An Unplanned Pregnancy and Three Questions God AsksJun 27, 2022
Hers was a pregnancy she'd never planned.
It’s entirely unfair! Instead of residing in my homeland – arguably the world’s preeminent nation – I’m traipsing around with nomads. I’ve faithfully served for how many years? And then, instead of being allowed to marry someone my own age, I’m handed off to an old man for no other purpose than to get me pregnant. And then my owner -- his wife -- is surprised when I become pregnant and scorn her?! She’s offended at my contempt when that’s exactly what I’ve been treated with? What justice is this? What was my response supposed to have been? Gratitude? “Oh, thank you ever so much for the privilege of becoming a second-hand wife who’s not loved and desired for myself but only for what my body can provide that yours cannot?!”
And now I’m pregnant and instead of being pampered and doted on, I’m expected to carry on as usual, and when my owner doesn’t like my attitude, she mistreats me? And that man – the one who didn’t mind using me to secure an heir – abandons me and offers no protection? Of course, I ran away. Who wouldn’t!? But now what? I can’t go back there. Not to the realization I’m condemned to a life of in-between, not a full wife, not only a servant. My destiny is forever changed and not because of choices I even made! I’m heading back to Egypt! But what I will find there? How will I take care of this child? This child – a half-breed – will never be fully accepted into either society. How can I face this?
Tiny liquid salt drops plunk into the sand, the only physical evidence of the hurricane ravaging her mind.
The moaning of desert winds combine with the cries of vultures, echoing the screams of her heart.
Even the occasional silence howls inside her soul.
And then, a voice.
“Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”
It’s not a geographical inquiry. It’s not answerable with maps, directions, or a GPS.
It’s a surgeon’s question – cutting through the externals to expose her heart. Beating wildly. Bleeding profusely.
She’s stunned. How does he know her name? How does he know she's a servant? How does he know her mistress is Sarai? Did he follow her? Was he here to take her back to that horrible place? To be further humiliated?
Hagar stammers. “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”
She has no answer for the second part – “Where are you going?” It’s okay. God does.
In telling her to return, God doesn’t vindicate Abraham or Sarai. In fact, he doesn’t say one thing about them. His only message is about her and her child. It’s not a glamorous message. In some ways, it’s discouraging. She's not going to have the "happy ever after" her heart ached for.
But Hagar focuses on what she has; not what she's never going to have. God has seen her! Just her! As a person. As someone worthy. He acknowledges her pain and affirms it is real. There’s no minimizing, no shaming, no justifying. There’s just kindness and guidance.
Hagar’s question is one God asks of every woman.
“Where have you come from and where are you going?”
And just like Hagar, even when we don’t have an answer for the second part, God does. And when our answer for the first part isn’t glamorous or glorious, He doesn’t blame or shame or justify. He says, “I’m with you. I know what others don’t. I understand what even you don’t. I see you.”
Some 16 years later Hagar again sits, desperate, with more liquid salt spilling from her cheeks into the swirling sand. This time she’s given up heading back home. What could there possibly be in Egypt after all this time? Who would believe her story? “My son is really a prince of one of the Negev’s wealthiest men. But at 90 years old, his wife gave birth to a son, displacing us.” Sure, Hagar. Tell us another tale.
Despair fills her heart now than outrage. Of what use would it be to protest the injustice of the situation? She’d never asked for any of this. She’d been used and now that the child her body had produced was no longer needed, they were both disposable to her society. Had she been supplied with camels laden with food? Even the leftovers from the great feast celebrating the favored son’s transition from baby to toddler, no longer needing to nurse?
So what her son had laughed? He was 16! Was Sarai so naive to think he was the only one thinking she and Abram were making a big deal out of nothing? Why hadn’t they been supplied with a servant or companion?
And again…God sees. And again…God asks.
“What troubles you, Hagar?”
Really?! What troubles me? Oh, let me think about that for a few minutes, and I’ll get back to you!
But the fatigue of living “in-between” for sixteen years; the shock of the unexpected – being kicked out of their home; the deep disappointment of yet another abandonment by the man who had sired this child; the loneliness of servant-motherhood; and the fear of an unknown future have completely undone her.
There is kindness in God’s question. It affirms He knows she is troubled. She is terrified. She is tired. God’s grace does not wait for or require an answer. He moves immediately into affirmation, guidance, and provision.
So why ask the question?
Perhaps God wanted Hagar to know that He cares. He sees. He understands. If God hadn’t asked the question but had launched directly into the instructions, it could have seemed like just one more master barking orders. Without the question, it may have felt like He was shaming her for what she couldn’t initially see – the water nearby. Remove the question, and the promise of a great nation could seem like God’s only concern was about her son, reinforcing the wound-belief that women were only around to provide men with posterity.
What does God ask of a woman? Questions which convey His kindness, reassure her value, and promise His presence.
Where have you come from? He already knows; he wants you to know your story, your secrets, your scars; they're all safe with him. He cares about your past, your situation, your circumstances.
Where are you going? If you don’t have an answer, that’s okay. He has a purpose.
What troubles you? Even if you’re beyond answering that, He still wants you to know He cares. And from that love comes guidance and provision.
Sometimes it's "turn around and go back." Strengthened, not weakened.
Returning to the same circumstances isn't returning to the same situation when God is with you.
Sometimes it's "move on." Leave what's behind. Leave with grace when you're being kicked out.
Always it's cry out to God. He sees. You. Used. Betrayed. Abused. Abandoned. Alone. Afraid. Perhaps pregnant. Perhaps with a child you don't know how you're going to care for.
Hagar's story embraces brutal realities that people, even God's people, don't always get it right, causing others to suffer. It shows, however, God is bigger than his people. He sees the baby in her womb. He sees the young teen she's struggling to protect and provide for. He protects; he provides; he promises a future.
Hagar's not a fairy princess rescued by a prince. She's a real mother who is seen, loved, and rescued by the King. And it all begins with the questions God asks of all women:
"Where have you come from?"
"Where are you going?"
"What troubles you?"
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©Stephanie D. Smith, 2022
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