By Vivian Mabuni
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here >
I stood over the sink washing my hands and lost in my thoughts. Out of the bathroom stall to my right an older white woman walked up to the counter and began soaping up her hands in the sink next to mine. She looked over at me and then asked in a very s-l-o-w, louder than normal voice,
I answered in perfect English with no accent (I was born in Wisconsin and raised in Colorado),
“Actually, I grew up in Colorado.”
She blinked and then asked in the same s-l-o-w, loud voice,
“You mommy, daddy China?”
I sighed and shook my head on the inside and responded, “Yes.” And then quickly darted out the bathroom.
This othering, this sense of being a perpetual foreigner, is something I have known all of my life living in the United States as an Asian American. It’s the tiring question asked of me (and many Asian Americans) “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” or worse, caught on video, a white woman screams at an Asian American laced with all sorts of profanity, “Go back to your country!” Born and raised in the US with blue passport in hand, I am not seen as truly “American.”
The truth is Filipinos and Chinese first stepped foot in the Americas in 1587. Chinese people fought in the Civil War and helped build the transcontinental railroad in 1865 but a long list of injustices of not being allowed to own land or give testimony in a court of law is part of the history in our country we often don’t learn about in school. The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which banned Chinese from immigrating was finally repealed in 1943 when Chinese were finally allowed to become US citizens.
We are currently in a time of racial tension in the US. Often the conversations around racial reconciliation centers on the Black experiences of injustice which rightly needs to take place. But other communities of color also experience injustices including Asian Americans. COVID19 has sadly been referred to as the Chinese Virus which has resulted in a huge increase in anti-Asian racism and hate crimes over the past several months.
In the midst of the othering and exclusion of not fitting in, it can be easy for me to feel overlooked and invisible. Sitting in those raw feelings I find solace and comfort in Hagar’s story in Genesis.
We pick up in Genesis 16. Sarah is unable to get pregnant, so she takes matters into her own hands and orders Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to sleep with Abraham. Hagar ends up pregnant and her relationship with Sarah turns awful. Hagar is treated so harshly by Sarah that she decides to run away.
What happens next is extraordinary. In verse 7, the angel of the Lord finds Hagar and calls her by name. If you read all the interactions prior, Abraham and Sarah never called her by her name. But God knew her intimately and her situation. And then they have a one on one conversation. Hagar enjoyed a personal conversation with the God of the universe.
When they finish, Hagar gives God a name. She is the only one in Scripture to have this honor. She calls him El Roi, which translates to “The God who sees me." Hagar is seen and known by God, and through this powerful and tender interchange God demonstrates his commitment to valuing and honoring women. She is a woman, considered property as a slave and she is an outsider as a Gentile. She is probably the least likely person to have an extended conversation with the God of the universe. And yet. God SAW her.
When I feel invisible or overlooked, I find hope in El Roi, the God who sees me and knows my name and circumstance. He is near to you and me as we look to Him and pour out our hearts.
Adapted from a post on Elisa Morgan's Really blog at www.elisamorgan.com.
Vivian Mabuni is a national speaker, author, bible teacher, and cancer survivor. Author of “Warrior in Pink” and "Open Hands, Willing Heart" and host of the podcast “Someday Is Here,” you can connect with her on Instagram/Twitter @vivmabuni or on her website: www.vivianmabuni.com