner because no one can see me at all. I am invisible. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more. 'Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?' Some days I am not a pair of hands; I am not even a human being; I am a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I am a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I am a car-to-order—'right around 5:30 please.' I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated. But now they had all disappeared into the peanut butter never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone.
Now, I’m not a woman, and I’m not a mother. But I can see some truth in Nicole Johnson’s words here. I’ve seen motherhood through the eyes of a child, and through the eyes of a husband and father, and I can see how easy it would be for mothers to feel invisible. But, I will also say this: I’m not sure mother’s have the corner market on feeling invisible. There are women who will not come to church on Mother’s Day because they are afraid the church will not see them. Not that they are craving attention, it’s just that sometimes, in a room like this, we only see women who are mothers, and the rest are deemed somehow less important, or even invisible. There are even some men who feel invisible. Men, and boys, are great at finding heroes! Star athletes (mine was Magic Johnson), powerful superheroes (yesterday the boys and I saw Captain America), and when we are older, successful people in our field. There is nothing wrong with finding a hero, unless you begin to feel like you do not measure up. That happens to men a lot. Men are pretty good at feeling inadequate. We are not smart enough, we are not successful enough, we do not have enough money to support the lifestyle we want for our families. Yes, sometimes men can feel unimportant or invisible too.

Well, if you’ve ever felt invisible, for any reason, I’ve got a great story for you. It is a story about a woman, a mother, no less. She was like so many of us; she felt invisible—until one day, she was finally seen!
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to have children. Since she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar, Sarai said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from giving birth, so go to my servant. Maybe she will provide me with children." Abram did just as Sarai said. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took her Egyptian servant Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when she realized that she was pregnant, she no longer respected her mistress. Sarai said to Abram, "This harassment is your fault. I allowed you to embrace my servant, but when she realized she was pregnant, I lost her respect. Let the Lord decide who is right, you or me."
Abram said to Sarai, "Since she’s your servant, do whatever you wish to her." So Sarai treated her harshly, and she ran away from Sarai. (Genesis 16:1–6 CEB)
We do not spend much time talking about Hagar in church. In many ways, she has become invisible to the church. We know all about Sarai (or Sarah) and her son Isaac. We even know about Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and their children. The line of Israel would run right through Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel. But we hardly even notice Hagar, and you see, that was the problem. Even in her lifetime, Hagar was hardly noticed. We know her as simply the Egyptian handmaiden of Sarah. Sarah couldn’t have children, so she let her husband, Abraham use her handmaiden to have children. She eventually has a son who is neglected by his father. She is all alone in the world. In so many ways, Hagar was invisible to those around her. But one day, she found out that she wasn’t invisible to everyone.
The Lord’s messenger found Hagar at a spring in the desert, the spring on the road to Shur, and said, "Hagar! Sarai’s servant! Where did you come from and where are you going?"
She said, "From Sarai my mistress. I’m running away."
The Lord’s messenger said to her, "Go back to your mistress. Put up with her harsh treatment of you." The Lord’s messenger also said to her,
"I will give you many children,
     so many they can’t be counted!"
The Lord’s messenger said to her,
"You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.
     You will name him Ishmael
     because the Lord has heard about your harsh treatment.
He will be a wild mule of a man;
     he will fight everyone, and they will fight him.
     He will live at odds with all his relatives."
Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, "You are El Roi" because she said, "Can I still see after he saw me?" Therefore, that well is called Beer-lahai-roi; it’s the well between Kadesh and Bered. Hagar gave birth to a son for Abram, and Abram named him Ishmael. (Genesis 16:7–15 CEB)
Hagar is a forgotten, neglected, invisible Egyptian handmaiden. But did you know that she is the only person in the entire Bible that names God? Up to this point, God reveals God’s names to humanity:
Elohim—the Creator
Yahweh—the Covenant Maker
El Shaddai—the Almighty
But here, an invisible Egyptian handmaiden gives God a name, the only person in all of Scripture to do that. Hagar didn’t know who God was. She could have given God any name in the world!
The Great
The Powerful
The One Who Protects Me
But the name she chose:
El Roi—the One who Sees Me
You see, from her vantage point, that is what Hagar really wanted. She just wanted someone to see her, to notice her, and God did!

God sees you, too. Moms, God sees the work you do that never gets noticed or appreciated. Women who cannot have children, God sees you too. He knows that your life matters too. God sees your gifts and your talents. Because God has given them to you to bless this world. Women who have lost children, God sees you. God knows this is a difficult day. God knows what it is like to lose a child and God is with you today.

Amy Young is a blogger. Her blog is titled “The Messy Middle.” She wrote a piece a couple of years ago about Mother’s Day— more specifically, what it is like to be a non-mother attending church on Mother’s Day. She has some great things to say. She even gave some advice to preachers about what to do and what not to do on Mother’s Day, advice that I heeded. In that blog post, she included this piece entitled, “The Wide Spectrum of Mothering.” I want to share it with you today:

  • To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

  • To those who lost a child this year—we mourn with you

  • To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains — we appreciate you

  • To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

  • To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment—we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

  • To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms—we need you
  • To those who have warm and close relationships with your children—we celebrate with you
  • To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children—we sit with you

  • To those who lost their mothers this year—we grieve with you

  • To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother—we acknowledge your experience

  • To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood—we are better for having you in our midst

  • To those who have aborted children—we remember them and you on this day

  • To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children—we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

  • To those who step-parent—we walk with you on these complex paths

  • To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be—we grieve with you

  • To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year—we grieve and rejoice with you
  • To those who placed children up for adoption—we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

  • And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising—we anticipate with you

  • This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Mothers, God sees you. To the rest of us who feel invisible, El Roi sees you, too. You are loved by God. You do not have to be a mother or a father, a successful business person, or wealthy, you are loved by God. Period. And that is the reality we celebrate together.

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