The God Who Sees Me
by Steve Higgs
As many of you may know, my mother passed away when I was a senior in high school. It was the result of a brain aneurysm and happened very quickly, and was very tragic. Over the course of the grieving process a lot of people said a lot of helpful and encouraging things to get our family through a very difficult time.
Probably the number one thing people said to me was, “don’t worry Steve, your mom is watching down on you from heaven.” Now, as a high school student at the time, that comment aroused in me a mixed bag of emotions. One one hand, during my high school and college graduations, I remembered that comment and it brought me a lot of hope. When I preached my first sermon, even though it was 7 ½ minutes long, I liked the idea that my mom was watching that. In 20 some odd days, I’ll be getting married and that comment will once again bring me a lot of hope. On the other side of the coin, when I had to drop out of my math class because I was basically failing…not a very comforting thought that my mom was watching over me, and possibly disappointed. When I’ve failed morally or spiritually, when I’ve humiliated myself in public (which happens several times a year)….it’s not a comforting thought, to think my mom’s up in heaven watching me fall on my face.
Many times we say, “God is watching you.” We often think of him as a proverbial Santa, “he know’s when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” It’s the same thing, at times the thought of God watching over us brings us great hope, and other times it brings us great fear. So different people think about God watching us in different ways:
Telescope: Some people think of God as way up in heaven, and we’re way down here on earth. He surely doesn’t have time to watch us every hour of the day, so every once in a while he goes to the old telescope and checks us out. So, we try to do more good then bad, with the hope that by the laws of averages He’ll catch us feeding the poor or going to church, more then He sees us cheating on our taxes or being a jerk at home.
Microscope: Some people think that God is constantly watching our lives, and He sees every screw up, follow-up, and blemish that can be found. As he looks at us through the microscope and sees us for who we really are, He gets angrier and angrier and angrier by the minute.
Where is the truth? How does God really see us? This phrase El Roi, the God Who sees, only appears one time in the entire Bible…Genesis 16.
Let me give some background. God has told Abraham, Abram at the time, that he is going to build a nation through him and his wife Sarah, Sarai at the time. Time goes on and Abraham and Sarah are getting old, and chapter 16 starts with the phrase that they had no children. So Abraham and Sarah decide to help God along a little bit and ask Hagar to bear a child for them, we usually get hung up on this, because we think that’s creepy and weird, but it was fairly common in those days for a servant to bear the child of a master who couldn’t bear children on her own. A surrogate mother sort of deal. So, Hagar gets pregnant. We don’t know what happens exactly, but Hagar begins to act inappropriately towards Sarah. It comes to a point where Sarah says that she’s suffering because of hagar. Abraham, not wanting to get involved, says “it’s your servant, do what you want.” So Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar to such a degree that it causes Hagar to run away. That’s where our story picks up:
Read Genesis 16: 7-16
I’d like to look at this story from 2 different perspectives (Hagar and Sarah) and keep in mind that there are elements of Hagar in Sarah (Hagar wasn’t completely innocent), and there are elements of Sarah in Hagar (Sarah was also kind of a victim). And, there are parts of us that are in both the characters as well. So, let’s jump into the text.
Some of you may have come to church today and you feel, very much like Hagar. You may have come to church today and you feel very much mistreated, abused, or neglected. You understand that you have made mistakes and you live with those, but what’s confusing is when you have to live with the consequences and mistakes of other people.
It’s seen in the person that was married too long to an abusive spouse. It’s seen in the adult still trying to cope with the effects of negligent parents. It’s seen in the teenager still reeling from an exchange with a hot-headed boyfriend. What is the response of a God in heaven to people that have been mistreated?
Before we look at God, let’s look at Hagar. Hagar’s instinct when she was mistreated….to run away from everything ,but she couldn’t outrun God. In the middle of the desert, Hagar discovered God! Let me share her exact words, “You are a God who sees me.” In the midst of conflict we feel the loneliest, we feel that nobody gets and nobody understands how short the end of the stick is that you’ve been given. But let me tell you that God sees it. You are not alone. The God in heaven who created you and gives you purpose, sees what has happened to you, maybe nothing else will give you hope today but that sentence……God sees! Sometimes that’s all you can take hope in!
Imagine for a moment that in the middle of this message I fell down to the stage, completely unconscious. How crazy would events be if everyone looked up and said, “well, I guess he’s done now, sweet 20 minutes early.” Esther comes up and leads a couple more songs and everyone goes home , leaving me on the stage still unconscious. The tear down crew comes in and tears down the sound and sees my lying there and thump thump. The custodians come in to clean up, notice me, and shrug their shoulders and go back to dusting. I would hope that the response would be a little different then that…maybe an ambulance would be called ,or a doctor or two that goes to this church might come forward to help. Because seeing something happen is one thing and responding to it is completely different. That’s how some of you respond to what I just said, “I’m glad God sees my problems, but can He maybe do something about them.”
It’s true that God is ready to respond. What God does in our story may surprise you? Because he doesn’t wipe away all the consequences (look at verses 11-12), God tells Hagar that her son is going to have lots and lots of issues with his neighbors. God doesn’t erase the consequences, what he does is create a new and bigger vision for Hagar’s life.
Here’s the mistake that most people like Hagar make: they believe the lie that this is simply God’s plan and purpose for their life. They wonder aloud, “why did God even create me if this was the life he was going to give me.” God didn’t create you to be mistreated, that wasn’t his plan or his purpose in your life, this was the plan and purpose of the person that mistreated you. Here me on this, that God never would have treated you that way. Let’s see how this plays out with hagar.
There is this fascinating discussion that takes place between the angel and Hagar. It’s the first question that the angel asks Hagar and it’s a question I’d like to ask you. Where have you come from and where are you going? Check out Hagars response, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarah.” She is so focused on where she had come from that she doesn’t even answer the question as to where she is going? So the angel answers that part of the question for her, “I will so increase your descendants that t they will be too numerous to count.” That’s your future! Many times we become so preoccupied with dealing with our past, that we never think about our future.
The Pelicano is the worlds most unwanted ship. Since 1986 has been the hobo of the high seas. No one wants her. The problem is not the boat. Though rusty and barnacled the 466 foot freighter is seaworthy. The problem is not ownership. The owners have kept the license current and the taxes paid. The problem is no the crew, they may feel unwanted, but they aren’t inefficient. What’s the problem? Simple. She is full of trash. Fifteen thousand tons of trash. Orange peelings. Beer Bottles. Newspapers. Half eaten hot dogs trash. The trash of Philadelphia’s long summer of 1986. That’s when the municipal worker went on strike. That’s when the trash piled higher and higher. That’s when Georgia refused it and New Jersey declined it. No one wanted Philadelphia’s trash. That’s when the Pelicano entered the picture. The owners thought they would turn a quick penny by transporting the rubbish. The trash was to be burned, and the ashes dumped in the belly of the boat. But no one would take it. Initially it as too much, eventually it was too old. Who wants potentially toxic trash?
Many of us feel that way about our past. We all have trash in our distant or even recent past! The question is, “have we dealt with it or are we running from it?” Because the longer it sits, the smellier it gets. Hagar teaches us that it’s important to answer the question, “Where have you come from?” To think about, what am I running from. I’m running away from a bad marriage, I’m running away from my childhood, I’m running away a destroyed friendship. You see, where have you come from, is a key issue in life. We must think about our past and analyze how that has made us who we are today. Sometimes, like Hagar, maybe we need to go back and have a conversation with someone. Sometimes we simply need to forgive.
Sometimes we need to give it to God, because we are incapable of handing lit. And sometimes we may need some counseling, I’ve had to receive counseling a few times in my life and you say, “I though counseling was for crazy people, well, yeah.”
Like Hagar we sometimes get caught up in that question, where have I come from. However, an equally important question is, “where are we going?” Some people’s mission and purpose in life has become dealing with stuff from their past! They replay events and get angrier and angrier and angrier. Let me ask you a series of questions to give some clarity:
Is it possible that you’ve been running away from something your whole life when God is calling you to run toward something? Hagar spends all this time running away, and the angel teaches her how to handle her past. He doesn’t just tell her to handle her past, he gives here a new and better future.
I mentioned my mom passing away earlier, and one of the tragic circumstances of her death was that it happened at Christmas time. We ended up having the funeral on Xmas Eve. So, you can imagine, the first couple of Christmas’ were extremely difficult and tough. Growing up I loved Christmas time, so ever so slowly I’ve been trying to take steps to take that holiday back. Hanging lights, and putting up a tree. It worked on by the calendar so we’re getting married at Christmas time. We’ve kind of redefined the space a little bit. And little by little Christmas has become a different, yeah joyful experience.
That’s always what God does when we’ve been mistreated.. He heals our wounds, and sometimes asks us to revisit the issue, so that we can be healed and then he says, “now let me, the person who created you, give you a better and new reason for living.” Let me do that for you.
We sometimes allow events in our past to define our lives. Sometimes we think that the way the people mistreated us is the way that God feels about us. We begin to think that maybe this is a reality of how God sees me. Let me tell you something: God’s mission and purpose for you life is greater then the mission and purpose of the person that mistreated you. Sometimes we allow one negative event to monopolize our entire life, and my point is this. Because God’s mission is greater then that person’s you don’t have to be defined by that person or that event, you can still find your life’s purpose and mission in God. You can still have life that is full. Are the consequences erased? No. Is the pain still there? Yes. Does God give you a new and better reason for living? Absolutely.
So, maybe you’ve life has been all about where you’ve come from, and God is trying to make what it could be. Maybe God is whispering to you today, come to me with all your heartache and all of your pain and allow me to heal that pain, and in the process I’ll give you purpose
Listen to what Rick Warren said, “It’s not about you. The purpose for you life is far greater then your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose. Dealing with our mistreatment (where have we come from) is always a self serving idea and must be done, but looking to the future and God’s plan is always others focused. What need out there am I uniquely enabled to meet?
Let me talk to the Sarahs for a few moments. Some of you have to come to church and you are one doing the mistreating right now. I have a couple of words for you.
There is this interesting thing that happens with Abraham and Sarah. God has this plan for them to start a nation, as a matter of fact in chapter 21 we meet the son that will begin this nation. Abraham and Sarah lost patience and decided to go for it themselves and they created this mess!
I am the least spontaneous human being on earth. When I travel I have to have a plan, and maps (I glue myself to the maps) and when I travel with spontaneous people I get twitchy. Because spontaneous people say, “let’s go over here and do this, and then this ,and that.” I say, “well it’s not in our plan, it’s not the itinerary, it will make us late for this or that.”
While I’m not very spontaneous that way, spiritually I am. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sacrificed God’s perfect plan for my own. If you’re here today and you’re mistreating someone, maybe a spouse or your kids, or a friend or co worker. Don’t cash in for that! You were created for so much more, and when you mistreat other people it’s a waste of time and energy for God’s ordained purpose for you.
God is still a God that sees! Sometimes we think our actions are only seen by our family or a few close friends or maybe no one at all, but God sees. He’s ready to respond, and you may feel ashamed, but God feels love for you and he’s ready to forgive.
Brennan Manning writes, “Come to me now, Jesus says, Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: A Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs.”
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, Jesus is ready and willing and able to forgive. There may still be consequences, maybe with family or friends, but with God you’ll be all right.
I love what Hagar says in verse 13, You are the God who sees me . I have now seen the One who sees me.” That’s ultimately what happens in this process. Some of you maybe haven’t seen God in a long time, but as you go through the process of saying, :”God where am I going?” As you cry out, “God will you forgive me?” You will lift your eyes to heaven and you’ll see the One who Sees You. I know that God sees you everyday, but can you see God? Are you in a place that’s even possible.