Daily Details

Sunday in Sicily: It’s the Little Things, © 2015, Lynn Abbott Studios, used by permission

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

It’s the dirty details that seem to plague my existence…

Dirty laundry.

Dirty dishes.

Dirty kitchen floor.

Dirty dog…it’s time for his bath.  Again.

Sunday in Sicily, copyright 2015, L. Abbott Studios (cropped)Seems like the daily list just gets done, and then, I must start all over again.   I’m sure you understand when I say that although I try to carve out time for dreaming, my life’s bucket list gets swallowed up by the day’s duties.

Perhaps, that is the appeal of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.  After all, being a grown-up requires attention to the necessary yet frequently boring task of simple survival.  It isn’t always fun … and it definitely isn’t a game.

To be sure, in my experience, growing up requires a lot of dish washing.  And quite frankly, I’d rather commandeer Hook’s galleon with Peter Pan.

That’s probably why I stack my days so full.  I’m determined that the details won’t bog me down.  I dream of pixie dust, soaring over London, and settling in Neverland.

That’s right.  I never want to see a dirty dish again.

So I build my days the way I used to build blocks. The tower grows tall… my daily “to do” mounts higher and higher.

And just as when my big brother used to tease and pull a block from the center of my construction,  the unforeseen catches me off guard.

Yup. It all comes tumbling.

More often than I’d like to admit, my days fall apart with those shattered building blocks.

And in those moments, I feel a little like Charlie Brown staring at blue clouds after Lucy has pulled the football for the umteenth time.

It’s the little disasters that rattle me most.  In fact, for me,  little things frequently spell big trouble.

When the plates are stacked, it’s that “one more thing” that tips the balance:  plans crash.

I collect the broken pieces.

Sometimes, life is like that.  Daily details bury us.  We don’t have time for the unexpected events or criticism.  We stagger under the weight of the ever-accumulating small stuff.

To this, one biblical gal would likely add a hearty “been there; done that.”   In fact, as I’ve studied the life of Abraham, I’ve concluded that she often gets a bad rap.

After all, Hagar had an enormous “to do” list.  And her job description was already full when Sarai and Abram added a new role to her resume…

Hagar earned her keep as Sarai’s lady in waiting.  Because Abram’s sheep and cattle business flourished, Sarai could afford to have a maid.

And so Hagar certainly would have performed a great many jobs around Sarai’s household.  After all, a nomadic life isn’t easy.

But I imagine that Hagar’s mama probably encouraged Hagar to work for the wealthy man. With staccato rhythm, she may have advised, “It’s a good position.  You should take it.  A wealthy employer enables  job security.”

The Biblical record doesn’t tell us exactly how many years Hagar initially served, but we do know that Abram and Sarai had already lived in Canaan for ten years when Hagar is first mentioned.

Since we are told that Hagar was Egyptian, it seems likely that she joined Abraham and Sarah while they sojourned in Egypt, (Genesis 12: 10; 16:1).

After Egypt, Abram, Sarai and their nephew Lot had settled in the Dead Sea region around the city of Sodom;  thus, Hagar was a very long way from home.

Her life depended on the grace of her master and mistress.  Friends and family couldn’t help her.  If she were unhappy, there was no quick bus trip home.

I’m sure Hagar considered all of this when Sarai proposed her wild idea of providing Abram an heir with Hagar’s help. In addition to all her work as a servant in the household, Hagar would also become a surrogate mother.

Yes, her employers asked too much.  But Hagar was stuck.  People didn’t say “no” to the rich, powerful, and beautiful Sarai. And obviously Abram couldn’t refuse his wife.  He agreed to the plan, and Hagar was required to add new duties to her already long list.

Genesis says that when Hagar became pregnant, she “began to despise her mistress.”  Given the circumstances as well as a heavy workload, she had some reason for resentment.

And while some might have viewed her behavior as that of an “upstart,” her resentment does seem foreshadow jealous rivalry between the two women in Abram’s life.

Sarai obviously hadn’t considered her plans well. While insisting on the surrogate scheme, Sarai  failed to recognize Hagar’s humanity.  Although Hagar served Sarai, Hagar also had hopes and dreams.

In addition, as a servant, the pregnant Hagar would have continued to serve her mistress.  Exhausted? Stressed?  I suspect she was. And the circumstances of her pregnancy didn’t make things easy.

Although Hagar likely contributed to the conflict with her mistress, my heart nevertheless goes out to her.  After all, her plates were stacked; the tower of “to do” swayed.  The little things threatened to tumble.

A servant and far from home, she truly held a precarious position; without question, Hagar was vulnerable to Sarai’s whims.

It isn’t surprising, then, that jealousy and resentment emerged on both sides.  Tensions began to build as Hagar’s pregnancy progressed. Little things festered.

Then, Sarai made her move. She pulled a critical piece from Hagar’s tower.

“Sarai said to Abram, ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.  I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me…'”

Checkmate.

Actually, I must give Abram credit; he responded with incredible wisdom.  He didn’t argue or attempt to place blame.  He get caught taking sides in the women’s daily disputes.  He simply gave his wife permission to handle the situation.

Given that freedom, Sarai took strong action:  “Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.”

Hagar crumbled.

But Hagar’s story reveals that Abba cares about our accumulating stress and often resulting mess.

He sees.

He knows.Sunday in Sicily, copyright 2015, L. Abbott Studios (cropped)

He loves.

When the slow drip, drip of that irritating kitchen faucet finally spills over and becomes a rapidly rising flood, Abba gives grace.

That’s right. During that dark hours in Hagar’s life, Abba showed up in a big way.

He didn’t chastise, blame or lecture.  Instead, He asked, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

Of course, God knew the answer to the questions.  Yet, in asking, Abba recognizes Hagar’s misery and notes the practical concerns of her situation: she is a servant, pregnant and far from home.

There can be no doubt that God compassionately cared for Hagar.  Indeed, while He encouraged Hagar to return to her strained position with Sarai and Abraham, He did not leave Hagar without hope.

Even in the midst of the altogether daily stress, Abba made her a promise; God would not only provide for her but He would grant her dream as well.

Sarai and Abram had probably pitched their outrageous plan by noting that God had promised that Abram’s descendents would become a great nation.  They likely appealed to her dream of becoming part of something bigger than herself.

Yet, Sarai mistreated Hagar after the deed was done.

Unfair. 

Even so, Abba saw Hagar’s heartbreak.  And He is more than able to bring beauty from daily chaos. He blessed Hagar despite the mistakes of others.

For Hagar, Abba promised to make things right.  He said, “‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count,'” (Genesis 16:10).

Sarai created a mess.  But God had not forgotten Hagar.  There would be trouble in the future as a result of Sarai’s scheme, but God would protect the faithful servant girl.

In that desert, when all her plans and life seemingly collapsed, Hagar met “the God who sees.”  El Roi. 

He misses nothing.  Indeed, He cares about every detail of our lives.  And He is always there even in the midst of our chaos.

Hagar found this to be true once again in Genesis 21.  At least 13 years had passed.  Ishmael, Hagar’s son, was a teen when Abram’s son Isaac was born.  However, Isaac’s birth did not alleviate the tension between Sarai and Hagar.  Sarai worried about the rival heir.

Unfortunately, the teenage Ishmael’s behavior didn’t pacify Sarai. Ishmael had a sarcastic side. And Hagar evidently had her hands full.  Just as Abba had predicted, her son lived “in hostility toward all his brothers.”

So it was. During a celebration of Isaac’s birth and weaning, Ishmael’s adolescence fueled the family feud.

Genesis records, “But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking,” (Genesis 21:9).

Sarah immediately complained and Abraham found himself in a tight spot.  He loved Ishmael; yet, Isaac was the promised heir.

God reassured Abraham, however, that He would provide for Ishmael.  Abraham then sent Ishmael and Hagar away.  I suspect he intended for them to return to Egypt to family and friends. But I don’t think he stopped to consider the details of his scheme.

And once again, despite her obedience and faithfulness, the all essential details, or lack thereof, caused Hagar’s life to collapse.  She and Ishmael wandered in Beersheba, and when their water ran out, Hagar sat down and wept.

Without water, she and her son would die.  She likely felt abandoned by God who had promised a great nation from Ishmael’s line.

Facing death in the desert, Ishmael cried as well, and I am certain it broke Hagar’s heart.  She sat at a distance from her beloved son because she could not bear to watch him suffer, (Genesis 21:16).

Yet, God again met her in the desert.  El Roi provided for her very daily need.  After He confirmed His promise to make a nation through Ishmael, He supplied water, (Genesis 21:19).  God understood and honored her dreams for her beloved son.

Yes, He is the “God who sees.”

Sunday in Sicily, copyright 2015, L. Abbott Studios (cropped)He supplies even in the midst of chaos.

El Roi walks with us through the craziness that constitutes those daily details.

Grace meets us in the desert.

When I consider Hagar, I recall Christ’s words, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Hagar knew Abba’s loving care firsthand.  Her heavenly Father not only provided her daily bread, but He also blessed her dream.

For this reason, when my “to do” list grows astronomically, when my dreams overwhelm me, when an essential building block gets pulled from my best laid plans, I remember Hagar.  And I run to my heavenly Father who sees.

In fact, Abba has promised not only to provide my needs (Philippians 4:19) but also to grant “a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).  And His word never fails, (Isaiah 40:7).   Any doubt about it? Just ask Hagar.

True. You and I can’t see the future, and in life’s deserts, the present looks extremely bleak.  But faithful is He.

Without a doubt, Abba cares about every detail … our dreams as well as our daily bread.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” ~Philippians 4:19

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young,” ~Isaiah 40:11

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you,”~ Psalm 9:9-10

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever,” ~I Chronicles 16:34