Monday, August 4, 2008

God Does Hear

The other day I woke up and wondered if God was listening to His daughters.

When I turn on the television, I see images of girls scantily clad to appeal to men. I see more and more nudity on network television. I listened to the news reports from around the world report on the rapes of women as an act of war. I read the internet reports about the subprime mortgage crisis that in one community specifically targeted minority women. I thought about the waitresses, the retail clerks, the dental hygienist, the teacher, the secretary, the day care operator, the seamstress, the barista. I thought about the women suffering from AIDS or oppressed by religious dogma. And I wondered if God was listening to His daughters.

On the surface it may seem as if God has turned a deaf ear to the many women in marriages that struggle, in prisons for crimes of the men in their lives, the women that watched their sons die on the streets, or the women who hold their baby with ballooning stomachs due to starvation. It is easy to think He isn't listening. In America we are suffering from a recession and moms who are in the Catch-22 of needing to work but can't find good, affordable daycare. In Haiti my sisters are suffering from starvation, HIV/AIDS crisis, and oppressive governmental regime instituted by the United States many years ago. In Mexico and the border states my sisters are suffering from the stigma of being "illegal" but needing the come here and work the farms and clean the toilets to feed their families. In Darfar, in Bosnia, in China, in Iraq, in Uganda, in Kenya, everywhere I turn, my sisters are suffering and to the naked eye, God is not listening.

To the eye, those things we see, it appears as if God has given all the power to men, white men especially. Wars have been waged because of power hungry men. The United States is in recession because of wealth hungry men. The women who suffer daily from mental, physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse suffer at the hands of controlling, power starved men. To the eye, it appears as if God has placed the power in the hands of men. The thing is, He hasn't, this is only temporary.

I wondered if God was listening to the millions and millions of prayers that surely reach Him. The silent tears that are uttered, the sighs, the tired bodies that fall into bed to sleep. Surely He has His eyes on His daughters. Then I remembered Hagar.

Hagar was property, much like most of the ancestors of African Americans. Hagar was an Egyptian, she was African. She was used to fulfill the wants and needs of someone else. Her own wants and needs weren't important, she had been bought and sold. Hagar was Sarai's handmaiden, a Biblical reference to slavery.

In Genesis 16 we encounter Hagar's story. Sarai was barren, a curse in some cultures. She told her husband, Abram, to go and sleep with her servant. Sarai basically handed over Hagar to be raped so that she could become pregnant and the child would be Sarai's. "So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant." Well, Hagar realized that even though she was a servant, a slave, she had something over Sarai, she could conceive. Sarai accused the servant of treating her with "contempt." The subsequent events were that Hagar ran away to escape Sarai's treatment. She was pregnant, penniless, and husbandless.

While she was alone, probably scared, an angel of the Lord ministered to her and told her to do the unthinkable, to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. There was a promise to this, "I will give you more descendants than you can count." Further, she was promised a son and was to name him, Ishmael, meaning "God hears."

Later, in Genesis 21, after God changed Sarai's name to Sarah and Abram's name to Abraham, the promise He made to them was fulfilled. God heard Sarah's many cries for a son and despite her taking action in her own hands, God did give them Isaac. Yet, when Isaac was born, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. "Get rid of that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won't have it!"

The Genesis account goes on to tell me that Abraham was saddened by Sarah's reactions. He loved Ishmael for this was his first-born son. God told Abraham to do as Sarah wished for Isaac was the heir of blessing. Abraham prepared food and water and put Hagar out with Ishmael. This would've been enough to make any woman wondered what was up with God? Why would He do this? This is where faith has to play a part and knowing that He is listening.

God met Hagar after her food and water ran out. Like any mother, she cared deeply for her son and didn't want to see the young boy die in the wilderness. God spoke to her again and told her to "do not be afraid." God not only heard her, he heard the boy. "Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants."

And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt. Genesis 21:20-21.

Hagar is not heard from again but I have learned much from her. Escaping is not an option even though the biggest challenges in her life were the result of other people's actions. Hagar didn't choose to be a slave, she didn't choose to be raped, she didn't choose to have a child out-of-wedlock, she didn't choose to be homeless. She didn't make the best choice in some of her actions after becoming pregnant, namely, running away without a plan. Yet, even in her impulsive action, God was still listening, God heard her, and God made her a great promise.

Ishmael, the son of a Hebrew and an Egyptian, did become a great nation. His descendants the product of an Egyptian and a mixed-race Hebrew/Egyptian. Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations, through Isaac came the twelve tribes of Israel. God does listen, God does hear.

We may not understand God's motives. We certainly don't understand all that is happening in the world. I can only keep my faith in Him and turn my voice to Him more and more. Surely, My God does listen and He does hear. As Hagar called Him, He is the God who sees me, the God who sees all His daughters. Look up my sister, He is watching us.

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