In the spring of 2007, I visited Taize, a monastic community in France and stayed there for over a month. They offer an internship program for young adults where young adults can volunteer at the community in exchange for room and board. During the final week of my internship, I participated in a week of silence, a common practice at Taize. Though I did not speak, I did listen to spiritual leaders of the community share messages and leave us with questions to reflect upon. One morning, a nun read the story of Hagar and Sarah from Genesis 16 in the Hebrew Bible as Jews refer to it, or the Old Testament as Christians refer to it. In the story, Hagar runs away from Sarah and into the desert. In the desert, an angel of God speaks to her and tells her to return to Sarah. At the end of an exchange between Hagar and the angel, Hagar says to the angel, “You are El-roi’,” which in Hebrew means, the God who sees.
At that time in my life, I was experiencing the pain of losing a loved one in my life. I didn’t know how to deal with the broken heart and the deep grief that accompanies it. When I heard the nun tell the story of Hagar naming God, the one who sees her, I realized I had finally encountered a theology that resonated with me. Afterwards, I too went off by myself to a desert-like place and wept. And I said to God, I don’t know why this had to happen…but all I need to know right now is that you see me, my pain, and that you care about me. As long as I know that, I will be okay.
– Written by Lydia Sohn in honor of all of those who lost their loved ones in Newton, CT on 12/14/2012.