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The God Who Sees

2009 March 8
by Julie Clawson

Shortly after I took a position as Children’s Ministry Director at a small Baptist church, I sat down with the kids under my care and asked them what questions they would like to ask God. One girl, one of the oldest in the class who had grown up in churches and private Christian schools, told me that she would ask God why he hates girls. I asked her why she thought that and she replied that since there were no women in the Bible and since Jesus only choose male disciples that God must hate girls. To a fifth grader at least that’s the way things appeared.

I was shocked to hear her assumption. Here was a girl immersed in the church who had never been exposed to the stories of the women of the Bible. She had never been told of the mothers of the faith or the women leaders in the early church. The stories of women faithfully choosing to serve and follow God no matter the consequences were not part of her heritage. She didn’t see herself reflected in the Bible, and so her only assumption was that God had rejected her entire gender. My heart broke for her (and as Children’s Director, I did my best to tell the stories of biblical women).

Unfortunately though, ignoring the women of the Bible is far too common in many churches. When their stories aren’t told regularly, the church forgets about them and starts to assume that our faith has roots solely in the deeds of men. While of course those men’s stories are to be valued and explored, the Bible is rich with examples of women of faith as well. The church has often failed to heed their stories, but God remembers who they were and how they served him. He is in truth the God who sees.

The name “the God who sees” (El Roi) was a name given to God by Hagar. An Egyptian slave, cast out by Sarah and Abraham into the desert, she epitomized rejection. But God noticed her plight and came to her aid. In thanksgiving she reaches into her pagan background and ascribes a name to this God who saw her struggles. God accepts this name just as he accepted the rejected and dejected Hagar. Her story is woven into our story of faith – her name for God one of the brief glimpses we have of the nature of God.

I wish all young girls in the church could grow up knowing that God not only sees, but loves and respects women. But this isn’t a message they will hear unless we tell the stories of the women of faith. The story of Hagar naming God. The story of the midwifes participating in civil disobedience and standing up to Pharaoh. The story of a young maiden bearing witness to Namaan. The stories of the women who financed the disciples and trained them in theology. The story of how Jesus chose a social misfit by a well to be his first evangelist. The story of a young teen singing praise to a God who delivers the poor from oppression. The stories of women who God saw.

Women deserve to see themselves as God sees them. He saw in women leaders, teachers, revolutionaries, and protectors of the faith. He wants their stories told. And the church is amiss if we continue to ignore those who God saw and deemed worthy.

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This post is part of the International Women’s Day Synchroblog. I will post links to other participants as they become available.

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37 Responses leave one →
  1. March 8, 2009

    You post reminded me of how older adults must feel invisible because they never see themselves on TV shows, in which everyone is young and beautiful. But God sees them.

    Peace to you today.

  2. March 8, 2009

    Not sure how to do this, but just wanted to let you know I’ve posted my 2 cents at squareonekitchensink[dot]blogspot[dot]com. Thanks for doing this – I’m looking forward to reading through these.

  3. March 8, 2009

    This would change a lot of young girl’s lives!

  4. March 8, 2009

    Bravo! It breaks my heart to think that so many women, young and old, don’t see a place for themselves in the work of God’s kingdom. The vision is so much greater than traditional complementarian readings would have us believe.

  5. March 8, 2009

    “I wish all young girls in the church could grow up knowing that God not only sees, but loves and respects women.” That’s a good goal. I hope my daughter learns this lesson.

    -Alan

  6. March 8, 2009

    Julie, Thank you for putting this synchroblog together and even more for having a heart that seeks justice for all.

  7. March 8, 2009

    Thank you for this post. We need to make sure our whole story is told and not just the male parts of it.

    And thank you once again for putting this wonderful synchroblog together.

  8. March 8, 2009

    I think it is important to not just tell the stories of women, but to actively address the “God hates girls” mentality. I really do think that parents and church leaders need to talk girls about how they (the girls) perceive God’s attitude towards them.

    Might be revealing.

  9. March 8, 2009

    Lainie – you’re right. I remember hearing a professor (who worked on translation of the TNIV I think) talk about how he opposed gender inclusive bibles until he had a daughter. One day she told him that God doesn’t love girls because the bible said that God loved all “men”. He did not want his daughter having any reason to believe that God didn’t love her.

    We can have our ideologies, but what really matters is what women are perceiving and internalizing.

  10. March 8, 2009

    I agree that girls especially need to hear the stories of women from the Bible. They also need to see women empowered for ministry — teaching, preaching, etc. If the only person speaking from the front of the church is male, that sends a message, too — and it isn’t the message of the Bible — “male and female he created them, in the image of God he created them…”

  11. March 8, 2009

    Hey Julie,

    I was gone all day and only now can get to this, and not even as well as I hoped. But I was at least a little successful and posted my contribution on Rahab.

  12. March 8, 2009

    Thanks.

    My 5-year-old son loves esther. LOVES esther. Thinks she is the coolest and looks up to her very much without attention to some dumb gender rule that boys can’t look up to girls. We love that.

    We love that in many big, gigantic ways.

    Jesus Creed had a pretty sweet blog today, also.

  13. Karl permalink
    March 9, 2009

    Good post. As the dad of 3 daughters I want them to know early and often that they are valued by God and have an indispensable role to play in his story – and that there are plenty of examples in the Bible and church history of valiant women who have done just that.

  14. Judy permalink
    March 9, 2009

    Julie I loved everything you had to say in The God Who Sees EXCEPT that you consistently referred to God as “he” – I believe that God is neither male nor female, except in God’s revelation in the person of Jesus. In my own teaching and preaching I do my best to refer to God by a multitude of “names” in order to convey this belief to both children and adults.

  15. March 9, 2009

    Judy – I understand and completely agree. I do interchange what pronouns I use for God, but often simply use the default he. I think I did so in this post especially as I was picturing how Hagar gave God the name derived from the male egyptian god Ra. I think that God does accept the many names we come up with – male and female one included.

  16. March 10, 2009

    Julie,

    I LOVE the story of Hagar. I think this is one story that definitely shows the awesome inclusiveness of God!

    Here you have Hagar, a runaway slave, and GOD shows up to promise her that her descendents would be too great to number. Later, when she is sent away by Abraham, God tells her that her that her son will live and will become a great nation!

    I think this story always reminds me that I am never outside of the sphere of God.

  17. March 10, 2009

    Thank you for your blog. It is so important that young girls realize how truly valuable women are to God.
    I love the name El Roi. I’ve studied a little on the names of God and this is one of my favorites.

  18. March 10, 2009

    Beautiful and so true, Julie. We’ve already seen some of these things come up with our children, even though we’ve made an effort to present the stories from the margins.

  19. March 11, 2009

    Thanks for this, I like it a lot!

  20. March 11, 2009

    powerful post, julie. thanks for putting this synchroblog together. i am just now starting to read through them & hopefully more of these stories will continue to be told…kathy

  21. March 20, 2009

    This is beautiful, Julie!

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