For a couple years in seminary, I didn’t wear lipstick. I twisted my long hair up tightly, wore dark turtlenecks and covered my eyes with glasses. I didn’t speak much in class unless I knew it counted toward my grade. In that case, I carefully planned what I’d say before opening my mouth. I didn’t want to call attention to myself in a room full of men. I hoped to fly beneath the proverbial radar, as a woman, and gain tools for teaching, writing, and ministry with as few conflicts possible.
I think my insecurities actually started on a playground a couple decades before that. I was tall and awkward and couldn’t throw or catch a ball to save my life. “She throws like a girl,” some boys snickered. I felt incensed and threw my body harder into tosses that only made the balls fly less efficiently. Yep,” they laughed, “she throws like a girl.” And I chastised myself for being like a girl.
Along a desert road, beside a remote, unnamed well, the angel of the Lord approaches a pregnant, abused, runaway slave named Hagar. The young woman has reached a breaking point. Wrapped in doubts and their own agenda, her masters, Abram and Sarai, had given her no choice but to become a surrogate mother to their child. Once she conceived, conflict arose between Hagar and Sarai. With Abram’s blessing, Sarai attacked Hagar with disproportionate cruelty, reasserting her position of power over her. Hagar was abused and mistreated so severely that she fled into the wilderness. Hagar’s life has now been irreversibly altered, and her future looks bleak. No doubt it surprises her that anyone—especially the angel of the Lord—would notice her.
How differently he speaks than her human masters! “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Gen. 16:8). The Lord knows she is a slave, yet calls her by name.Surely it is strange to answer a personal question when she is accustomed to simply obeying instructions. Responding to the Lord’s question, Hagar jumps straight to her situation: “I’m running from my mistress Sarai” (Gen. 16:8). A woman in her position has no social or economic clout. Consequently, Hagar faces two undesirable options: return and suffer Sarai’s abuse, or brave the long road through the wilderness to Shur. The desert spreads in every direction. Hagar only sees dead ends, but the angel of the Lord sees another way … Continue Reading
I believe C.S. Lewis was right to imagine hell full of bureaucrats trampling toes and angling politics to be greatest. Heaven is opposite. I picture butlers stumbling all over each other to show the goodness of the One above all rule and authority, power and dominion. (Ephesians 1:18-23) I imagine culture celebrating everyone’s good works—singing, writing, construction, sports, cooking, beer brewing—besides everything the Spirit breathes. Forever. Appreciation flows toward each one where nothing is big or small, where first is last, and gratefulness rises to the One who holds together all that makes heaven Heaven. We cannot imagine that much life. But we can dressextravagantlyin the One who makes heaven now.