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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Genesis 16; 21)

 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 16: 1-3)

God had promised Abram and Sarai that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach.  But by Genesis 16, Abram was nearly 80,  Sarai was ten years younger but still very post-menopausal, and they had no children.  But they did have a north African servant girl named Hagar. 

Law and custom permitted the lady of a great household to use a female servant as a surrogate mother.  The servant girl was supposed to lose legal rights to her biological child which the boss-lady would raise as her own.  Genesis 30:1-12 notes that of the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel were the product of similar arrangements.  You could call it servant surrogacy, or arranged marriage and adoption, or you could call it sexual exploitation of underclass and denial of their parental rights.  Whatever the terminology, Hagar got pregnant by her boss’s husband, ,who was her boss, and also now her husband, too (Genesis 16:3-4).

The shocking, surprising, and absolutely inevitable result of an old lady putting a young lady in bed with her husband ---- was drama. 

“When [Hagar]saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.”  Hagar got a permanent attitude, but Sarai wasn’t about to put up with an uppity servant girl, sister-wife or not. 

Genesis 16:5-6
Sarai to Abram:  This is all YOUR fault.  Now, I swear to God you better do something about this little girl. 
Abram to Sarai:   She works for YOU.  Do whatever you want.  Just leave me out of it. 
Abram to himself (in a Danny Glover whisper):  I’m getting to old for this dung.

84% of homeless women had been physically or sexually abused.  HALF of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the IMMEDIATE CAUSE of their homelessness.

By the  end of Genesis 16:6, Hagar was pregnant, alone, and homeless, fleeing an abusive household in which her rich baby’s daddy had done nothing for her but get her pregnant.

Yeah, I know.  This ancient Bible stuff doesn’t relate to what happens in the modern world.  (Insert sarcastic eye-roll)

67% of the victims of the women who are seriously injured by their abusers never seek medical treatment.  Let me rephrase that: 2/3 of the women who are wounded by their abusers hide their wounds, and that is part of the problem.  Victims of domestic abuse feel invisible.  Our culture treats the victims of domestic abuse as if they are invisible.

They are not invisible.  Not to every one. 

Hagar was alone, homeless, and pregnant with no midwife and no community of women to look after her (i.e., no healthcare), but she was not invisible ---- to God.  God met Hagar in her distressed and disclosed to her a plan, a Divine plan to protect her and to prosper the legacy that would be realized in her yet unborn son (Genesis 16: 11, 12).  

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13)
God saw Hagar. 

She was not invisible.

Hagar returned to the home of her abusers.  Not surprising.   On average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good. 

Years later, Genesis 21:1-19 explains, after the child promised to Sarah was born, Abraham conceded
to his first wife and evicted Hagar and her son Ishmael.  Hagar, now a single mother, again homeless,
 unable to provide for her teenage son.  

But, God was still the God who sees.  Hagar was still not invisible.

The Lord had gotten her out of the abusive home for good, and now the God-Who-Sees “opened her eyes,” so that she could see how to survive, how to provide for her son without compromising her dignity, how to not just survive, but SUCCEED.  The God-Who-Sees invisible women, transformed an abused, abandoned, homeless single mother into the patriarch of a great nation.  

Genesis 25:16 says that Ishmael had 12 sons who were “twelve princes.”  Abraham wouldn’t have 12 male heirs for 2 more generations.  And, because God invented irony, when Abraham’s 12  descendants turned on their brother Joseph, they tried to sell him to Hagar’s descendants (Genesis 37:25-27).

The abused and abandoned women are NOT INVISIBLE.  God sees.  God saves.  God has, can, and will do great things for them.

The mother on the street, again.  The sister whose last boyfriend put his hands on her like boyfriend before him.  The woman and child pleading because they CAN'T go back again: God sees them.  

If we truly serve God, we will open our eyes and see them, too.

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

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