I did it. I wore a mask. For the first time, I didn’t just try it on or wear it while sanding or staining wood, I wore a mask in a store. It wasn’t weird in the way I thought it would be. I had seen a couple of people wearing masks in TJ Maxx while shopping with my aunt on March 12th, the night I first realized things were changing in my world. I wondered if the mask wearers were sick or were trying to avoid becoming sick—whatever their reason for wearing masks, they stood out, and I stood as far away from them as I could.
Fast forward to last weekend, when I wore a mask for the first time (and went inside of a store for the first time since in a couple of weeks). I didn’t feel awkward or like I stood out. There were plenty of other people wearing masks; it’s been normalized it the past month and a half. What struck me was almost the opposite: a feeling of being unseen.
With a mask on, no one could tell if I was smiling as they passed. No one could tell if I was annoyed or unbothered as they apologized or excused themselves for walking in front of me. My mask caused me to feel hidden.
While being isolated in our homes, we are also encouraged to wear masks that isolate us in public. Maybe, all of this, the mask wearing, the staying at home, the uncertainty, the loss of income, and problems with your marriage that are being exasperated by the increased togetherness and stress, maybe it’s causing you to feel unseen by everyone. Even God.
In Genesis 16, Hagar had been placed in situation that was…uncomfortable, to say the least. God had promised a child to Abram (AKA Abraham), but because he and his wife, Sarai (AKA Sarah), were old, Sarai took it upon herself to bring God’s promise to pass. Apparently, no one told Sarai that “God helps those who help themselves” was made popular by Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, and not God’s Word.
Sarai’s plan was to give her servant, Hagar, to Abram so that Hagar could be a sort of surrogate mother. Once Hagar conceived, Sarai began to mistreat Hagar, so Hagar ran away. While she was running, she was found. Not by Abram or Sarai, but by God.
The angel of the Lord called her by name, instructed her to return and submit to Sarai, and then named her son and promised her descendants too numerous to count. This woman, caught in the middle of someone else’s distrust of God and His promises, was seen. She was Sarai’s maidservant, but she was more than that. She was seen. She was seen by a God who had a plan for her.
Because of her experience in the wilderness, she gave God a name: El Roi. It means “The God who sees me”.
In Psalm 139, David wrote, about being seen, known, and created by God. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-17 NIV)
God doesn’t change. He is still El Roi.
In 2020, we are in a situation we didn’t choose to be in, and like Hagar we are still seen. You are still seen.
Like David, we can take comfort in God’s presence with us and knowledge of us, and we can praise Him for being a God who is present and who sees us.