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?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:7-13 NLT)
When I last read this passage, I noticed something. Even though God assures Hagar that He has heard her cry of distress and even instructs her to name her baby “God hears” (Ishmael), Hagar latches onto the fact of being seen. “You are the God who sees me.” I understand that she was lost and abandoned in the desert, and probably terrified, and that being seen or found would have been a relief. Still, God said “I heard you.”
Being seen is comforting when the “see-er” is God, however, being seen for me, as a woman, has not been a happy or comfortable thing. I guess it’s because I have had too many bad experiences. Too much objectifying. Too much harassment. Too much uncomfortable “appreciation” or criticism of my looks. So now, being seen communicates just looking at the outside to me. I know God wouldn’t do that. I know that when God sees me, he is looking into my heart, the core of my being. But still.
Hearing, being heard, communicates something different to me than being seen. Being heard infers being known, an understanding on a deep level, an intimacy down where the real me is. Isn’t that what we say to someone when we want them to know that we acknowledge their experience, their struggle, their pain? We say, “I hear you.” I would rather be heard than seen any day.
And the amazing thing is that God wants to be heard too. I think being heard, and letting us know that He hears us, is important to God because He loves us and wants a close relationship with us. The greatest commandment, the Shema, asks to be heard, and the cry is echoed down through time.
Hear O Israel! (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. (Isaiah 55: 3)
He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:9)
Praise God! He is the God who hears me! And I want to incline the ears of my heart to hear Him.
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 (ESV)
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6 (ESV)
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