Have you ever longed to feel loved? Wondered if anyone accepted you? Wanted to belong somewhere? Life is full of ups and downs that can make us feel like we are invisible or overlooked. It’s hard to know that God is there through the trials and sometimes more difficult to believe He knows us in the midst of them. Yet in all of it, God is at our side—even when He feels far away. Jill Eileen Smith knows what it feels like to face the valleys of life. To feel overlooked and unnoticed. It is a grace to welcome Jill to the farm’s front porch today…
Often in my childhood I’d face wondering if I belonged—wanting to feel like I was accepted by others.
The quiet introvert, I wasn’t good at sports, only academics. Added to that, I was not thin like the pretty girls.
By today’s standards, I don’t know why weight became such an issue for me. When I look back at pictures, I see I wasn’t as overweight as I thought.
But thin mattered, especially if you weren’t athletic. I was neither.
So I walked to and from school mostly alone. I pretended to be Marcia Brady as I swung on the swing set during recess, and I studiously did my work.
To say I had a good self-image would be a lie.
I didn’t like myself or dislike myself. I just preferred to escape into fiction or fantasy. I knew my parents loved me, but I didn’t feel liked by many of my peers.
All of us are looking for someone to appreciate us, to see us, to love us, yes?
That girl on the playground with the Marcia Brady complex got a little older, and one day as she sat in her sixth grade class, her teacher, Mr. Murrell, announced that his wife was going to have a baby.
He said that if it was a girl, they were going to name her after one of the girls in the class. We all looked at each other, wondering who that girl would be. He was a favorite teacher in the school, and any girl would have been honored. Of course, I knew that the baby would probably be named Antoinette. Antoinette had such a beautiful, roll-off-your-tongue, unique name.
Not long after that announcement, Mr. Murrell stood in front of the class and told us that his wife did give birth to a baby girl. I doodled on my notebook and half listened until I heard my name. Jill. Jill?
I looked around. Since I was the only Jill in that elementary school at the time, I couldn’t point to anyone else.Me? He picked my name? I didn’t even like my name! But maybe that was more because I didn’t like myself all that much.
I wonder when I read Hagar’s story in Genesis if she liked who she was. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about her, though there are suggestions that she came from Egyptian royalty.
Regardless of her background, we do know that she was Sarai’s servant and she bore Abram a son. We also know that she is the only woman who named God! Actually, she was the only person who named God.
Every other time, God revealed His name to those He visited. To Abram He was Adonai El Elyon, Lord God Most High. To Moses, I Am. He wouldn’t tell Jacob His name but instead named Jacob Israel. But Hagar named Him The God Who Sees Me.
As Mr. Murrell named his daughter after me—though I admit, the comparison may seem flimsy—so Hagar named God in a way that honored Him, the way she saw Him. As my teacher took notice of a lonely, introverted, overweight girl and liked her name, so God took notice of a frightened slave and cared for her.
I can’t help but think that Hagar was changed when she realized the God of Abram saw her, called her by name, gave her instructions, and made her a promise.I have often struggled to feel accepted throughout my life, but like Hagar I can’t forget that there is one who knows me. Who sees me. And He knows my name.
We are all going to face times in our lives when we feel overlooked or even ignored, and that’s going to hurt if we let it.
We can run away like Hagar did and hold our hurts close to our hearts.
We can avoid relationships that might wound us.
Or we can go back, believe what God says about us—He sees us—wait on Him to do the work only He can do, and forgive the things that are ours to forgive.
Scripture and history tell us that Hagar’s life in Abraham’s camp didn’t last long. Less than twenty years later, she was walking away again, this time with her son into a future she couldn’t fathom. I can imagine how all of the memories of that first trip toward Egypt came rushing back, only this time she feared for the life of her son.
And God met her again. Hagar. A woman. An outcast.
Not one among the lineage of the people God had chosen.
But one among the lineage of people God wanted to save.
God saw her. And He considered her life precious to Him.
He sees us too, my friend. Unlike any other god the world has known, He loves us.
We are precious in His eyes.
And no amount of hurt in the world can ever take that knowledge from us.
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, The Loves of King Solomon, and Daughters of the Promised Land. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.
In her new book When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams: Hope for Today from 12 Women of the Bible, she draws on her extensive research into women of the Old Testament and turns her pen to what we can learn about trusting God from women like Eve, Noah’s wife, Sarai, Hagar, Lot’s wife, Rebekah, Rachel, and more. Jill helps us discover what these ancient women did right—and what they did wrong—when faced with dashed expectations and deferred dreams.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]