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Hagar – “The God Who Sees Me”
By James Vasquez
You’ve kindly come, dear friend, this hour
To spend most quietly with me,
As in my home we savor now,
Quite freshly brewed, Egyptian tea!
No matter if, for years on end,
I ate and drank what others had,
In far off Canaan where, as maid,
My foreign customs they forbad.
A wealthy, elder couple, they
Were hoping that a child be born,
Though quite beyond the years for this,
And yet, convinced that God had sworn,
Avowing that, despite their age,
The wife in time a son would bear,
Who would be their delight each day,
And of their great possessions, heir.
So if with cup in hand just now,
You’re ready to give ear to me,
I’ll tell my tale. (The tea is good!
Refreshing well, do you agree?)
I served them faithfully each day,
Their language and their customs learned,
Was diligent in all I did,
And favor with them both I earned.
I deeply felt for Sarah who,
In spite of effort and of will,
Could not conceive that male child,
Who finally would the vow fulfill.
Now things went well, I say, until
My masters seemed to give up hope.
But life without a son was not
A thing with which they wished to cope.
Their eyes, then, fell on me one day,
As if this maid could be the source
From which their longed-for son would come.
(Another cup of tea? Of course!)
So Abraham consented to
His wife’s sweet gift – of me, no less!
He took me for a wife in hopes,
That God our union would then bless.
Now I was young, no lines had left
Those tell-tale marks of age on me,
And pretty, with Egyptian charm,
As Pharoahs wished their wives to be.
And so with Abraham I learned,
Before the dawn’s first welcome light,
How greatly he desired a son,
And slept but little through the night.
Now you will understand, dear friend,
With opportunities galore,
I surely would conceive, e’en fate
Cannot man’s penchants long ignore.
O’er time I started to dislike,
And then my mistress to abhor.
I knew the child would not be mine,
For her my miseries I bore.
She spoke to Abraham and said
The blame was his for what occurred,
And then so harshly treated me,
By hostile deed and spiteful word,
I fled and found a lonely place,
Beside a desert spring where I,
Beneath a warming sun could rest,
Where I, some peace would find - and die.
‘Twas there an angel sought me out,
An angel sent from God above.
‘Twas there I first began to know
That even me this God could love.
He asked me whence I came and where
I thought to go, and then I said,
I knew not whither I would go
But that from Sarah I had fled.
He spoke again and for his words
My life has never been the same.
Once more I felt there was a God,
Who sees me in the depths of shame.
He promised my descendants would
Be many and hold mighty sway,
That I would bear a son whose name
Of Ishmael would be great one day.
Yet, he would be, the angel said,
A wild donkey of a man,
His hand against all others, and
Adversely living midst his clan.
But I was to return, he said,
For God’s good plan to realize,
Submitting to my mistress nor
To disobey or compromise.
And then I knew that I had seen
The One who sees me in my need.
I felt his presence, heard his voice,
And had no wish but to accede.
The day arrived and Ishmael,
Upon my mistress’ lap was born.
She took the child as if her own,
No longer saddened or forlorn.
The years passed quickly and one day,
To father Abraham’s surprise,
My mistress whispered in his ear
A thing that opened wide his eyes.
She was with child, she proudly said,
And Abraham, a hundred now,
Throughout the camp ran quickly, or
As legs that ancient would allow,
To spread the word that all might know,
God’s promise would be soon fulfilled,
A son from Sarah’s womb would come,
The very thing they both had willed.
I pondered, then, just what this meant.
I had received a promise, too.
Had he who sees me turned aside?
Would I God’s kindly words now rue?
But few years thence the child was weaned,
And Ishmael, in playful tone,
Repeated words the child had said,
In baby talk, as all were prone.
Well, what a fuss old Sarah raised!
Perhaps because of every guest,
Invited on that special day,
When kids are taken off the breast.
To Abraham she said aloud,
(The guests had hardly left the door!),
“Now rid this house of Hagar and
The son upon my lap she bore!
“He’ll not inherit with my son
The promises God gave to us.”
And Abraham, distressed because
His wife had raised this strident fuss,
About his son whom he had loved,
Found prayer in solitude anew.
And then he heard the voice of God,
Instructing him in what to do.
“Be not distressed, my Abraham,
Nor Ishmael’s destiny bemoan.
Heed all that Sarah says to you,
Through Isaac will your seed be known.
“And I will make of Ishmael,
A nation strong upon the earth,
And care as well for Hagar who
Brought him to light and gave him birth.”
And so it was, by sun’s first rays
Of dawn next day, we both were sent,
With food and water on our backs,
No beast to help, or even tent.
Dismissed by Abraham this way,
We wandered in the desert till,
With water gone, ‘neath blazing sun,
I finally had no strength or will.
I put the boy beneath a bush,
And wandered off a ways to cry.
‘Twas then I heard the voice once more
Of him who sees me with his eye.
From heav’n it came and said to me,
“What troubles you? Be not afraid.
For God the cries of Ishmael hears
From where you hid him in the shade.
“Now lift the boy and by the hand
Lead him to meet his destined fate,
For I have vowed of him to make,
A mighty nation, vast and great.”
My eyes were fully opened, then,
By God who truly all things sees.
A well of water there appeared,
In answer to my fervent pleas.
(You think you’d like another cup?
Just let me stoke the fire once more.
Egyptian tea is best when hot,
In but a moment, then, I’ll pour.)
Now God was with my son as vowed.
In Paran’s desert, tall and strong,
An expert archer he became,
And still they tell of him in song.
And one more thing I did for him,
Ere we could prosper or survive,
A wife from Egypt I secured,
That he might keep our ways alive.
from the November 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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