|Genesis 21:5, 8-20
Psalms 34:7-8, 10-11, 12-13
What happens to Hagar and her child seems monumentally unfair, doesn’t it? Cast out through the action of unreason. No one will argue against Hagar that she is being treated unfairly. Look at her weeping as she sees her child crying out from thirst, as he lies under the bush. What horrible sadness and despair would make a woman—a strong woman, like her—turn away so she will not see her child die? I shudder as I write this. What horrid hardships, what physical torture, in the desert, no food, no water, they must have felt.
Think about it. We think we’re hungry when we’ve not eaten for a few hours. We think we’re thirsty when we don’t have a Gatorade in our car’s cupholder. We think we’re tired after we mow the lawn. Now think about Hagar and her child.
What makes them survive? God’s intervention, surely, but in a way that is different than just the “angel-from the clouds” appearances. No hosannas here, not trumpets, no tinkly music.
Hagar is tough—not just physically, but mentally. That she would even think of trying to make it in the desert attest to her toughness. When God tells her of the well, she takes control, gets the water, and gives the child a drink.
Aunt Eller, in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma, has the right words. Laurie, right after her honeymoon has gone terribly awry, a man is dead, asks why things had to go so wrong when everything was so good before. Aunt Eller, the only real voice of reason in the play, says, “Ya gotta be hardy.”
And she’s right. Eller is hardy; Laurie has to be hardy. Hagar is hardy. And her child—Ishmael—will have to be hardy, too.
I try to be hardy. I know God is, and that hope gets me through tremulous times. I know that God makes me hardy, and that in turn I can stick it out, hang on, and wait it out. The times will pass, and God—and I—and we—will still be there.
(A note—those who have read Melville’s Moby Dick will know that the narrator calls himself “Ishmael.” This Ishmael is a survivor, too).
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