Some introductions are in order:
The Readership, meet Mrs Monologues and her friends. Mrs Monologues is a new blog/Twitter acquaintance who is also super-generous with her blog-space. Today (and apparently the first Tuesday of many ensuing months, indefinitely) is her BlogStar day, where bloggers can go link up to her blog in hopes of expanding their Readerships and in order to find more fun blogs to read. If you are a blogger, you should go on over there and sign up. Couldn’t hurt, right? Plus, I’m told she’s gunning for 200 new blogposts to read this evening. (She’s got to be a faster reader than I am. The very idea kind of makes me dizzy.)
Mrs-Monologues-and-Friends–hey! Welcome! Me and the Readership over here. (They’re usually pretty quiet–you can “loud-en” this blog up, if you want. Just be nice.) This is probably a weird note with which to introduce you to my blog, but I introduced Mrs Monologues herself to it with a similar post last week and she was a fan, so . . . maybe a couple of you are quirky like her. I don’t stick to much of a schedule here, but I have recently semi-officially (as in, I announced it to myself in my head last week) made Tuesday the day I post little vignettes which I wrote in the 90’s and are first-person retellings of certain Biblical tales.
This doesn’t sound like your thing? Okay, fair enough, but at least give one of them a try. Or two. The following is a companion piece to the one I posted here last week which made Mrs Monologues say, “Just what I needed,” is all I’m saying. (Last week’s is better, actually. Well, it’s an easier story to tell.) I’ve written an entire novel based on this type of story-telling and am in the process of trying to figure out the best method get it “out there” for all you crazy kids. In the meantime, here’s the third installment of the short-story kind:
HEARING AND SEEING
Genesis 16, 21 (Dialogue quotations below are from the NRSV. Link is to the CJB.)
So maybe she was chosen to bear The Child. But I bore his child, too, and I have seen the God who sees me, and I have heard the God who hears me. Has she?
I have seen Him, but working for Sarah still sometimes seemed a high price to pay for it. She arrived, the beautiful barren woman, in a year when the earth was barren, too, and she and her people were seeking refuge in Egypt. Then she brought me out of my land, just as her husband had taken her from hers. She loved me because I was pretty, and hated me for the same reason. I don’t know that I ever loved her myself, but I may have hated her sometimes.
Then came the day she said I was to bear a son for her. Her husband came to me then, and he was old, but he was my master, and it meant that they could tell me I couldn’t have a young man of my own and I had to have him.
But after that, there was a baby, and that was a comfort. As soon as I knew—as soon as I had the faintest hint—I was so happy, I couldn’t hide the smiles. And besides, there was something rather funny about it: my mistress jealously keeping me separate all those years, and then, just once, giving me up to be given a child by the man who had never gotten her one, despite all their years together.
Somehow, though, she didn’t seem to find the humor in the situation, and it quickly became less humorous for me, too. I went to my master about it, but he simply looked ashamed and did nothing. I should have known. It was he who had bowed to her idea in the first place.
So I had to do something myself. I ran. The desert is wide, but I found a spring, and that’s where I was when the angel of the Lord found me. He knew exactly who I was, which is maybe partly how I knew who He was. “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai,” He said, “where have you come from, and where are you going?”
There seemed no point in hiding anything from Him, and in any case, I felt I was the one who had been wronged. He would know that. “I am running away from my mistress Sarai,” I said.
But He said, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”
Return? Submit? Why? I saw no reason, and I was angry. But the Lord, who was eternally more a Lord than my master was a master, had not finished speaking. “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude. Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”
It was a strange comfort: a son for many offspring, who would be forever contending against everyone else. But it was a promise from God, and there was blessing in it somehow, too. I was certain of it. At the very least, He said He had given heed to my affliction. He, who is God, had seen my affliction!
“You are El-roi,” I said. The God who sees me. And then I could no longer see Him, but the feeling of His seeing me stayed for a long time. “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing Him?” I wondered. I kept wondering, all the long walk back. But it must have been true, because nothing else would have made me return.
Sarai was vaguely kinder when she saw me again, and the master named our son Ishmael when he was born, just as El-roi had said to.
At least Ishmael had some years to grow before the next trouble. The next trouble was that El-roi had apparently seen Sarah at last, too. She, old woman that she was, bore the Promised Child the master had been waiting for his whole life.
At first I didn’t know this child was trouble. They named him Laughter, and I laughed with them, seeing Sarah at last so happy. I knew he was the Promised Child, but my boy had a promise, too, and it was enough.
But not for Sarah. My boy went near hers to play with him when he was weaned, and she raged until Abraham sent us back to the desert. He said God had told him to, but I didn’t believe it, because God had told me to return, all those years before.
I wasn’t afraid at the beginning. I knew there was a God who sees me, and he had met me in the desert before. I told Ishmael. But the days passed, and the water diminished. Then one day it was gone. My boy was so weak. He would die, and then where were the promises? I hid him under a bush and went away from him, because I couldn’t bear to see him suffer. I couldn’t bear to see God break His promises. Then I lifted up my voice and wailed.
The boy wept, too, the Boy Ishmael, whose name means, “God hears.” I myself didn’t hear him, so caught up was I with my own noise, but God did. And then I heard God. “What troubles you, Hagar?” He asked, as if the death of my son were a trifle. “Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”
I couldn’t see how my holding Ishmael fast would allow God to make a great nation out of him. But when I rose to do it, I saw. There was a well. I filled our water skin, and gave my boy a drink, and we went on, under the eye of El-roi.