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.
“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.”
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.
- What do you wish for?
- Do you find it hard to believe that God cares about your opinion?
- 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?