El Roi - The God Who Sees Me
I was sixteen years old the first time I remember hearing God called El Roi, “The God Who Sees Me.” It felt like such a profound and personal name for a God that I loved but didn’t truly know or understand at the time. And it was a name that stuck with me, that kept pulling at the corners of my mind, though I didn’t then know why. Now I do.
The only place in scripture where God is called El Roi is in Genesis 16. Coincidentally, this is also the only place in scripture where someone specifically names God. God often names himself and sometimes even other people: Abraham, Isaac, Israel. But no where else in the Bible does a person directly name God. And the person who names him here in Genesis is a woman, a slave, a mother on one of her darkest days.
After being driven from her home by the abuse of her mistress Hagar, pregnant, sets out into the wilderness. Even before she cries out, before she can even fully name the pain in her heart, the Angel of the Lord (likely a pre-incarnate Jesus) finds her in the desert. He calls her by her name, and asks where she is coming from and where she is going. Of course, He already knows the answer, but He genuinely cares for Hagar and her troubles, and in that moment, steps in and initiates a conversation. After He blesses the child she is carrying, the passage says,
Even as a young woman who had yet to experience a wilderness of my own, I was so drawn to this “God who sees me.” And now, in the wake of losing Max, my heart resonates so deeply with Hagar’s story. In the days after losing Max, when I was lonely and heartbroken, confused and isolated, I knew that God saw me. As I walked through the world looking like any other young married woman, yet to have kids, this God who sees me knew. He knew my heartache, my longing, my motherhood.
Later, in the gospels, we see again where Jesus goes out of his way to see and heal a broken, hurting woman. In Luke chapter 8, we see Jesus, recently back from a short trip, greeted by a large crowd including a man seeking healing for his young daughter. As Jesus was on his way to heal this child, a woman touched him and was immediately healed of a bleeding condition she had been struggling with for 12 years. When Jesus stops what he is doing to ask who touched him, Peter, ever the pragmatist, says, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” (Luke 9:45, NIV)
I can just picture Peter thinking, “Duh, Jesus, of course someone touched you. You’re surrounded by a throng of people anxious to see a miracle…” totally oblivious that a miracle has just occurred, unnoticed by everyone else. But Jesus keeps pressing, until
Friend, in the presence of Jesus, we cannot go unnoticed. He is the God who sees us. He sees our isolation, our broken hearts and broken bodies, and stands ready to heal us.
I do not think it is insignificant that both of these stories center around women, deeply hurting women. Women who have been ostracized, overlooked, and outcast. One was a mother, the other a woman whose constant bleeding had made her unclean, unable to enter the temple for over a decade. And Jesus, intimately concerned with their suffering, sees them when no one else does. Not only does he see them, but he steps in when no one else will.
Sister, if you are feeling unseen, unloved, or unlovable today, He sees you. If you feel that you’ve overburdened your friends and families, that your grief is too much for them, He sees you. If you feel frustrated and confused because not only is your little one not in your arms, but another month has come and gone with no new babe on the horizon, He sees you.
In the presence of El Roi, The God who sees you, you cannot go unnoticed. So come, trembling, and fall at his feet. He longs to know you deeply, personally, and intimately. I cannot promise that your heart will instantly heal, that your womb will suddenly fill, or that the days, months, or years of pain and loneliness will be undone. But I can promise you that you will be known and that