Are you like Hagar?

When I was a kid, I was often bullied. I had big beaver teeth, was awkward and generally did not fit in. I had very few friends but the ones I had were good, close friends.

This is me in 1990, trying to look cool, wearing a silk shirt and, most likely, skin-tight acid wash jeans for picture day.

At the same time, I was a bit of a bully myself. There was one boy in our school who was a year younger than me and was very smart. But he was also very quirky. He lacked social skills and did not handle stress very well. If he was really upset, he would pace around the classroom.

Almost all of us would laugh at him for it, make jokes about it. Looking back as an adult, he was most likely on the autism spectrum. I don’t know what ever came of him. We ended up going to different high schools, if he went at all.

I am ashamed to say this, but even as an adult, I have mocked, made fun of and judged others who are different from me, or different from societal norm. Or if people were mean to me, I have gossiped or talked smack about them to others. Hurt people hurt people. It is not an excuse, just a fact of life. I do not intend to hurt others, but if I am honest with myself, I do hurt them.

I downloaded this new game on my phone the other day. It is a Bible Word Search. Bible verses come up and you need to fill in the missing words. It started at Genesis 1:1 and continued from there.

A verse the other day caught my attention. It was about Hagar. At the time, I did not catch the exact verse but I remembered generally what it said:

I see the One who sees me.

We all know that Hagar is not our favourite character in the Bible. She is not a nice woman; not one that most would want to emulate. Or is she?

Sarai gave up on trying to have a baby so she gave her servant, Hagar, to her husband as a wife. Sarai sacrificed her own happiness for the sake of her husband’s. Hagar got pregnant (fairly quickly, I imagine) as all had hoped. But then she bullied Sarai, and bragged that she had something that Sarai didn’t. Hagar could do what Sarai couldn’t – provide her husband with an heir.

Finally Sarai reached her breaking point and retaliated against Hagar. She bullied Hagar in return. She ran away from Sarai into the desert where she was found by the Angel of the Lord. The Angel basically told her the Lord knew her, had a purpose for her and her soon-to-be-born son. The Angel instructed Hagar to return to Abram and Sarai.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
    his hand will be against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
    toward all his brothers.”

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:7-13

When she was sitting in that desert, tired and scared, she realized she was not alone, not unloved. She knew that God was with her always and that God loved her and her son.

Even though Hagar was a mean and selfish person, God still had a plan and a purpose for her and her son. In fact, many believe Ishmael is the start of the Arabs and Islam; a direct link to Muhammad.

When you see people being mean to others, or even to you, I urge you to not be like Sarai and retaliate. Love them instead. Love them as Jesus loves you. The Lord has a plan for them, even though you can’t see it, or even think in that moment that He does. Or believe that Jesus still loves them.

I know it can be hard to love those who seem full of hate and are just mean and nasty, for no apparent reason. One thing to remember is if that person is impacting your mental health, love them from a distance; set boundaries. Love them and forgive them. Love like Jesus loves.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me. Forgive me for hurting others when I have been hurt. Forgive me for the thoughts that run through my mind when someone has hurt me. Thank you for being with me and loving me when I am being unlovable to others. Thank you for seeing me when no one else does, when I am invisible to others. Help me to not judge those who are different from me. Help me to love them just as you love them. Amen

When you look back at your life, can you think of a time when you bullied someone or was mean to someone, or talked badly about someone behind their back? Ask for forgiveness from them, if possible, and from God. Share your thoughts and experiences. I would love to hear from you.

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