So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
~ Genesis 16: 13–14
Pairing: Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
I had a lover who would answer my phone calls with, “Here I am.” Such fullness of presence and attention, Simone Weil calls “the rarest and purest form of generosity.” It was potent medicine, reweaving the marrow to the soul, raveling old bindings of being unseen, unheard, disbelieved, silenced, erased, dis-appeared.
“Here I am,” or in the Hebrew of Leonard Cohen’s kaddish thrum: “Hineni, hineni.” I had mistaken these words for special, one-time, life-altering declarations which a select few extra-holy people made to God. Those supersaints and their special stories, recorded for me to ever fall short of: the altar call of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses from the mountain, Samuel from the shadows of sleep––
Turns out, Hineni is not reserved for burning bushes or seraphim sightings. It’s a contraction of hinneh ani: Behold, me. So the here is embedded in the 現在––in every הִנֵּה and every ἰδού of biblical Hebrew and Greek, attention is commanded, with every “Lo!”, “Behold!”, “Look!” But translation and my own language repertoire, like kissing the bride through the veil, had obscured the ubiquity of that index finger, pointing There! Observe! Consider! –– Prophetic punctuation in the grammar of God, it beckons, be Here now.
The demonstrative force of Here is a vocation to Presence. When I look again, Love is invading every–here. When it can be a daily struggle for me to even just show up, attend. When depressed and absenthearted, when in shock and disbelief. When exiled to delusions of invisibility, unworthiness, isolation. When swayed by the false, when the wicked prosper. When transported to traumatic pasts, or trapped in present injustices. When woolgathering from green futures. When ignoring or avoiding Truth. When distracted. When simply tired. Come unto Me.
Here I am,
present to You.
Hineni recalls us from the desert places we run. Sometimes, we flee the cruelty of those who would efface us from belonging or pave over displaceable tenants. Sure, deserts are fine places to visit, but not so great places to be indefinitely stranded. Without adequate shelter and supplies, the desert spells doom.
Recently, on my way to the desert, I met a woman.
She was a runaway slave, fleeing into the wild open. Toward home.
Or safety, maybe. Eventually.
Hopefully. Away, at any rate.
They found her.
The fugitive woman was intercepted.
––– next to a fountain of water in the wilderness.
––– hope and hydration on her way to lostness.
Their first word to her:
Seen, known. By name.
Not scorned, but sought:
Hagar, whence camest thou? and whither goest thou?
She said, I flee from the face of my mistress.
They interrupted her dishonor and panicked grief.
Then, from where she was, Hagar utters this startling confession of faith:
truly Here I have seen the One who looks after me.
She names the Messenger:
You are a God of seeing.
A devastatingly beautiful recognition of the Divine gaze.
She, enslaved, exploited, then vilified by so many interpretive traditions, names the Namer. Fleeing her abusers, she encounters One who bears witness to her plight and flight, who draws near to be named and known by her experience: the eternal Word who canonizes the theology of this foreign woman.
This spring is in the desert. For further reading, visit Hagar’s Well of the Living One that Sees Me (Genesis 16). Years later, when she loses sight of her El-Roi (Genesis 21), Emmanuel again draws water to her wildness.
Here, attention and Presence puncture the profane. In this place, called the locus of enunciation by postcolonial scholar Bhabha, emphasis shifts away from dogma––from the “known”––to the knower. Here, God intercepts your own experience. Here, you call on the Divine by your own name, from your knowing and your being, draw and drink.
Reflection: Take a few moments to come into Now. What well draws your thirst and veneration? Become composed by the Face illuminating you. What are defining moments in your life, that have called you to take heed, to take up space, to be fully you-shaped, to be visible, to present yourself? What decisions and directions beckon your appearance and response now? Echo the omnipresent Hineni with your own, offering, “Here I am, as I am.”
ข้าพเจ้าอยู่ที่นี่ ମୁଁ ଏଠାରେ ଅଛି। म यहाँ हाजीर छु
Dạ có con đây! ਮੈਂ ਇੱਥੇ ਹਾਂ। मी येथे आहे
我在 ari ako 예, 내가 여기 있습니다 Behold, me
میں یہاں ہوں۔ Narito po ako நான் இங்கே இருக்கிறேன்
Here I am わたしはここにいる