Imagine a female slave in the 20th century B.C. who, at the command of her mistress, marries and sleeps with her mistress’s husband. Who, upon consequently conceiving his child, is then constantly oppressed by her mistress, though the slave is herself not entirely innocent in her pride. When the father of her child remains unconcerned and the disdain of her mistress finally becomes too much to bear, she flees to a wilderness. And here, something strange and mysterious and extraordinary occurs. At a spring of water she is visited by an angel. After being promised a son and many descendants by this angel, her response is both heartbreaking and beautiful, offered to the God who has “listened to her affliction.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me (El Roi),” for she said, “I have now seen the [back of the] One who sees me.”
You are the God who has seen me. Who sees me. Before I ever saw you, looked for you, even desired you. You are the God who has always seen us, even before we were ever aware of being seen by you.
In that moment she could not see him fully, could not look upon his face, the light of his hyper-presence too vivid, too bright. Her seeing (I believe) was the awareness, the knowing, the acceptance, of being seen.
I wonder, is this enough? It touches the deepest, most inherent, given and intimate depths of our beings–the desire, the longing, the desperation, to be seen, known, and loved.
Is this not Easter? The prayer of a woman who is barely mentioned in our scriptures, who is essentially an afterthought to the story, abused and looked down upon, responding to her oppressive mistress with contempt. Who was found and visited by God in her wasteland, in her misery and abandonment. What she could not find in her difficult life, where she was a slave bearing her master’s child, she found when she fled. (Or rather, was found by it.) She found what she had been denied at every empty end throughout her forsaken life–to be seen, known, and loved.
Just as God visited this woman who was an afterthought to the story, so he visits us in Easter. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a different narrative altogether. We who flee the emptiness of all things; who flee the thought that we ourselves are an afterthought; who flee the belief that life is meaningless, hopeless, without purpose or intention… We are visited by another (truer) reality. We find that we have already been found, that we have always been seen, even when or if we could never quite name, find or see the One who has named, found, and seen us all along.
We see God in the awareness of being seen; in believing, knowing, and accepting that we have always been seen, that we are already seen. You are not an afterthought. You are not a mistake. You are not a product of chance, a chaos of chemicals. You are not simply a body, stardust, ashes.
You, are seen.