Now I know what a fool I was. How could I have been so stupid? But in a world where you have nothing, you take what you can get; in a world where you have no life, no choices of your own you don’t plan ahead (what plans can you make when your master or mistress can destroy them on a moment’s whim?). You never think about the big picture, for there is no consolation there, where there is no hope.
It all began (from my point of view) when the master took me to his bed – not exactly an unheard of fate for a slave, but it had never happened before in this household. Of course, nobody asked me if I wanted to, slaves don’t have the right to say yes or no to whatever is asked of them, and, let’s be honest, high-born women rarely have the right either, though they generally get some tokens of respect. But at least the old man was kind to me, and I was very thankful for that.
But then I became pregnant, and I became overjoyed. I might be only a slave, and my mistress a high-born free woman, but I had achieved something that she had never managed in all her years. I was bearing the master’s son, his only son! (I never doubted it would be a boy) Is it any wonder that I went a little crazy? Such fantasies I had of supplanting my mistress (who, after all was old and barren) and becoming my master’s new wife, his favourite wife. Then that spiteful old woman wouldn’t be able to order me around anymore, and I would put her in her place. I had miscalculated badly.
Of course Sarai saw my attitude and guessed what I was thinking. She could not endure it, what woman could in this insecure world we live in, where our lives are totally dependent on our usefulness to the men we belong to? She, in turn, became so bitter towards me, so cruel, that I fled from her in terror.
It was then that the miracle happened. There I was, alone in the world, resting by the spring with no idea where to go or how to find safety, when the glorious messenger of God appeared – to me, a slave! What sort of God cares about slaves? What sort of God would deign to notice someone like me, let alone stoop down to speak to them? He gave me promises for my son, promises I can scarcely understand, but how can I doubt his word? And he bade me return to my mistress and humble myself before her, and so I did, and all was well again.
But I will never be the same, for I have met with the God who sees, and I know that he sees all things even into the hearts of the least of us. And, despite all the pride and folly of our hearts, he does not despise us, but deals with us tenderly. And I wonder, as I carry my son, my miracle, my Ishmael, how is it that God in heaven understands how it feels to be a slave, a nobody, a nothing? Something tugs at my imagination, could God himself become a nobody? But I shy away from the thought, such a thing would turn the whole world upside down.