Monday, March 31, 2014

Identifying with Hagar

"Thereafter, Hagar referred to the Lord, who had spoken to her, as “the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

My Muslim friends love to hear the story about Hagar.  Millions of Muslims in Mecca re-enact the steps of Hagar and Ishmael who wandered aimlessly around the desert frantically searching for water when God miraculously provided for them.  Muslims would interpret the story as Abraham resettling Hagar whereas in the Bible he sent her away or banished her from the household. In actuality he released her from slavery. She was now a free woman. Two times Hagar left. Once she ran away and the second time was released or sent away. Both times the angel of the Lord spoke comforting words to her. He saw her plight and heard their cries.

Even though the story of Hagar is pertinent and meaningful to Muslim women it is also a picture of many Muslim women who come to the Lord and the shock that confronts them immediately.  When a Muslim woman is released from Islam and enters the spiritual freedom found in Christ she gains a new status and identity but that does not mean life suddenly becomes a 'rose garden'.  Unfortunately she often flounders for a period of time.  She may lose clear direction and enter a state of psychological wandering because she has lost all that has been familiar and secure. Life can be confusing and frightening when unknown territory is entered. She often loses her support system and feels more like she is in a desert than in a garden.  A new support network has to be discovered.  She cries in her free state, perhaps even feeling like she is going crazy.  She is looking for a home and a sense of belonging.  Frequently there are children to care for. She worries about them and who they will marry one day. In some places there are groups of believers who take her in but this is not true everywhere.  If there is a fellowship she may not feel like she fits in well economically, culturally, or linguistically.  Transitioning from spiritual slavery to spiritual freedom can produce new overwhelming fears, worries and desperation. Then, one day, at some place and at some point on her arduous journey she encounters God who sees her - and she sees Him – not just her problems! Her faith now becomes intensely personal as the veil on her eyes has been removed.   Bad memories about her former spiritual slavery and the price she has paid to be free gets fainter as she finally encounters God, hears His voice and sees Him provide for her. Occasionally she experiences joy attending retreats or conferences for women just like her. Such gathering times bring delight as if she has miraculously stumbled upon a Garden or Oasis! The living water is so refreshing. Then she returns to her place of residence which often still feels like a desert. However, she is slowly discovering that God can meet her both in the Garden and in the Desert. 

In certain ways I can identify with Hagar, too.

Dear heavenly Father, rescue women believers who are losing their direction.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.