by Debbonnaire Kovacs

by Debbonnaire Kovacs
submitted June 18, 2014
 
Gen 21:8-21
 
I have had it. I have absolutely HAD IT!
 
I am stomping through the desert, and believe me, it is really hard to stomp in desert sands. But I’m just about at the end of my rope. Clouds of dust are rising with every angry step, and my son is keeping a safe distance, striding along like the young man he has become. Now they kick us out? Now?
 
I tried to leave, years ago, when I first got pregnant, but no, God said go back. And submit! Submit to the mistress who decided I was to be the vessel (worthless in myself, but with a working womb) through whom would come her son. I had already submitted to the master in a way I never wanted to.
 
My steps slow a little. I am getting dizzy and lightheaded. I drink a little of the water and give some to Ishmael. It’s getting low. I’m trying to make it last, but we still have miles to go.
 
I remember that day, the other time I left. The Holy One, blessed be He, spoke to me! Called me by name! And made me promises…amazing promises for a slave woman from Egypt.
 
So I went back. I thought things would be different, and in a way they were. I did produce a son for the master. He, at least, was overjoyed, and I tried my best to be patient and humble with the mistress, even though she was so jealous she could hardly speak to me. Supposedly, Ishmael was hers, the son she couldn’t have. But of course I had to nurse him, and naturally he came to look on me as mother, not her. As he grew older, I taught him to submit to both of them, but I also taught him that Abram was his father and that someday all that Abram possessed would be his. It is no more than the truth, after all. Ishmael is his eldest son. His firstborn. The birth of the second son, Isaac, which made the whole camp happy (yes, me too) shouldn’t have changed that. A man should have many sons. But there’s only one firstborn.
 
I know Ishmael didn’t mean anything by what he said to her spoiled son. Certainly it shouldn’t have been grounds for kicking us out to fend for ourselves, with a little food and water!
 
Which is gone now. I haven’t been able to stomp for some hours. Ishmael is staggering, and he is strong, not like my old, worn-out body. I fall, but drag myself up again. Then he falls, too, and lies still.
 
We are going to die, my boy and I. The son Abram—sorry, Abraham—was so proud of, so excited about. We’re going to die now. I crawl to my son and manage to get him under one of the scrawny bushes nearby, but there is nothing worth the name of shade, and without water…
 
Well, this is it. He is moaning a little through cracked lips. I can’t watch. I move away, turning my back, hoping he will die quickly. Hoping I will live until after he goes, then die, too. I put my dry, burning face on my knees and I begin to cry. There are no tears, but my mouth stretches out of shape and my voice lifts in wails of despair.
 
A sudden sound makes my breath stop for a moment. “What is the matter with you, Hagar?”
 
A gulp and a sob come out of me. He has seen me again? He is speaking to me again? My heart pounds, making me feel a little sick. I was already weak and throbbing. Maybe it’s a hallucination.
 
“Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.  Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” That’s what He said last time—a great nation. I assumed it was about the promise we all knew God had made to the master, but then when they kicked us out—God must mean our descendants, not just Abraham’s!
 
Or it’s a hallucination.
 
I lift my wavering head and peer through the haze that darkens my eyes. What is that? I think—can’t be—no, it is! A well!! Panting, seeing spots before my eyes, I creep over to it and refill the water skin, sip some so that I can see a little better, and drag it back over to Ishmael under the bush. I hold his head so he can drink.
 
It’s amazing how water can make you feel alive again. I sit with my son under the puny shade of the bush and watch the shadows grow long. We’ll move on when it gets a little cooler.
 
Nothing has really changed. We are still outcasts. We still have miles to go, and not much welcome to be met at the end of it.
 
But He sees me. He hears me. He knows my name, and my boy’s name. We can go on now.