January 6, 2018 marked the beginning of one of the greatest, most courageous adventures of my life. Dave worked from home beginning in mid-2016 and in the winter months of 2017, January to March, he traveled to Florida often. The second winter (2018), we decided to rent a house in Bradenton, Florida which allowed us to spend more time together while he worked from a southern home base.
I confess, I would have cancelled the whole thing up until the moment we were pulling out of the driveway in Indiana. I never wanted to spend the winter in Florida and it felt like I was giving up a lot to do so. I left my family in Indiana; I knew no one in Florida; the one couple I who wintered there were not coming that year; I had no connections at a church. Everything I relied on for security was pulled away.
We arrived at our rental house late Friday afternoon. As we unloaded the car and put away the few things we took with us, I hit bottom. Tears flowed as I felt the full force of loneliness overtake me. It was great to be with Dave, but he would be working and traveling. There would be many hours when I was on my own.
Early in my winter sojourn, I read Genesis 16. This is the account of Abraham and Sarai devising their own solution to barrenness. Abraham should take Hagar as his wife and through her, they would have an heir. As soon as Hagar knew she was pregnant, she treated Sarai poorly which in turn angered Sarai. Turning to Abraham for help, he blessed Sarai in dealing with Hagar however she deemed proper. Sarai mistreated Hagar until Hagar finally decided to run away. Sitting in the wilderness beside a spring of water, a visitor came to Hagar. It is through this interaction that Hagar experiences God in a personal way. She used the name El-roi to describe her experience. It means “the God who sees me.” Immediately I knew that was what I needed. I needed to be seen him, El-roi, the One who sees me! And I began to pray and entrust the next three months into his hands.
It helped a lot to have visitors and, boy, did we have visitors. After all, who doesn’t want to spend a few days in the sunshine rather than snow and cold? My daughter, sister and mother came in January and helped the first month to be less lonely. I sewed. I discovered Goodwill shopping. I learned to hunt for shark’s teeth. I navigated on my own in unfamiliar places. I was doing all right.
February brought more visitors, with my children coming to vacation, a friend spending a week, a weekend in Indiana and new friends visiting. Soon it was March.
The second weekend in March, we came home for a surprise 40th birthday party for a close friend. It was good to be home and yet I was also ready to go back and finish the winter in Florida. The final three weeks provided some of the most challenging times I experienced.
While having visitors certainly made time fly and the days less lonely, it also prevented me from making new friends in my neighborhood or from developing routines that would sustain me when I was alone. And suddenly I was alone. I remembered Hagar and her visitor in the desert. I believed God was the same today as he was then. And I prayed again. I asked God to see me and provide what I needed.
I am an introvert by nature, but I knew I would need social interaction to remain in a healthy place. Some of the ways God met my needs the last few weeks required effort on my part. A text to a friend, courage to go somewhere alone, saying yes to invitations I might otherwise overlook – all worked together to help me not only survive but to thrive! Other times, it seemed God arranged the perfect person/people to sit beside me or attend the same event I enjoyed. As I experienced his provision I, too, could say “You are the God who sees me!”
I believe there are times when we all need to be seen, to be called out by name, to be noticed. It might be when relationships are difficult, life is lonely, raising children is stressful, sickness visits, finances get tight, a pandemic hits. At times, I find myself sitting by the well in the wilderness wondering how I arrived at this place and where am I going from here. If I listen carefully, I hear the Lord calling my name.
Hagar’s predictament was the result of disobedience on Abraham and Sarai’s part. They determined to find a solution to the barrenness they experienced. It brought heartache and pain not only to them, but to Hagar. Two things stand out to me in this — God did not leave Hagar to figure it out on her own, even when her involvement was not a part of his promise to Abraham. Secondly, God didn’t ditch Abraham and Sarai. He continued to be faithful to his promise even when they failed to trust him to fulfill his word.
It doesn’t matter where you are today or how you arrived there, God is present. He is El-roi — the God who sees you!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26