Tuesday, July 10, 2012

El Roi

I'm annoyed with infertility this morning. Or more specifically, I'm annoyed with my particular infertility this morning. Grief, anger, sadness can be such sacred, holy emotions, places to encounter God, feelings that seem healthy and reasonable given everything. Today this lack of children, my lack of children, makes me want to tell God, "This is one huge, unfair pain in the ass." Seems much less sacred, no? Oh but isn't that just the way of God - appearing in the places where we'd least expect to find God?

We had friends over for dinner last night and they came with their ridiculously cute toddler. Forgive me for bragging but my husband is amazing with children. Watching Todd wrestle, tickle, cuddle, and read to our friends' kid was fun, but this morning on my way to work I ended up speaking to God about it in less than reverent tones, which, honestly, for all my bravado about honesty and authenticity isn't really the norm for me. My prayers are usually more like "Okay, God, I get it. You're doing something here. Please let that be true. And please give us babies. Please. Thanks." Today without warning or premeditation this thought came blurting out of my heart: "don't you see what an incredible father Todd would be?!" And immediately these words followed: "I am the God who sees you."

That title for God, the one who sees, El Roi, comes from Genesis 16. A short recap: God tells Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child, even though they are old. Sarah gets tired of waiting and tells Abraham to have sex with her servant, Hagar, who subsequently gets pregnant and inspires homicidal jealousy in Sarah (anyone not see that coming?). Sarah mistreats Hagar so she runs away. God finds Hagar near a spring in the desert and tells her that her son Ishmael will lead his own great nation. Hagar then calls God El Roi, the God who sees me.

I've read (though haven't taken the time to verify) that Hagar is the only person in Scripture to name God. Hagar was an Egyptian slave, a woman, viewed as property to be given for sex with no right to consent, whose heir Sarah was planning to co opt as her own. She's pregnant, running away from an abusive mistress, out into the desert and almost certain death, when God shows up as the God who sees her.

Am I the only one who wants to pause here to whisper-shout an amen?

It is balm to my irritated heart that God saw this mistreated, scared woman, of little concern or value to anyone. I needed a name for God this morning and I heard it: El Roi, the God who sees me. The God who sees what a great father Todd will be. The God who sees the fears, doubts, hopes, dreams, and heartbreak all tangled up inside this word infertility deep within me. The God who sees me.

Can I get an amen?

(Claude Lorrain)


  1. Amen!! I love that story from Genesis. Thanks for reminding me of it and for another great blog post, Kim!