Hagar and the God Who Sees Me

Hagar and the God Who Sees Me

A common misconception about therapy or counseling is that it is a place to go to get advice. Technically speaking, we therapists don’t give advice. At some point, we might share information or say something like: “Have you ever thought about trying…” We might invite you to try something at home or to participate in an exercise or activity but, we won’t tell you what to do. We are pretty sure you have enough people in your life doing that already.

We are more interested in you figuring out what YOU want to do. We aren’t interested in becoming just one more voice with which you wrestle on a daily basis.


As any therapist worth their salt, I have had my own therapy through the years. It is an ethical obligation to do our own self work in therapy so that we don’t do our self work onto our clients. “Do no harm” is the first rule and when we are not aware of our own issues, those issues are more likely to do harm to our clients.

So, not too long ago I am seeing a therapist and I know that a big part of me wants her to tell me what to do in a certain situation. I also know that she won’t…that she can’t. I know the rules. I know not to ask, but I DO know what she CAN do…what she CAN give to me. And, it is something more valuable than advice.

“I get the feeling you want to ask me something”, she says.

“I do want to ask you something. I don’t want to put pressure on you or make you uncomfortable. So, feel free to decline, but I think I know what I need.”

“What’s that?”

“I need you to tell me what you see and hear.

That’s it. I just need you to tell me what you see and hear.”

So, she does.

And, it is my job to decide how to respond.


In the book of Genesis, we meet a slave woman by the name of Hagar. She is the servant of Sarai (later to become Sarah), the wife of Abram (later to become Abraham).  There is a whole lot we can explore in this story, specifically with the character of Hagar, but I want to focus on one tiny section.

Hagar, already a misfit as an Egyptian, is used, abused, and cast aside. She is used to carry a child for Sarai, who is barren. After Hagar gets pregnant by Abram (Sarai’s husband), Sarai gets jealous and starts abusing Hagar while she is pregnant. Abram passively casts Hagar aside and tells Sarai to do whatever she wants with Hagar.

Hagar flees…maybe for her life.

Hagar finds herself in the wilderness alone and miserable. How did she end up here? What happened? All this time she has been doing what she was told to do and now this? She has nothing and no one except for her abusers and the burden of her growing belly. She is weighed down in every possible way…carrying the dreams of someone else with no home to call her own.

At this point of misery, the angel of the Lord visits Hagar in the wilderness and asks her: “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

The scriptures have already told us where she is going. She is on the road to Shur (Genesis 16:7).

Shur was, in all likelihood, the wall or group of cities built to fortify the Eastern border of Egypt.

Hagar, the Egyptian slave, was on the road to Egypt…she was heading back home.

Going back home feels sooooo good when things are scary.

However, Hagar does not tell the angel where she is going. She tells him where she has been: “I am running away from my mistress”.

Her mistress. Her user and abuser.

Where have you come from and where are you going?

Hagar is running away from the pain and towards the familiar…to what feels safe

Then, the angel of the Lord (some would consider this person to be a Christ figure) does something strange.

Well, it is strange to me. Actually, what He says makes me angry.

He tells her to go back to her mistress…to her abuser…and submit to her. Then, He assures her that she will be incredibly fruitful with descendants…more than she can count.

This same message of fruitfulness and descendants is only given verbally to one other person, the male character Abraham. In fact, the blessing of descendants usually is given verbally to males in the bible.

Here, however, in stark contrast, in the wilderness, the Lord speaks directly to the woman, Hagar.

He assures her that he sees her misery…and that she will be blessed.

But, she must go back and face her unfinished business.

She must go back to the pain in order to be blessed…in order to give birth.

Not home to where it is safe.

(Please, please, please hear me….there is never a reason to go back to an abusive situation. Ever. Ever. Ever. Biblical stories are from a certain time and context and there can be truth and wisdom communicated through a biblical story even when certain ideas are confusing for our times. Going back to abusive situations…just say no. Get help. Now.)

Hagar, surprisingly, responds to these instructions: “You are the God who sees me.”

She also is instructed to name her child that which means “The Lord has heard me”.

Ishmael means: God hears.

I need you to tell me what you see and hear. That’s it.

I just need you to tell me what you see and hear.

Where have you come from and where are you going, friend?

Where have you come from and where are you going?

Are you fleeing pain…maybe for your life…running hard and fast…straight towards…what? “Back” home to safety? To what is familiar?

Wherever you are running…whatever you are running towards…be careful that you are not actually just running FROM something. Unfinished business. Pain that needs healing.

Do you still have healing…unfinished business to face?

It is so interesting to me that Hagar responds to the angel’s instructions with “You are the God who sees me”.

It is almost as though Hagar knows that God is calling her on her shit. He SEES her. He KNOWS she is running back to safety instead of dealing with what is in front of her. We don’t know all of the story. Maybe there is more to what Hagar needs to go back and face.

What is true in that moment is that Hagar feels SEEN.


God tells her to go back and deal with her stuff.

I need you to tell me what you see and hear.

That’s it. I just need you to tell me what you see and hear.

Are you hurting so much it feels impossible, friend?

So impossible it is hard to even see straight?

So much that all you know to do is to keep running back down the familiar path because you can run that path with your eyes closed?

Are you tormented…burdened…in every way? Heavy with burdens inside and out?

Feeling used, abused, and cast aside?

So heavy. So, so heavy.

So much pain. So confusing. So disorienting.

I need you to tell me what you see and hear.

That’s it. I just need you to tell me what you see and hear.

Among western Americans we have internalized a value of independence. Fierce, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps independence.

The only problem is we don’t all have boots.

Or, our boots don’t have straps.

Or, we used to have boots, but they came off when we were trudging through sludge in an earlier part of life. The boots are back there somewhere…stuck in the mud.



Friend whose boots are back there in the mud.

I am telling you that it is ok. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to reach out for help every single day. That reaching out for help is a sign of strength and character and resolve. It is ok to ask someone to tell you what they see and hear. It is ok to admit that you may not be seeing and hearing things clearly on your own right now. Ask a few people you trust. Be wise. Discern. But, ASK.

You are not too much or too little…and if you are either of those things for anyone then they are not the ones for you. They are not the ones to have the honor of walking with you through this wilderness season of pregnancy and birthing.

Yes, I said honor. Because it is an HONOR to walk with someone through disorienting pregnancy pain. It is an honor to find someone in the wilderness, lift up their head, and say:



We all need someone, somewhere, sometime to let us know what they see and hear. We need mirrors in our lives to reflect an accurate picture for us when we are in so much pain and misery it is difficult to see straight.

We need people in our lives who aren’t super impressed with our emotions, not overwhelmed by our process…and who will call us on our shit.

Say it. Say it to someone, friend.

Say it to God.

Tell me. Tell me what you see. I really need you to tell me what you hear and see.

Then, listen.

Not for advice. I doubt you need that right now.

Listen to what they see and hear.

Then don’t choose comfort and familiar. Choose hard work and healing and birth.