She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)
And so, in Genesis, we find ourselves with Hagar, in the desert. Indeed, she seems to be one of the first people we encounter with no worldly status or claim to authority as she enters the narrative in the rather intimidating wake of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, and Abraham. God had promised Abraham and Sarah that Sarah would bear a child, but they doubted; Sarah took her handmaid, Hagar and gave her to Abraham. Hagar conceived, and the disastrous ramifications consume the story. Hagar begins to “despise” her mistress, Sarah “dealt hardly with her,” and Hagar flees.
We are told that the Lord finds Hagar in the desert and she names God “El Roi,” the God who sees. In fact, this is the only time this title is applied, and it comes from a nobody – an Egyptian, a pregnant woman, a runaway slave.
We skim over the story, acknowledge God as the proverbial Santa that “sees” everything, and move on. But, there is so much more.
In Hagar’s story, we find the depravity of the human condition, we find the loneliness that is so universal that it unfortunately becomes trivial, we find the fragility of our emotions, we find our inclination to run away from pain, and we find our vulnerability. We all carry the brokenness of Hagar – at least I know I do. It was not so long ago that I sat in my room Freshman year, crying as I talked to my mom on the phone, telling her that no one would notice if I disappeared. And I know I’m not alone. The more people I talk to, the more I realize how depression and suicidal tendencies reign, waiting to consume the lonely, mocking that void that churns in the pit of your stomach when you make up in your mind that no one cares and that you are alone.
Hagar was was pregnant, homeless, and alone, with no one to console her; yet, God met her in her affliction – and He does this for us. He gives us a glimpse of his character when we are not expecting it and when we are hiding. He did not take away her problems, nor does he take away ours, but it is rather remarkable to consider that the creator of the universe desires to care for and see the nobodies. God saw Hagar, and in return, she saw God.
El Roi – The God who sees me. Perhaps it is my own brokenness that makes this one of God’s most precious names to me. And perhaps it is no accident that it is when we are at our lowest point that we most crave to be seen.
In my lonliness, God saw me. In my despair, God saw me. In my ignorance, God saw me. And he still does. My God – a God who sees me, even when no one else does. But, what is even more humbling to me is that even though God sees me, he still extends his grace to me. Yes, God sees my brokenness and comforts me, but he also sees the layer of filth that has settled on my heart, he sees my shortcomings and failures, he sees my selfish motivations, and he sees my sin. I am humbled, once again.
God sees me; yet, He keeps looking anyway.