El Roi: The God Who Sees Me

The doubts lingered. I was unloading the dishwasher in my kitchen, the kids playing loudly but peaceably in the basement. Thoughts bombarded me. Each one hit with a twinge of guilt and a knot in my stomach.

What if I’m wrong? What if God’s not real? Have I believed since I was three only because I didn’t know anything else?

I nearly couldn’t breathe. How in the world could I be having such thoughts? After all God had done for me, all the ways He had intimately shown up in my past. And the timing couldn’t have been worse. I was weeks away from launching my blog—a blog that called myself and other women to seek after God’s fullness in everyday life. 

What am I doing? I thought, standing on my tippy toes to put another kid cup into the cabinets. God, I know in my mind that you have been faithful. I know I have intimately known your presence. But God…right now, my emotions are filled with uncertainty. Please help them to catch up with what I know to be true.

I continued unloading the dishwasher, putting away forks and spoons one by one into the nearby drawer.

Moments later, I heard the familiar ding of my cellphone. A text from my friend Ashleigh. After throwing the remaining spoons into the drawer, I picked up my phone to see what she wanted.

Here’s what I read: 

Hey you. You’ve really been on my mind recently and today I felt like God was leading me to pray for you and check in on you. I just wanted you to know […] I see you, God sees you.

I had to lean against the counter, one hand over my mouth as I just stared at her words: God sees you. Tears poured down my face.

We live in an age that angel visitations sound crazy and creepy and uncommon. And I know Ashleigh isn’t necessarily celestial—unless her husband and her three kids know differently. But in that moment, I felt like I had experienced a heavenly visitation. God doesn’t typically communicate with me through neon signs, but wow did I feel like I was standing smack dab in the middle of Vegas.

God sees you. I read the words over and over. All doubts disappeared and I began to laugh-cry, “Okay, God. I hear you.”

*** 

A few days later, I got up early before my kids to have a little quiet time and coffee. I’m a horrible human if I don’t get up before my kids, so this practice has become essential. Sitting in my library drinking coffee under a cozy blanket, I read through Genesis 16. I had read the story of Abraham and Sarah’s infertility before—how God had promised to bring forth a nation through one aging couple whose eggs seemed to have dried up.

In earlier chapters, Abraham had been promised by God to be the father of many nations. But to that point, he had no children. His wife Sarah must have begun to feel the pressure. Perhaps she too had doubts.

In chapter 16, in that moment of uncertainty, Sarah gave her Egyptian slave girl Hagar to her husband. Sarah insisted “Go, sleep with my slave” so that they could in fact make good on that promise of God. (Side note: Doing “God’s work” without Him never ends well.)

Hagar did in fact get pregnant. But her relationship with her master Sarah was forever changed. Sarah began to mistreat Hagar. The Bible doesn’t go into the details, but the abuse was enough to cause the slave girl to run away into the dessert—alone and pregnant in a foreign land. Away from her people. Without any resources. A child on the way.

Talk about coming to a place of nothing.

So there was Hagar in the dessert, collapsed beside what I imagine to be the lone water source amongst miles of sand and rock. She was so very alone. Suddenly, a heavenly being appeared to her, and they started talking. After explaining her situation, the angel instructed her: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her. […] You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.”

Hagar didn’t question him. She didn’t beg the angel to have God provide another way. Instead this Egyptian slave girl said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (v. 13).

I mean think on this with me: Hagar is an Egyptian. She was taken as a slave girl by this foreign couple and then impregnated by her master’s husband. She has had no previous personal interaction with God. And quite frankly, if all she knew of God was through her master Sarah, she probably had no interest in Him. He saw her and met her in the desert anyway. And in that moment, she felt known and gave Him the name “El Roi,” the God who sees me. No longer alone, Hagar willingly stepped back into her pain.

You guys, I’m a church girl—walking through that door every Sunday since infancy. In that moment, I felt convinced that this story must have been left out of my Bible. I felt like I was reading it for the very first time.

My mind flashed back to that text message from Ashleigh: God sees you.

Something turn over in my spirit that morning. It was like a missing puzzle piece finally discovered and snapped into place.  Or an engine that doesn’t want to turn over, finally roaring to life. Not only did I feel seen, but I also began to see more clearly.

For years, I’ve struggled internally, always feeling a little on the fringe. Like people didn’t quite get me—or that they did and I was just a little bit “too much” for them. And that was almost worse. To be known and rejected, or to be known and tolerated. Bleh—both left me feeling inadequate and alone. 

But here’s what I realized in that moment: I was already known. Whether in the desert or the hospital room or putting away the dishes, I have a God Who Sees me. And not just what I present to Him, but ALL of it. He sees me and He pursues me and He wants me to see Him back.

The Lord has tattooed His name—the God who sees me—on my heart.

I wish I could show up in your kitchen today and give you that same message: 

God sees you. 

Whether you’re putting away the dishes or filled with doubts or just received the worst news of your life,

God sees you.

Whether you’re tired of putting up the front of perfection or you’re buried beneath years of shame,

God sees you

Whether you’ve been following God for a while or you aren’t even sure you believe He exists,

God sees you. 

And not only that! He loves you and He likes you and He wants you to see Him back. But the only way you can do that is if you keep looking. You must fall headlong into Him again and again. If even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re filled with doubts or crushed beneath life, even if you’re alone in the desert, keep throwing yourself at his feet—and He will meet you there. 

Because He is the God Who Sees.