Running…

I am a runner. Not of the athletic sort (although, I have been working on this as of late). An emotional runner. Discomfort is a quick que to my heart that something is wrong and I need to take off.

Hagar was a runner too. Not always by choice. The slave mother of Ishmael, Abraham sent her and her son into the desert at the request of his wife Sarah. I cannot imagine the depth of her shame. She bore a child for Abraham at the request of his wife only to be sent away – alone – with nothing but a skin of water and some food to carry on her shoulders.

Can you comprehend the weight? Not just the physical weight of water and food, but the weight of wandering aimlessly with limited supply, a child to care for, no plan, and no one to help her figure out the next steps.

I envision her mentally reviewing each and every choice she made. Could/should/would she have done something different if she had a redo? And the shame…the thought that not only had she done something wrong…but she was bad enough to be sent away…the feeling that she was something wrong. All of this rolling around in her mind and dripping off onto her shoulders. Smothering her more than the heat of the desert ever could.

At some point the wandering wearied her to the point she left her son under and bush and withdrew. She could not bear the death of her son at the hands of what she saw as her own mistakes. So she did what she does, flee and break, privately, where no one could see.

But then there was God. Not just any God…but the God who sees. The God who’s plans for a nation would not be undone just because Hagar needed to run from perceived failures and pain.

Sweet friend, I wonder if you, like me (and Hagar), are a running wanderer. All the aimless yet unshakeable thoughts inside your head have left you weary. You retreat to try and sort things out, but sometimes the sorting only leads to a heavier weight of shame. Because when we are inside our wilderness without directing our attention to the Lord – we are left in an uncultivated place. A land where crops could be grown and developed, but only with the proper labor and attention.

“What is the matter Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw the water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

The same God that allowed her to be sent to the wilderness now provided a way where there seemed to be no way. Hagar heard the voice of the Lord, God opened her eyes, she saw the water, and she chose to get her and her son a drink. 

Hagar made a critical choice in that moment. To abandon all that was her nature – flee – and to face her uncertainties with God by her side. She did not know what would happen next. She did not understand how God was going to make her son into a great nation. But in that moment she chose to allow God’s voice to be louder than her uncertainties. She put her shame aside and decided to drink the water God offered to her – not only for herself, but for her son.

And I know how it feels to be Hagar sitting on a rock. The situation looks hopeless. The only thing present is fear. Fear that cuts your heart out like a thousand knives wielded by the hands of pain and shame. But God did not give us a spirit of fear. The wilderness is never the end. There is, and always has been, a promised land. We may not have the answers to how or when – but we know how the story ends.

God – show us the water. When we feel parched and bare and dirty and shame covers us like a thick smothering blanket: redeem us, call us by name, show us the drink, and give us the will to take it. You are the remedy. Always. We will cling to you. No more fleeing unless it is straight into your arms. We may run – but let it be the run that doesn’t grow weary. The run with purpose. The run with you. Towards grace and joy, abandoning shame, because it was never part of your plan for us in the first place.