I need you to hear something.
You, the parents of the college student about to flunk out. Who know he’s drinking too much and going to class way too little and wonder: if he fails, what will happen to him? Who monitor his assignments, his whereabouts and his bank account electronically, texting to make sure he makes the due date, makes it to class. Calling daily so that he has just as much of your supervision as you can get to him through a cell phone.
You, the mother of two in her third bout with cancer. Now it can’t even be called “breast cancer” because it’s spread so wide none of us knows what to call it any more, except evil. And terribly sad. You who are worried and anxious: what if they don’t remember me? Who will be there when someone breaks their heart, when they graduate, when they walk down the aisle? How will they find themselves if they lose me?
You, the daughter in the sandwich generation, who is caring for her aging mother and her grandchildren on alternating days. You who are exhausted being the caregiver everyone needs and wondering: who will take care of me? Who is thankful but tired at the prospect of moving your mother into full-time care. Who is sad at the possibility your grandchildren may be moving several states away. Who wonders: who will need me then?
I’ve talked with all of you this week. All in this one little week. I’ve carried all of your burdens to God in prayer. I know you asked me to pray because you think there’s something special, something magical about the prayers a pastor offers up. In truth He heard your prayers long before mine, and He doesn’t care about whether those prayers come from a professional or not.
He heard you. He heard me, but now I need you to hear something.
I need you to hear about Hagar.
She was a parent, caring for a child. She cried out to God too. Kicked out of the house where she had been a maid, then a surrogate mother, then a liability. Sent to the desert, disposable as a Chinet plate, thrown away to die with her son.
She wailed and cried and petitioned God for this child she loved more than life itself, the one she left lying under a bush near death because she couldn’t bear to watch him leave this world when she was the one who watched him enter.
She cried out to God, and God heard.
But he didn’t hear her. God very specifically let her know it wasn’t her voice he heard – it was the voice of her son. She cried out and an angel from God showed up, the rescue she had been praying for. But he didn’t say God heard her prayers – he said God heard the boy.
Hagar screamed to God. But God’s ears were tuned to the whimpers of her son.
God wasn’t slighting Hagar by letting her know that he showed up – not for her – but because of the boy’s quiet plea. He wanted her to know that she was not the only one paying attention, not the only one who cared that he had a hope and a future. He wanted her to hear loud and clear that she was not the only one responsible for her boy’s life. That she may be his mother, but that she could never be his God. God wanted her to know that He would be listening to her beloved son, so that she wouldn’t have to carry that burden alone.
None of us do. None of us is fully responsible for the fate of another person. You may feel like without your striving, your help, your support, someone else will fall through the cracks. But God hears them. God sees them. And His notice, His hearing, His help are the only things that will get them through.
Instead of taking Hagar and her boy from the desert to more cushy surroundings, God made a home for them there in the desert. Instead of moving them out of danger, God moved in, and made His home there with them. Sometimes God rescues us from the desert, but sometimes He brings His presence right there with the one we love, the one who is so fragile, so desperate. When God moves in with us in the desert, it’s more than just a bearable place. God can make the desert bloom.
You, in the desert, I need you to hear something.
You who are desperate, crying out, loving someone so hard that it hurts.
I need you to hear this now.
God hears. God sees. God loves.
As much as you love that person He’s given you to care for – He loves them even more. You alone are not solely responsible to make their future bright, or even bearable. You can love them all you want, but you will never be their God.
That job has already been taken care of. They will be taken care of too.
Jessica LaGrone’s new Bible Study, Broken and Blessed, is a study of the family stories of Genesis. It can be found at here.