She [Hagar] walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept. (Gen. 21:15, CEB)
I’ll come out and say it: I love a good story. Getting lost in a narrative is one of my hobbies, just ask my wife. Part of this love stems from what happens when we read good tales, we start to see ourselves in it. We identify with a particular character. We become that person. It happens when we read J.K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, or John Steinbeck. It even happens when we read the Bible.
Sarah got what she wanted and what she was promised, a son. He was a gift in the face of her old age. She got what she wanted, but that didn’t stop her from abusing the “other woman.” She still called for the exile of “that” child because she couldn’t bear the thought of him being treated equally as her own progeny. Bitterness ruled her that day.
Abraham was distressed. Though not from his wife, it was still his son and his mother he was sending out and it was torturing him. Maybe he gave them all he could without the rest of the family noticing he’d stolen items from the stores. He did what he could, but then still appeased his wife and sent out Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. Expediency ruled him that day.
Hagar had traveled this road before. This wasn’t the first time she’d been abused by Sarah. Nor was this her first foray into wandering through the desert. She and her son had done this before. She trekked as far as her supplies would take her, which probably wasn’t far. Her hope sloshed to and for within her ancient water bottle, and when her stock slowly but surely dwindled, so did her dreams of ever finding a new home. She did the only thing she could think of and tried to find her son a nice resting place. Then she moved away and surrendered herself to the oncoming grief. Heartache ruled her that day.
Ishmael’s crime was simply being born, which he didn’t choose. He lived the only life he knew, enjoying the small things when they were presented to him. He was even overjoyed when his half-brother was born. “Finally, someone to play with,” he thought. And they did play. There was delight, glee, and even some laughter between the two brothers. But once again his fate was tied to forces outside of his control. Sent away with his mother, he lamented the unfair nature of his life. Cries of pain turned into cries of desperation as any sort of future for him came into question. Despair ruled him that day.
Four characters. Four different versions. I wonder which one you identify with? Where is God placing you today? Where is Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael in Burlington, the US, the world?