I began reading the Bible chronologically in the New Year, and this week, I have spent my mornings with Abraham and his descendants. One morning, I got to the chapters about Sarah and Hagar and all of their drama, and I had a lightbulb moment.
For years, I have loved Hagar's encounters with God. She was Sarah's servant, given to Abraham as a concubine so he could have sons (since Sarah was infertile), but after Hagar became pregnant, there was a lot of emnity between Sarah and her. Long story short, Hagar runs into the wilderness in anger and despair, and while she is there, God finds her. God speaks to her and promises her that He has not forgotten her. Rather, he has plans for her son, Ishmael. Ishmael will become the father of a nation. Hagar is so awed by God that she names the place of the interaction after the God who saw her. She actually says that, "I have seen the God who sees me." She had a personal encounter with God, and He blessed her.
A few years later, God came to Abraham's house and told Abraham that he would have a son, even though Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. Sarah laughed. God asked her why she had laughed, and she denied doing it. Yet, despite her lie, God still blessed Sarah.
God does not work the way I think He should work. He did not bless Hagar and Sarah based on their behaviour. They lied, ran away, and generally acted spitefully, but He still sought them out. He met them face to face, acknowledged their hurting hearts, and responded in love by blessing them. He did not curse them. He called out their hurt and healed it.
And they were changed by those encounters with God.
I don't understand that in my human mind, which was raised to expect reward when I do well and punishment when I don't. But that's not God's system. And the more I come to know God, the more I understand that His love does not wax and wane with my moods and actions. He loves me. And He knows that often, when I'm reacting badly, I need to come face to face with His overwhelming love more than I need a smack and order to stay in line.
When I encounter His love and forgiveness, I respond in love by stepping over to His way, the same as Hagar, the same as Sarah.
The same God who knew how to best meet their needs thousands of years ago knows how to meet my needs today.
And I don't understand that, either.
But I gladly, gladly receive.