You sat down under the oak tree and cried. You cried for your son, who is about a hundred metres from you, sprawled on the hot desert floor, weak from dehydration and crying weakly. Your whole body shook as the tears rushed down your face and your heart is squeezed so tightly that it hurt to breath; your agony is indescribable.
You were alone. Your heart was empty and you shivered. It wasn’t from the breeze blowing gently in the hot afternoon, rather it was from the cold that had enveloped your heart.
You loved him with every cell that is in you, even if you could not declare it. His voice makes the hair on your skin rise and sends a tingling down your spine and your heart swells anytime you watch him play with the child that you made together. The strength of his loins and the product of your love making.
But he listened to her. He gave you a day’s supply of bread and a wineskin of water and sent you and your son away. It didn’t help you in any way that he looked pale and ashen as he waved you off nor that his voice quivered and his eyes were shiny with unshed tears.
Still he had listened to his wife and sent you off; he had chosen to do it. Your heart was broken all over as you remembered the bewildered look on your son’s face as he stared at his father’s fast retreating back. The same man that had played with him every evening since he took his first step.
You screamed as the pain seized you; the pain of rejection and the agony of hearing the weak cries of your son crying for help and not being able to save him from certain death. You wonder how long till he gives up the ghost; how long till you become childless.
You had spent the whole morning wandering in the desert of Beersheba, moving with no destination in mind, your legs rather than your head leading you. It had all looked like a dream and you had been in a daze. Ishmael, your son had been badgering you with questions; questions that you had no answers to.
Then he had started to cry. The tears had rolled down his eyes and his lips quivered as he sobbed gently, struggling but failing to bear his grief like a man. He was seventeen years old and on the brink of adulthood, but this was a burden too hard even for a grown up. He had done nothing to deserve this.
You had reached out and held his hand, squeezing it gently but not uttering a word. You wanted to give him the dignity of grieving privately like he would have loved to as a young man. Moreover, you didn’t have any words of comfort to offer. You couldn’t tell him that everything was going to be alright, because you didn’t know yourself if things were going to be alright.
You sat there under the oak tree, knees drawn up to your chin and rocked yourself. That was when you heard the voice. It was quiet and barely above a whisper and was calling your name. You asked ‘who is there’ in a croaky voice.
It was the voice of God, the God of Abraham. He told you not to cry anymore, that God had heard the cries of your son and has come to save him. He told you furthermore how God was going to be with your son and would make him a great nation, and instructed you to go and pick him up.
You felt hope rising inside of you, right from deep within your belly and rising upwards. A laugh escaped your lips, followed by tears of joy and relief. You will be fine. Your son will make it, and will have a good future.
You stood up from where you sat and ran towards the bush where you had hidden your son and embraced him. You held him tight and cried on his shoulder and whispered to him over and over: ‘it shall be well’.
Then you saw it, a well about a hundred feet from you, towards the sun rising. You could have sworn it wasn’t there all this while. You were certain, because you had looked around before settling under the oak tree.
It was then you remembered Beer-lahai-roi, ‘the well of the Living One who sees me’, the name you had named the well in the wilderness, between Kadesh and Bered. It was there that the God of Abraham had first appeared to you when you had ran away from Sarah, your mistress.
You had been pregnant with Ishmael at that time and Sarah had been treating you badly. You had been tired and afraid for your child and how you were going to raise a child alone without money nor any means of sustenance.
There, by the well, God had appeared to you and instructed you to return to Sarah and to obey her in all things, and had made a covenant with you to make your child great.
You could not believe that you had forgotten so soon such huge visitation and marveled at how fickle you could be. Perhaps you hadn’t believed Him, you wonder. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have given up so soon.
You have watched Abraham closely and noticed his devoutness to his God, but you had not understood how someone could believe in a God he couldn’t see. It seemed strange to you. But now, you have seen Him move and are convinced that He is real, and powerful and that He has shown you mercy.
You pick your wineskin and run to the well and fill it with water. You laugh as color returned to Ishmael’s face having drunk to his fill.
You set out towards Paran. You have hope now, and there is purpose to your steps. All will be well.
Story adapted from biblical accounts. Read the full story in Genesis 16: 1-15 and Genesis 21: 9- 21.