“He sees you,” she whispered, bent low, hands on my shoulders. Later another woman crossed the room, knelt by me and said, “God sees you. He sees your tears, your faithfulness, your years of hard work. He sees you.”
How odd. I hadn’t been aware of the need for such encouragement, yet twice in one morning the same word came through two unconnected women. The following week a third person delivered the same message. Spoken with no elaboration, almost as an afterthought, the words struck with an intensity and depth that left no doubt of its significance.
God had my attention.
I went home feeling ravaged. The message had sheared my armor and exposed my soul. So what? He sees me? He sees everyone. I’m still here, alone. Instead of giving strength and comfort these encounters had marked a deep sense of abandonment. I had walked through the forty-nine months since my husband’s illness and death wrapped in God’s presence, like a blanket insulating me from the harshness of the reality. Yet there was something else deep inside, untouched and unacknowledged. My response to the message was mystifying, yet God was using it to uncover something hidden deep in my heart–the depth of aloneness that comes with separation from our “one flesh” partner.
And a seed of bitterness trying to find the light.
Days passed. I came across in Laurens Van Der Post’s A Story Like the Wind a moving reference to the African Sindabele greeting, “I see you, indeed I see you.” Spoken with the right hand lifted high, palm out, it is a sign of “being recognized and accepted…almost as good as an embrace.”
This touches me through. It makes me want to draw closer, to pull out the meaning of God’s message. I draw a shuddering breath. Okay, God, I’m ready. Please show me what You want me to see. I get out my Bible and begin to study.
“The God Who Sees,” El Roi, is found in the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. Hagar is a run-away Egyptian slave. She is pregnant with Abraham’s child, was treated cruelly by her mistress, and has struck out across the desert to return to her homeland. In her loneliness and distress El Roi finds her.
This is one of the few places in the Old Testament where God appears in physical form, a theophany. Not only does He appear, He ‘sees’ her depth of anguish and despair. He makes Himself visible and speaks directly to her. The cultural implications are similar to Jesus’ speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4. This was something that wasn’t done. Men did not lower themselves to speak with women, much less a female slave.
But He speaks to her, confronting her deepest need and bringing comfort and encouragement. He gives her promises for the son she is carrying, and blesses him with the name Ishmael, meaning “God Hears.”
Before God appears to Moses in the burning bush, before Jacob wrestles with Him at Peniel, God appears to Hagar. A woman–a slave, an Egyptian, someone out of God’s chosen line–was seen by God. Here she names Him El Roi, and the place she names Beer Lahai Roi, “The Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me.”
Following this meeting, Hagar obeys God and returns to her earthly master, Abraham. He also listens to her, hearing with an obedient heart, and honors her encounter by christening their son Ishmael, the name given by El Roi.
Reading and studying this short passage begins to open my heart and mind to God’s message. Like the loving God He is, he was answering a need before I was fully aware of it. He was working deeply, rooting out a seed of bitterness and abandonment I wasn’t aware of. While I had chosen to stand on the Word of God, trusting that He never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He is a Father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow, there was more going on in my heart than I realized.
Two weeks went by and another woman pulled me aside, looked into my eyes and said, “He sees you.” This time I could hear and receive the message as God intended, a message of love and encouragement. But, if I hadn’t been willing to face the sense of abandonment and work through it, the message could have been lost. Worse, it could have hardened the shell developing over my heart.
Instead, it has brought healing, growth, wisdom, and thankfulness. I know now that He not only sees me, my needs, my heart, and my future but that He also cares for me at a depth that is unfathomable, except by His grace.
And I am blessed.
God bless you and keep you,
God smile upon you and gift you,
God look you full in the face, and make you prosper.
The Aaronic Blessing, Numbers 6:24-25, The Message