Eyes of a Stranger: The Mothers, Post # 21

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September 13, 2014 by Renee Griffin

The Bible is full of amazing stories. The pages of the Old Testament contain seriously deep, complex accounts of men and women encountering God in the midst of living ordinary life.

In Genesis, chapters 16 & 21, the story of Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Sarai, Abram’s wife is written.  When I read this for the first time years ago, I cried.  Something about this slave, Hagar, touched an emotional nerve in my heart.  If you’ve never read it, go right now and look it up.  You will cry, I promise.

Hagar isn’t the starring role in the story in Genesis 16.  She’s an Egyptian slave girl who works for Sarai.  The main characters here are Abram & Sarai, who later in Genesis become Abraham & Sarah. The chapter before Hagar is introduced, Abram was given a promise from God.  He made a covenant with Abram promising him that he’d be the father of many nations.  And God told Abram that he’d have a son.  He was in his eighties when this covenant was made.  An old man married to an old woman were told by God that they would conceive a son the old-fashioned way.  They both thought this was funny.  However, God wasn’t kidding.  He never jokes around.  God isn’t bound by age or time or any other constraints.  In His time, the son promised to Abram & Sarai, Isaac, was born just like God said it would happen.  What God says happens.  Period.

But… (There’s always a but…)

Before the promise became a reality, Sarai got impatient.  She decided to remedy this situation with a custom of her culture.

Sarai gathered up her slave, Hagar, and told Abram that he could have a baby with her.  The scriptures spell it out exactly like that.

Genesis 16:3b.-4a. “…Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar and she conceived.”

I imagine Sarai with her hands confidently sitting on her hips, nodding her approval as she thought about how great her plan was.  No problem, huh?

My man has a promise from God, and it’s a crazy plan cause we are old as dirt. We’ve been waiting and trying and nothing has happened.  God promised us a son, and I happen to have a young slave who can help move this plan along. It’s cool to do stuff like this because everybody does it. Everything will work out just fine and we will have the baby God promised. Done. 

I get it, Sarai.  How many times have I devised my own plans out of impatience or arrogance thinking I know better than God?  The initial stages of my plans can look pretty good.  In time though, the seams begin to unravel.

Any plan outside of the will of God will fall apart.  Always.

The plan Sarai formed fell apart as the baby inside of Hagar formed.

Genesis 16:4b. “When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.”

Hagar was a slave, but she was still human.  Now she was a mother.

Two women joined together by a baby produces deep, conflicting emotions no matter what culture you live in.

One was the birth mother.  The other was the chosen mother.

Major drama began to occur in the tent.  Like an episode straight from a soap opera, one chick got nasty, the other chick got mad, & the dude gets blamed.

Sarai blames Abram for Hagar being mean to her.  Abram is having none of this and basically tells Sarai it’s her problem.

16:5 “Saria said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.  I put my servant in your arms and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.  May the LORD judge between you and me.'”

Interesting how Sarai tries to bring the LORD into her plan now that it’s falling apart.  Abram stops her cold.  Nope.  He’s not taking the heat for this.

16:6 “‘Your servant is in your hands,’ Abram said. ‘Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled.”

Here is the part that makes me cry.

In the midst of drama between the mothers, God shows up.  With a baby in her belly, Hagar flees into the desert to escape the suffering she was experiencing.  At a spring, the angel of the LORD found her.

When she was running away, she was being pursued by God.

The angel of the LORD asks Hagar two questions.  16:8b. “…where have you come from and where are you going?”  The questions God asks in the Bible are not asked because He needs an answer.  He already knows everything.  He asks questions so that we can hear our  answers and see our situations in light of His Truth.

Where have you come from?

Where are you going?

Hagar answers the angel of the LORD honestly.

16:8b. “…I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.”

Bless her…  She didn’t give the angel of the LORD long, drawn out details.  She offered a simple answer to his complex questions.  The mistreatment she’d endured was too much.  Sarai was her mistress and by law she had no right to leave, but staying hurt worse than the risk of running.

God goes right to the heart of the issue.

He tells Hagar to go back and submit to Sarai.  Ouch.  Go back?  What happened to Hagar wasn’t fair!  She had been wronged in so many ways. Yet, God tells her to return.  He places great importance on respect for authority.  Hagar had no right to leave her mistress.

The angel of the LORD doesn’t stop there.  He gives Hagar a word of promise, too.

He tells Hagar all about the son in her womb, who he will be, and what his life will be like.  Wow.

16:13 “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.’ ”

She called Him, El Ro’iy.  This word in the Hebrew means “looking or seeing”.

The unseen was seen.

That’s the part that brings tears…every single time…

When you are adopted, you look into the mirror and search the eyes staring back at you.  Those eyes, your eyes, are the eyes of a stranger.  You don’t know who you are, but you know somebody out there has your eyes.

I searched the eyes of strangers for 33 years before finding myself.  I thought my reunion would heal all the hurt.  It didn’t.  Just like the story of Hagar, only God can take the tattered pieces of your life and weave them together into a story that brings Him glory.  I am realizing now ten years later as God puts my hands to the keyboard, there is a bigger picture I need to see.

In the pages of my adoption reunion story, there are two mothers.  In every adoption story, there are two mothers.  While the story of Sarai & Hagar, isn’t the replica of the adoption stories of today, the emotional struggles travel across the years of history.  Their story is full of disappointment, pain, fear, depression, jealously, and anger.

My heart is for the mothers.  Of course I relate strongly to the children caught in the middle, but it’s the mothers that pull at me.  Neither of them, the birth mother nor the chosen mother, wrote adoption onto the pages of their lives.  In the culture that existed when I was born, adoption was the only option for many birthmothers.  They were trapped.

Today we live in a culture that celebrates adoption.

It is beautiful process made much easier when played out through a transparent lens.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s and even earlier, adoption was not celebrated openly.  The birthmother was not leafing through applications choosing the best home for her baby.  The chosen families were not blogging about their new baby or posting pics on Instagram for all the world to see.  The culture back when I was born was different.

It was a different time.

When I was reunited with my birthmother, it became clear pretty fast that even though we were in the year 2003, she was still in 1970.  I tried my best to understand.  The culture she gave birth to me in was alive and well in her mind.  When I told my mama about finding my birthfamily, she went back to 1970, too.  As you’ve read, if you started with Post #1, it has been a long journey for all of us.

My heart goes out to the mothers that looked into the eyes of a stranger, cuddled up in a blanket, and said , “Yes, I will take this baby to be mine.”  Chosen mother, I know it hasn’t been easy for you.  I know you’ve looked into those eyes many times and wondered about the stranger who birthed your baby.

Birthmother, I know you never forgot your baby.  I know you see him or her in the eyes of strangers you meet…still.  I know you watch the adoptions of today’s culture with an ache in your heart wondering how different your life could be if you knew where your baby was.

What I want you both to know is that the same God of Genesis, who sent an angel to find Hagar, sees you, too.

He knows, birthmother, that your child may find you. You may or may not be ready to be found.  The secrets you’ve held close in a hidden culture of yesterday may be exposed in the open, tell-all culture of today.

He knows, chosen mother, that your child may go looking.  You may have feared this day and prayed it would never come.  The protection of the past culture has been removed in a current culture of social media that makes finding lost people easy.

I pray that no matter what the pages of your story holds, in the midst of it all, you will encounter the God who sees you.

He is El Ro’iy, He sees you, and He has a plan & promise for your life.

Mothers, no matter what happened way back in the past that still haunts you today, He has a promise for you.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  If you happen upon the eyes of a stranger, look to the Eyes of the One Who Sees.  If you feel like fleeing the pain, like Hagar did, take comfort knowing that God will pursue you and find you so He can cover you with His Love.  In Him you are not alone.

Deut 31:8a. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

(This song puts to music the message I tried to convey above.  Hope it blesses you.)

Sing it, Kari….

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