I was that kid who proudly carried a library card and devoured a Nancy Drew book in one day. It shouldn't surprise me, then, that stories capture my attention. If you're willing to follow along, I'd like to share a few with you (all true):
A foreign place had just become home... but not for long. The skyscrapers and busy streets of Harbin stayed and didn't change much, but we– I– did. I'd grown to love our Chinese neighbors and the cute dog from the shop down the road and the market street with the McDonald's at the end. When I found out we were leaving, I cried.
Fast forward just a few years shy of a decade. Instead of leaving home, I'm making a new one. It's mostly wonderful, but it's also hard and sometimes lonely. Doubt tries to creep in; winter drags on.
The next story comes a long time before the first two. A slave girl, after being ordered to conceive a child as an attempt to hurry the fulfillment of a promise, is mistreated. Her name is Hagar, and she flees. An angel comes to her at a spring in the wilderness with a message of promise and hope. In her pain and rejection (and more, I'm sure), Hagar names the place "Beer-lahai-roi."
The well of the Living One who sees me.
She says, "You are the God who sees me."
Before telling Hagar how He can bring resurrection from bad things and hurtful choices, God says, "I see you." God doesn't prescribe a remedy; God tells Hagar she's seen.
This reminds me of another message heralded by an angel, this time to shepherds in the night:
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you great news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
And the name of this baby? It means God with us. The Son of the God of Israel– the God who sees– is God with us. Yes, the crucified and risen Savior– but first (and still)... God with us.
The God who saw (and sees) my tears and pain... God with us. The God who saw (and sees) my winter and doubt... God with us. The God who saw Hagar's pain, rejection, and fleeing... God with us.
The God who sees enters in; God says, "I know." Before the redemption and resurrection... God with us. Being seen and known and loved and "with" in the midst of it all. Have more hope-filled words been spoken? That takes my breath away, friends.
The Living One who sees. God with us.