My husband had a full-on conversation with a grandma dressed in one of those huge t-shirts with a bikini-clad body printed on it, completely oblivious to the rest of the camp staff’s smirks. It didn’t even register. Mrs. Geraldine had just wanted to play a prank on this new youth pastor and tease him about the strict dress code, but his lack of observational prowess made the situation funnier than it would have been if he’d caught on right away (or at all before someone eventually had to point it out to him).
Have there been instances where you seemed unseen? Unobserved? Invisible? I’ve always wrestled with feeling like a translucent jellyfish in a vast sea of more colorful creatures.
Scripture is the ultimate source of redefined people, those profound moments of God saying, “You used to be known as ________, but now you will be called ___________.” I love those. Abram, Sarai, Simon, Saul: each called out to the fullness of who they were truly intended to be, each with a shiny new name badge given by his or her Creator.
But just as beautiful are the moments when God gets new names by His people. (And it happens surprisingly often for Someone who never changes.)
Genesis 16 describes one of the first ever documented cat fights. Barren Sarai gives her servant, Hagar, to Abram to bear a child, and after Hagar gives birth, she begins taunting her mistress. Sarai banishes her into the wilderness, and the servant takes her baby and runs.
Let’s look at Hagar for a minute. Put yourself there, running through the hot sand, tears stinging your face, wails from a tiny body curling up into your lungs. How does she feel? Abandoned? Used? Shamed? Desperate? Numb? Is there a part of her that believes she got what she deserved for despising her mistress? Has she ever felt significant in her entire life? Does she have the faintest idea of what to do next?
Hagar is completely out of options. Fresh from the birthing stool and with heart shattered, she finds herself at a spring of water in the middle of nowhere. And then God shows up. (Of course He does; where else would He be at this instant in eternity?) They have a nice little chat which includes a question (“what’s your story?”), a command (“go back home”), and a promise (“your baby’s special”).
This sweaty, stinky, scared servant girl meets glory right then and there. He doesn’t condemn her for her part in all of this. He doesn’t take advantage of her or scare her. There is no anger or manipulation or cold distance. He must have looked at her, looked to her like a well that never runs dry. He must have seen her swollen soul and blistered feet and parched longings for love.
It is this moment in the Word where the Word is renamed. Yahweh, the God who had promised a child to Abram in the first place, has a new name tag pinned to His shirt. With the grit and the sun and the bugs and the smell, this space becomes holy in His presence. Hagar lifts her eyes that have been ever unmet and drinks long of the eyes that cannot unsee. (They will one day, at the cross, so that Hagar and you and I and a thousand others can know He won’t look away from us.) “El Roi,” she breathes. “You are the God Who Sees Me.”
I don’t know where you are right now, who you’re with, what you’re hurt by or angry about or rejoicing over. But God does. He sees you. Not the masks you create or the you you’d like to be or the you everyone else would like you to be. Not through you. Not over you. He sees you. There’s a raw intimacy in that fact: you have never been invisible to this God of seeing. And you have never been lovelier to Him. He chases you out into the wilderness, through the early morning kitchen, into the coffee shop, past the endless black hole of mindless media. He pursues you, this One who sees you.
In this vast ocean of colorful creatures, there are no more jellyfish hearts.