Invisible: Part 3

Things I ask God for….

1. To be skinny without effort.
2. To be wildly wealthy (which then I’d totally give bunches to other people, too.)
3. To travel the whole world.
4. To have my kid’s lives be free from trouble, but they develop all the qualities that come from facing adversity anyway.
5. To have a maid. Or like a team of maids.

However, here’s a nasty little truth. It’s not my favorite part of life…but I don’t always get what I want.

Before we find Hagar written about again in Genesis, we find her boy. Let’s read this short passage in Genesis 17: 17-22.

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“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”
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We see that Abraham has grown to be attached and to love the boy. When God comes and tells Abraham that Sarah will bear the child of promise in a year Abraham speaks plainly to God, saying, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Abraham loves the boy and would be happy to pass along his everything to him. God replies, recognizing his attachment to Ishmael, and assuring Abraham that Ishmael will great in his own right. God says in verse “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.”

There it is again.

Did you notice it?

Because this is so important.

God says “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.”

This is the life song for this boy. In his mother’s womb, he was named “God hears.” Abraham and Sarah wish to find a solution to their infertility. Hagar wishes to find freedom from her oppression. Abraham wants this to be his heir. God hears. He hears their concerns. He hears their wishes.

I imagine so sweetly as Hagar stands over a fire, her belly rumbling, knowing others are hungry, too. She calls out “God hears!” to let him know that food is ready. I see a pot of beans left on its side, evidence that a wild child had run by and not noticed the mess left in his wake, maybe thinking he’d just clean it up later and Hagar crossing her arms across her chest and grumbling, “God hears.” As the sun set and danger of the terrain begins to wake, she stands at the door to her tent and calls “God hears!” to come home to safety. She leans over a little boy breathing in and out, slowly, rhythmically, as he slumbers on his mat. “My sweet, God hears” she whispers, brushing his hair back and kissing his forehead.

God didn’t just send Hagar back into a difficult situation with a one time message that Hagar was seen by God, but He gives her and all the people around her a constant reminder that He cares about her, He cares about their concerns, their needs and wants. How many times a day did they hear it? How often did they really listen?

From before birth, Ishmael is a living example of what is written in Psalm 139 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” The meat of that Psalm speaks to the fact that God sees us as individuals, sees us and we are unable to hide from Him, sees our physical bodies and our inmost soul as well.

But the other message in this passage is that being seen and heard by God, having that open line of communication where He understands our desires, does not mean that we get what we want all the time. It doesn’t even mean that we get what we want in what we think are the biggest, most crucial areas of our life.

There will be a time in every parent’s life that their sick child will look at them with glazed eyes and stuffy nose and say “But Bommy, I waaaaant to go to da barty. I’b fine. I beel so buch better already.” You look at them and you ache for them, because you hear them. You understand. But you know best, you know that letting them go to the party, allowing them to skip the rest they need and getting everyone else sick, will prolong their illness and will cost everyone else at the party too. Other people will have to stay home. Other people will have to miss work. Other people will have to miss school. It isn’t a kindness to say yes to every request. When you as a parent know better, you have to say no. Tuck that child in, tell them you understand their disappointment, because you do, you’ve been there, and make the most of a tough situation which feels like heartbreak for them.

There is a lot in this life that I want, things to make me and those I love comfortable and happy in the moment. There are things in this life that I plan for, hope and dream for. There is healing that I pray for and change, too. There is this mess of a nation I live in, that I just want God to step in and solve. I pray for that. I pray for fast fixes. But I’m ready for God to say, “As for that, I hear you. Yes, but here’s what’s going to happen.”

God’s saying “Yes, but…” doesn’t change the nature of the relationship. God is in the middle of a conversation where he renames Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah to show change in who they were and the nature of their relationship. If there was a time for Him to say, “Your son who is already born, by my setting this new plan for this new plan in motion, I am changing things for him, too,” that would have been the time to do so. But God doesn’t say “I will now change God hears to God brushes off, or maybe God was distracted, or maybe God heard, but forgot and sort of doesn’t care what you have to say about this.” He says “I hear you.”

There are a lot of times in our lives where it is easy to feel ignored, to feel invisible. There have been seasons in my life where I have wondered if my prayers don’t float about in the air, knocking into the ceiling and then dropping back at my feet, unnoticed. Generally, this sense accompanies my not getting my way. But what change could there be in my life if I repeated daily the message that Ishmael carried for his family? Imagine the change there could be in your life, when you feel that God has stepped away from the conversation between you two, if you called to yourself, to your children and to others, “God hears.”

I’ll close with this as Thanksgiving approaches. At the end of A Miracle On 34th Street, the little girl, Susan, is crushed because Santa did not deliver what she’d asked for. She is in the backseat of the car and she is repeating over and over “I believe…I believe….it’s silly, but I believe.” She is sullen and a little sarcastic, but she is bolstering her decision to believe in Santa by repeating to herself a message, repetitive in nature, but designed to carry her through that big disappointment. In the end, Santa pulls through and she gets what she wants.

I do not mean to pretend that God is Santa, ready to give us our childish desires if we repeat a mantra, but I do want us to think that there are times that we can be carried through the way I imagine Hagar and Abraham were carried through because they were reminded day in and day out of this message that God had for them. The same message that God has for you and me.

God hears.
God hears.
Ishmael.
Ishmael.
God hears.

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For the next part, head to Invisible: Part 4
but first, a chance to reflect….

Reflect

  1. What do you wish for?
  2. Do you find it hard to believe that God cares about your opinion?
  3. How do you balance being submitted to God’s will in your life with the truth that God listens to your wishes, hopes and dreams?
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What I Teach My Kids About Lying

When Frank was a toddler he tried it a few times. It was in the realm of “No, I didn’t pull the cat’s tail” and “I don’t know who ate all the candy” in those days, but from the onset of the effort, I knew I was not going to raise a liar. Even a small cat tail, candy sneaker liar.

There in the little album his children’s pastor had made of memory verses was this. “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. Proverbs 12:22.”  Both had hear Bible stories their whole life, but this was perhaps the very first verse I taught both of my kids. Maybe I should have started with a different memory verse, something softer, more grace filled. But at the end of the day, it is vitally important to me that they understand this…The Kinzers are truth tellers.

I had Frank repeat it back to me over and over whenever I caught him in a lie. He quickly gave up the attempts at lying as a toddler. He was unashamedly honest for years to follow. He took this truth telling quite seriously. And living life as the parent of an adamant truth teller…well, let’s just say, if you say you were late because of car trouble, you better go yank out some sort of nonessential bit of your car, because as I pointed out above, the Kinzers are truth tellers, and now we had a little pair of eyes to really keep us honest.

I have never really been much of a liar. Sure there were a few times I can point to in  my childhood, but I also remember the accompanying sickness I felt when I did lie. Frank and Molly have each had their moments where I must turn to them and say “What did you just do?” and they inevitably say “I lied.” And in those moments they reflect what we’ve taught them.

1.    Do something wrong, get in trouble once. Do something wrong and lie about it, get in trouble twice.
2.   God hates lying lips, and so does Mama.
3.   A well crafted truth intended to deceive is the same as a lie.
4.   Come clean and tell the truth and we can work out the problem.

The thing that frustrates me is that we spend all this time trying to teach our kids not to lie, and then we live in a society full of adult liars. Or listening to people wonder what’s going on with their kids lying to them, when you know full well that they themselves have no trouble lying to others. It’s even the most frustrating part of watching tv. They use lies as a plot device and it’s so obvious that it’s going to cause a big mess, and yet the characters do it.

And furthermore, it is of greater annoyance when people can’t grasp the concept that to speak love without truth is a lie, but to speak truth without love is no truth at all.

Here is a bit of truth this cold November night. If you lie, so will your kids. If you lie, things will go badly. If you lie, you turn yourself into a buffoon, because the truth will out and you will be held in account.

This may not be the finest thing I’ve ever written, but these are tonight’s thoughts.

Tell the truth. Just tell the truth.

Invisible: Part 2

          There was a time in my childhood that I packed up my life and ran away from home. When I got far enough away from the horror that probably amounted to having to clean my room or not getting something I wanted, well then, they’d see! They’d miss me and be sorry they ever asked me to pick up after myself! I wrapped a few things up in my blankie and stormed to the end of the driveway and sat down. I may have lasted 15 minutes, but I was certain it was most of the afternoon. Eventually I came back in the house and slunk off to my room. My mom came in to find me and brought me a bowl of cut up apples as a peace offering and in a few moments, with a little rush of natural sugar and a bit of caring, all was right in my world.
   
       Hagar had far more stick-to-itivity than me. Sarai had mistreated her to the point she couldn’t take it anymore and she ran.  If you have a copy of the Bible handy, feel free to open it up and let’s pick up where we left off last week. Click the link and let’s read together!

Click this so we can read together!!!

        Hagar is not fleeing like an impetuous child. In order to step into the desert and run for the land she left years before, she has to be ready to face death over the abuse doled out to her by her mistress. She will be traveling through intense heat, and as we will see later in Hagar’s story, the desert elements put her and her son at the edge of death for this very reason. Should she make it through the desert to her homeland, she will be entering it as a single pregnant woman. What would she be? It should be obvious to all of us that this is a woman who would rather be free at the risk of death than sheltered at the expense of her independence.

 

       The Lord found her near a spring, and how beautiful a spot, where she may likely have come, collapsing in the heat of the day, desperate for a drink. We think of another woman, another well, and Jesus speaking to another woman of no account, there offering her living water so that she may never thirst again.


          In this moment what the Bible doesn’t say speaks volumes to me. The angel of the Lord finds her and she speaks with him as if he is you or me. She is no cowering shepherd tending their flocks who were so afraid. She is no shaking disciple in a boat. She is bold and speaks plainly to Him. He is sometimes referred in this story as “the angel of the Lord” or “the Lord” or “the God.” Whether this was the highest angel representative, God the father manifest or God the son manifest, I am not certain, but Hagar speaks clearly indicating that she knows this to be God. I am not certain that if I was to come face to face with God that I would be able to form even two words, let alone a full conversation. This is a brave woman!

        If what the Bible doesn’t say speaks to me about Hagar’s character, what the Bible does say speaks to me about the character of God. He speaks and the first word is her name. It is identification and it is value and it is knowing. Then he speaks her role and shows he knows who the world sees her as. Finally, He asks her where she has come from and where is she going. He knows the answer to this already. Like many questions God asks, it is for the listener to gain meaning. This question is about inviting her to consider what is your past, Hagar, and what is your future? In essence, who does she see herself as.


         Hagar answers essentially with information about her present, not her past or her future, nothing of her regrets or her hopes, simply what she is doing now. The past is too far gone, what she could have been, who she could have been, and there is no future in sight. She identifies herself in her present despairing state. The angel of the Lord then directs her to return to her former situation. She has told him what she is doing. He tells her what to do. This has been a direction that I have struggled to understand for years. How could a loving God, a God who cares about abused broken women, tell this girl to go back to that?

          Then He speaks over her. For years I have seen God say to Hagar, essentially, “You’re pregnant. You’re going to give your kid kind of a weird name. He’s going to be a real big problem and difficult to raise.” Why is Hagar happy about that? How can she smile and skip back to Canaan like nothing happened because God said that nonsense to her?

         If we take apart God’s words and consider them. He tells  her to go back and then follows it with a promise, a promise very similar to the one given to Abraham, the promise of descendants. This is a big deal, particularly to give this promise to a woman, particularly to give it to a woman of no standing. We are so many years in the future and societies still don’t give the kind of equality and honor to women that God has no trouble extending at nearly the beginning of history.

          Next the angel of the Lord says is “I see the mess you’re in, and I am naming the outcome of this mess, “God hears,” because when I asked you who you were, you vulnerably answered with not who you were born to be or who you hoped to be, but that who you were at this moment was out of options.” Who among us has not been there? Who has not wished someone would just notice the mess we’re in and maybe they aren’t going to fix all the problems, but they are willing to hear us and get it when we say “This sucks. It really really sucks.”

         Finally, five lines dedicated to Ishmael’s attitude and behavior. Any mother I know would have taken a step back if they’d heard the child in their belly was going to fight with everyone, live in hostility against his brothers and be a wild donkey. Let’s remember who Hagar is, however. This is no trembling feather falling from a sparrow. She is the whole hawk. God is not offering her a son whom she would not be able to manage. God is promising her that she will have descendants through a her son who will be a man who is prepared to fight for his freedom. What I have always read as almost a punishment, to her would have been a delight. He would be just like her.  

       The answer to how can Hagar return willingly to the abuse she was ready to die to get away from? Because God came to her in her lowest and heard her and speaks very closely to the same message he gives to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11-14 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  I have big plans for you. I hear you. You can see me. I will set you free. A nation sized promise given to one girl.

         She turns and having been seen, having been heard, having been called by name and having had the life inside of her named as well, she turns and names God. How intimate! She says “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” There is the most beautiful of all mysteries to me, that an invisible God sees me and makes himself seen by me.

       Seeing this interaction for what it is has altered my view of God in this encounter. No longer do I see a removed dictator who just sends back a broken girl into abuse, but rather I see a restored empowered girl ready to do more than most of us could dream doing because God saw her. God didn’t just give her hope, but also a purpose, to carry the message of the God who sees us. He gives her dignity, a name, and the assurance of value and worth. God empowers her not to simply overthrow her oppressor, but to do something infinitely more difficult…to co-exist with those who’ve deeply wronged her.

 

     This is El Roi, the God who sees you.

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After answering the reflection questions,
why not continue on reading Invisible: Part 3 

Reflect

  1.  Where have you been and where are you going? If God asked you this question, how would you respond?
  2.  When things really, really stink are you able to speak frankly to God about where you are in your mess? 
  3. Has God asked you to stay somewhere uncomfortable? What hope did He give you to see you through?
  4. If you were to give God a name to reflect who He has proven to be in your life, what would it be?