This post may veer slightly from my generally irreverent observational accounts of life in Geneva. But yesterday, I found a Bible verse that meant so much to me. It’s from the story of Hagar, the servant Sarai sent to Abram to bear his child (that’s probably the simplest version of her biography). Hagar got pregnant and began to despise Sarai and then got sent away by Sarai. An angel found her in the desert and told her to return to Sarai. Then he gave her a great blessing for her soon to be born son Ishmael. Hagar said, You are the God who sees me.
I have been very moved by the idea of hiddenness. As a mom of a toddler in a country that is not my own, I feel hidden. In Houston, I had a number of friends who I could call up and meet for lunch on a regular basis. Now lunchtime is spent with Forest. In the States, I could go to the grocery store and ask questions or just talk to the cashier. Here I speak much less in public, self-conscious of my French accent (or serious lack thereof). I have made friends but we are all on kid schedules. Nap from 11-1 means meeting for lunch is out. School and activities fight for space on a calendar and coordinating even two toddler schedules can be difficult. And calling my friends in the States must wait until at least 2 pm because of the time change. All this means I spend more time alone or with someone who speaks one word expecting me to understand all that “bird” implies: “A bird flew to the bird feeder and ate and flew away.” Duh. Of course that’s what “bird” means.
But I’m not as bitter about this as I used to be. First of all, Forest is developing more vocabulary every day and it is exciting to hear him try to form sentences. “Nyo (pronoun he uses for himself) fly house Mimi.” But more than that, I have really come to believe that hiddenness is a phase that I am in right now. I used to want to be the Press Secretary of the United States (nerd alert). But many days, I actually learn and do more in silence than in front of others. And because I am in silence as I work and live, it makes me remember why I chose to stay home with Forest and build our little life. And I think that is a gift that is unique to moving to Geneva. I did not spend nearly as much time in silence or solitude in Houston. There was always something to do or someone to spend time with. I can’t explain it and I do not feel this benevolent towards silence most days. But to read that He is the God who sees me, on days when I feel somewhat invisible to the adult world around me, settled my heart.
I know this post is different than my usual babbling about life in Switzerland. But when I discovered Genesis 16:13, I could not stop thinking about it. And it ties in with one of my favorite Henri Nouwen quotes: “One of the reasons that hiddenness is such an important aspect of spiritual life is that it keeps us focused on God. In hiddenness we must go to God with our sorrows and joy and trust that God will give us what we need… we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being.”