Sometimes, there’s a song that speaks to us for a moment. And then there are times that a song just lingers.
We put it on replay because our very stories are inexplicably weaved into the lyrics. We sing along, our mind revisiting memories that only our heart is intimately aware of. And out of the overflow of that same heart, we either smile brave, chuckling at the remembering, or we cry soberly, because the remembering is all we have left.
Alone in my car, I pensively sing to that lingering song, “All This Time” by Britt Nicole, that’s on replay:
“I remember the moment. I remember the pain.
I was only a girl, but I grew up that day.
Tears were falling; I know You saw me.
Hiding there in my bedroom so alone;
I was doing my best trying to be strong.
No one to turn to; That’s when I met you…”
Had the writers seen my eleven year old self numbly sitting under that tent, right next to the spot where my daddy would soon be laid to rest? Did they know that behind the daily façade of strength was just a scared little girl smothering with the heartache of his absence? Were they aware that in the weeks after his passing I, too, would give my life to Jesus?
Of course, the answer to all three questions is no, but I thought it uncanny how a song released some 25 years after my dad’s death could be so on point. That is, until I read the back-story to the song and realized that it’s not just another ballad with empty lyrics or feel-good thoughts. Every word deeply relays the personal testimony of the singer. A testimony rooted in a different kind of brokenness than I’d experienced, but one that resulted in the same fleshing out of fears and the ardent faithfulness of the God who sees.
That was the name Hagar called God when she encountered Him in that desert. She knew what it was to flesh out fears and to still see the faithfulness of God. This unassuming Egyptian slave girl knew a different kind of brokenness too. A pawn in Sarai’s wanting scheme, Hagar was given to Abraham as a concubine and became pregnant. Genesis 16 goes on to tell us that “when she knew that she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (verse 4). Perturbed by this, Sarai chastened Hagar, mistreating her so harshly that Hagar fled into the desert.
“But the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, on the road to [Egypt by way of] Shur.” Genesis 16:7 (AMP).
Did you catch that? Hagar was on the road that would lead her back to Egypt. She must have thought that in that familiar place called home, she wouldn’t have to feel used, insignificant, or unseen. And even if she did, she certainly wouldn’t be carrying the hurt alone.
But El Roi saw her. Even before she could get to Egypt, He saw her and met her right there in the desert. Right there in the midst of the pain and confusion and loneliness. He saw her. He called her by name:
“Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8 (AMP).
And much like the woman at the well in John 4, He told her everything about her – even things she didn’t know:
“Go back to your mistress, and submit humbly to her authority.
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her,
“I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”
The Angel of the Lord continued,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall name him Ishmael (God hears),
Because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your persecution (suffering).”
Genesis 16:9-11 (AMP)
See, El Roi not only saw Hagar, but He knew her. He knew her past. He saw her present. And He ransomed her future.
I don’t want us to miss this. There are many interesting firsts in Hagar’s story:
- Genesis 16:7 is the first occurrence of the “Angel of the Lord (YHWH)” in Scripture.
- Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was the first person whom God named before his birth (Genesis 16:11, 15).
- And Hagar’s reference to God as El Roi is the first and only time He is called by this name in Scripture.
In its original Hebrew, “Roi”, as used here, means looking, seeing, or gazing. And oh how Hagar must have felt so unusually seen by the Omnipresent God. She must have felt so indelibly pursued by the Good Shepherd who would leave the 99 for the 1. She must have felt so compassionately known and so rarely understood exclaiming, “You are ‘God who sees’’.
What a place of victory! And El Roi sees us too, you know—you and me.
I can trace Him in my past. I can taste of Him in my present. And I can trust Him with my future.
Alone in my car, I gratefully sing to the chorus of that lingering song on replay:
“All this time, from the first tear cried
‘Till today’s sunrise
And every single moment between
You were there, You were always there
It was You and I
You’ve been walking with me all this time.”
Can you testify of a time in your life where you may have felt overlooked by others, but intimately seen by El Roi?