I went to Ronald Reagan’s house (the house before he became president) when I was 17. I played piano, and I wanted to join my high school ministry’s student worship band. My youth pastor had an aunt that had gone crazy and got kicked out of her home. It’s like that show Hoarders on tv where people are forced to get rid of the mass amounts of junk they have. Unfortunately, she was placed into a retirement care facility and other people had to go through her stuff. I was there for the grand piano for our youth room. My youth pastor and I headed down to his aunts house. It smelled like cats. Not the “I can tell there’s been a cat in here” smell, but the “How did the entire cat population of the world pee in this house?!” smell.
Anyway, that doesn’t really have much to do with the point of the story… This house was an older house, while he was still acting, in Bel Aire. You walk in the front door, travel through the first hallway, and you’re faced with two options. One, you can continue into the normal house and have access to every room in the house. Or two, you can enter the secondary hallway and access to the world’s smallest room and the kitchen. This second hallway bypasses the rest of the house. If you were in the living room, you wouldn’t be able to see anyone in that hallway. You can live completely separate lives, but once in a while, you might meet up in the kitchen.
This was the servants’ quarters, completely separated from the rest of the house even though still under the same roof. The small room that the servants stayed in didn’t have any windows. The hallway was half the size of the regular hallway. The builder of the house made it entirely possible that the servants and owners of the house would not see each other at all.
We know that servants and masters don’t really interact. The servant looks down to avoid eye contact. The master is usually cold or distant. Generally, there is no relationship. There is no contact outside of making sure the meal is delivered to the master.
As I stood there, in the house that reeked of cats, I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to serve someone in that way. I couldn’t live my whole life void of any meaningful relationship. I couldn’t live under the same roof as someone I barely know.
What if our God was like that: a master that we cannot know; a being that does not know us?
In Genesis 16, Hagar was mistreated. She was the servant that was simply used for Sarai’s own good. She used Hagar to start a family. When Hagar found out that she was pregnant, Sarai hated her to the point of mistreating and abusing her. Hagar was trapped. She was doing what Sarai had asked her to do, but then Sarai turned on her. First, using her for children, then, abusing her because she was jealous of her. Running away, she probably felt lost and confused.
I imagine Hagar felt like the first few lines of Katy Perry’s song: Firework.
“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind wanting to start
again? Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin like a house of cards, one blow from caving in? Do you ever feel already buried deep? Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing” (Katy Perry, Capitol Records, 2010).
There is sometimes confusion about God when we’re in situations like the one Hagar was in, when we feel lost and feel like no one can see us… like we’re invisible.
It can feel as though God doesn’t see us in our situations, maybe he just doesn’t care that we’re in pain. It feels as though his face is turned away from us.
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
But God found Hagar in the desert, and blessed her with the promise of many descendants. Hagar names God, which doesn’t happen too often in the Bible… someone naming God. Hagar names God “The God who sees.” God saw Hagar in her pain and confusion, and showed love toward her.
She named God, “the One who sees me.” God turned his face toward us and knows us. God is proud to look at us and call us his children.
God sees us.
God knows us.
God is with us.
“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Psalm 22:24).
We don’t have to live like the servants in Ronald Reagan’s house, always there, but never truly known.
We worship a God who sees us, knows us, and is present to us at all times.