“Chutzpah.” This was a word that I hadn’t encountered until about ten years ago, when I was delighted to add it to my vocabulary. According to dictionary.com, “chutzpah” is a Yiddish term for courage, bordering on arrogance. It is impudent boldness and audacity. Reread Genesis 16:6-15 and 21:14-19 and I think you’ll agree with me: Hagar has chutzpah. Unwilling to live a life of degradation and pain, Hagar takes her life in her hands and escapes her captivity. She does return, but eventually she leaves again. This time, she doesn’t flee and she isn’t sold; she is freed and she and Ishmael leave as an emancipated slaves. In the desert, the Lord is her companion and makes promises to her that are arguably unparalleled in scripture. God says that Hagar will have many descendants and not only will she have many descendants, but they will become a great nation! She is the only woman in scripture to receive such a promise, not through a man, but as her own destiny. Hagar, the first single mom, raises her son on her own and “makes a way out of no way” for him. She acts as her own head of household, even arranging a marriage for her son in Egypt. Pretty amazing stuff for a woman to accomplish in that time!
It is common for scriptural characters to name the place where they encounter God, but Hagar is different. She doesn’t name the place where she meets God; she names God: “[Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13). Talk about chutzpah! Hagar is the only character in all of scripture who dares to name God like this. And the name she gives God is personal; she names God according to her own experience, according to who God has been in her own life.
Hagar inspires me to live more courageously, not only by making bold decisions, but by being bold with my faith. She reminds me that my call is not only to live a life of faith, but to testify to who God has been in my life, to “name” God in my story. I invite you to do the same. Today, try spending some time journaling about who God has been in your life. How has God shown up in your story? What name describes who God has been to you?