Meeting God in the Quiet Place
About the Guest
Sara Hagerty, author of "Unseen," talks with Barbara Rainey about what it means to live a life that is seemingly hidden and unnoticed. Sara remembers when she worked in youth ministry and started to wonder, "Do I know the God I tell kids about?" Barbara shares about when she was raising her family and wondered, "Aside from being a mom, who am I?"
Sara Hagerty, author of “Unseen,” talks about what it means to live a life that is seemingly hidden and unnoticed.
Meeting God in the Quiet Place
Bob: Do you ever feel—in the challenges of everyday life—like you’re all alone and nobody cares what you’re going through? Sara Hagerty knows how you feel.
Sara: We grew our family really fast—in two years we went from just the two of us to four kids—so there were six of us. There was one afternoon where I was doing laundry, switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer and thinking to myself—how ironic, “This is terrible! I have to do this again tomorrow and again the next day!”
I heard this whisper in my spirit—which is really just His Word—I heard, “I like it when you’re weak.” It was in that moment in the laundry room where I felt like, He sees this.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When the daily challenges of life are coming at you relentlessly, how do you keep in mind that there’s a God whose love is just as relentless?
We’ll talk about that today with Sara Hagerty. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have a sense that you and I may just be kind of sitting in and listening to a conversation today.
Dennis: We’re not window dressing, that’s for sure. [Laughter] We’re at the table with a couple of delightful women. My wife, Barbara, joins us again. Welcome back, sweetie.
Barbara: Thanks, I’m most glad to be here.
Dennis: She likes being on the broadcast, and I have listeners coming up and telling me, “Why are you even on the broadcast anymore?” [Laughter] “Put Barbara on there more!”
Our special guest today—Sara Hagerty—joins us. Sara, I’ve watched Barbara read your book as we’ve been driving down the road on a couple of road trips we’ve made recently—and I can tell you, she thoroughly enjoyed it—and so have I.
Sara: Thank you.
Dennis: So, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Sara: Thank you. I’m so honored to be here.
Dennis: She is the author of a book called Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. Now think about that for a moment.
Bob: I just want to know why you’ve loved this book so much.
Barbara: I’ve loved it for several reasons. One of the reasons that I love this book is that I think it speaks to what so many women feel presently and have felt for generations—because so many women’s lives are somewhat hidden—especially if you have kids and you’re not working outside the home. So your world feels unnoticed—you feel unseen—you feel hidden. “Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Am I making any kind of a difference at all in the world?”
Bob: You had a few decades like that.
Barbara: I had a few decades like that—so I think that’s why it resonated with me. [Laughter]
Dennis: The issue of identity—I think for men and women—is a relevant subject today. I think men tend to lean their ladder against the wall of achievement and success, just like we’re training women to do more and more today.
So Sara, you’ve tapped into something really, really important. Sara is married to her husband, Nate, and what year were you married? I didn’t have that information—I’ll just ask you here.
Sara: We got married in 2001. We’re coming up on 16 years.
Dennis: There you go. You have six kids—four of whom are adopted.
Sara: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: A couple from Ethiopia, and a couple from Uganda.
Dennis: We’ll talk more about that later. Let’s talk about when you graduated from college and decided to change the world. [Laughter]
Sara: Isn’t that what everybody does?
Barbara: Yes, yes it is actually.
Dennis: A lot of us thought we were going to change the world—no doubt about it.
Sara: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: What happened in your life as you went off on a crusade to change that world?
Sara: I was in full-time ministry—a wonderful ministry—reaching out to high school kids—non-believing high school kids—and sharing the Gospel with them. As a part of that ministry I was seeing lives changed, and when you start to get a little taste of watching lives change it is exhilarating.
So in my heart I thought, “This is what life in God is like. We change lives, we make impact”—and it is. But as the years went on I would find myself being in conversations with high school kids—sharing the Gospel—talking to them about Jesus, and over time I started to think, “I don’t really know this God that I’m talking to them about in the way that I’m talking about Him.”
As my husband and I were facing just some of the stuff that comes with being newly married and some personal difficulties in our own lives—kind of navigating, “What does it look like to be in our 20s and be believers?” I started to realize, “I have a lot of identity wrapped in these young people coming to know Jesus, and I don’t know that I know what it feels like to have His eyes on me when I’m not making an impact.”
Dennis: Barbara, you went through something like this as well. You worked with college students at the University of South Carolina with Cru, and then I swept you off your feet. [Laughter]
Or maybe better stated—you completely swept me off my feet—and I carted you away to Boulder, Colorado, where we worked with high school students, too.
Sara: Oh, wonderful!
Barbara: We did it for a year.
Dennis: How did you experience what she’s talking about?
Barbara: Well, I think it was very much the same, because I too felt that thrill of seeing lives changed, but we moved three or four times in those first few years of marriage, so I was constantly starting over in those first few years, and then we started having kids and made the decision that I would focus on raising our children. That meant I wasn’t involved in reaching kids for Christ, I wasn’t going on the high school or college campus anymore.
That’s when I started to feel what you started to feel. “Who am I? What did God make me to do, and how do I find my purpose?” I knew I was called to be a mom, and I didn’t want to do anything else but raise our kids—I was fully committed to being involved and engaged in their lives—but there was an identity shift.
Dennis: Share with our listeners and with Sara—because she doesn’t know about this—share with them about the piece that you wrote in your journal back in 1985.
Barbara: A week ago I started digging through some books on my shelf. I wasn’t the best journaler, but I found this journal and I pulled it out, and I wanted to just kind of flip through it. I haven’t looked at it in decades. I found this entry that I had written in 1985, which was the summer after we’d had our sixth child.
We were at a Cru conference, we’d taken all of our kids, and the very first day of the conference I woke up and I was so excited to go to the meeting, because that was where I just felt alive again. Not that I didn’t at home, but it was that reconnecting with that part of my life that had been so fun for several years. I was excited about going to the meetings and being a part of the praise and worship, and the youngest kid was sick, and I couldn’t take her to childcare. So the others went to childcare.
There I was in the apartment, and so I wrote in my journal, “I really wanted to go to the meetings today; I really wanted to be a part of the praise and worship, but here I am in the apartment alone—again. I’m stuck with a sick kid. Being a mother doesn’t stop. My kids’ needs never stop. And so, here I am.” Then the last line that I wrote was interesting, because I don’t remember thinking this or writing this, but I wrote, “But it’s okay. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, because I know I can worship God anywhere.”
I understood what the truth was, but it still was an adjustment to figure out, “Who am I in this time in my life when I have these hopes—or these dreams—or these desires, but my kids keep me grounded at home because they need me, and I’m committed to them?”
Dennis: Sara, that kind of described your life too, didn’t it?
Sara: It did. You know, it was different, I think, for me as kids came much later. So I had this transition period from “changing the world”—so to speak—to recognizing, “Something’s not right on the inside.
“I feel uncomfortable with this God that I’m talking to other people about,” and I had emotional integrity enough to go, “I have to get alone with this God.”
My husband and I both decided I was going to take a hiatus from ministry and I was just working at a little boutique. I didn’t have children at that time, but it was the same kind of wrestle—feeling a little bit like if I had continued on in full-time ministry I wouldn’t have been integrous—and I think I wouldn’t have been walking out what God had for me—but how is it that He could actually call me to work at a little boutique, not change anybody’s life, and maybe sell five things in a day?
For me the wrestle was in that time feeling a little bit stuck not changing the world, but also asking myself and asking God, “What do you have for me right here, because I think that this could be holy, I feel like it could be holy,” sort of like you felt in that apartment, “God, tell me what that looks like.”
Dennis: You actually found God in the boutique.
Sara: I found God in the boutique.
Dennis: How’d He show up?
Sara: It was a North Barracks Road shopping center in Charlottesville, Virginia. It sold imported French and Italian pottery—and truly, I maybe only had five customers in a day. They said, “Don’t clean. Cottage pottery looks better when it’s dusty.” So I literally had nothing to do in the store.
I brought my Bible in—and it was in one of those times that I just knew that there was an invitation. You know how you have kind of in the back of your mind, “This is an invitation from God.” So I brought my Bible in and I started to just ask God, “Show me Your face in this Word. This Word that I’ve read—that I’ve told so many people about—I’ve given so many talks about the Gospel. Show me Your face here.” I just had time to dialogue with God.
In that time—there’s an awkwardness that happens when you don’t have anything to show God. I didn’t have—I couldn’t say, in this one day, come home from work and say, “Babe, I led this person to Jesus.” This person was in the store for two minutes.
I had nothing to show God for my work—and that was uncomfortable. But in that discomfort I started to feel like, “I think He might like me when I’m unproductive. If I’m looking at what His Word says about His people and about His eye on His people and I’m one of those people—He could actually enjoy me doing nothing for Him and just doing my everyday life with my eyes looking at Him.”
Dennis: There are some people listening right now going, “That sounds like heresy.”
Sara: It does. [Laughter]
Dennis: Because they’re spiritual workaholics. I mean, God’s work is easy to get addicted to.
Sara: It sure is, and we feel great about it when we’re—I mean—I think that was some of the dialogue I had in the store with God—is, “Am I doing this because Your Word tells me to do it? Am I sharing the Gospel—when it’s quiet, when no one else is around, are my motives that I’m sharing the Gospel because Your Word tells me to do it—or am I sharing the Gospel because I feel better about myself when I do?”
If I’m honest, I feel better about myself when I do. So it does sound like heresy, but when we really get familiar with His Word, there is an invitation of us just being a child before God—independent of our work—that He enjoys.
Bob: I’m just trying to process what you’re saying, and I’m thinking about my busy life right now. There are some who have been led to quietism, to a monastic lifestyle, to a—
Dennis: Are you coming out? You saying you’re going to be the monastic—
Bob: I do not have a reservation for a monastery at this point. [Laughter] But, throughout history there have been those who said, “This is what life is supposed to be. It is supposed to be the pursuit of the quiet, simple life, and this is where you experience God, where you find God. This is how we’re meant to live.”
Others have said, “No, we have Kingdom work we’re supposed to be doing, and there’s a Great Commission that we’re called to, and going off to the monastery is just—there’s something wrong with that—self-indulgent. How do you win the world?” So who’s right?
Sara: Independent of maybe making a judgment on those two, I might say I think the starting place is the quiet place with God. I do believe—I mean, my husband and I are raising our children to be world-changers—we say that. We want our children to change the world—we want them to impact the earth for the Kingdom of God.
But I do believe some of it is in the details. I think the starting place is the quiet place with God—the starting place is where we bury our roots in ground, and it’s not seen and not necessarily acknowledged, because there the layers come off and we’re really bare before God—sort of like in the garden—this bareness where He sees us and we hide and He goes, “Oh, where are you?” Sometimes when we run off and make impact for God we miss that starting place.
Bob: Can you explain the difference between how you related to God before you were—I was going to say dusting pottery, but you weren’t supposed to dust it—before you were selling pottery—and the difference in your relationship after that?
Sara: Before I was running to God frequently showing Him my work for Him. “Look, Daddy—look what I did,” waiting for an approving eye to then kind of give me a little bit more validation to go back. It did sort of feel like this treadmill that just kept getting turned up—I needed to do more, I needed to please Him more—there were more opportunities that sort of felt like a little bit of impact. “Well, five people came to know Jesus this year.” What about next year? “Ten.”
It wasn’t necessarily a desire to see the Kingdom grow as much as it was feeling like, “I have to earn more of His favor—more of His approval.”
Bob: I think that’s an important distinction, because you’re not really saying that it’s the activity or the work that is the issue.
Sara: It’s the motive. That’s exactly right.
Dennis: If there’s a person that I think we’re overlooking here as we’re talking about this, it’s the person who’s listening—maybe a woman, maybe a man—who’s listening going, “You know, I’m pretty apathetic about God’s work. I’m not really thinking about changing the world. I’m just surviving.” What would you say to him or her?
Sara: Shortly after—we grew our family really fast—in two years we went from just the two of us to four kids—so there were six of us. There was one afternoon where I was doing laundry, switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and thinking to myself—how ironic, “This cycle just keeps happening over and over and over again, and I’m going to do this again tomorrow.” Also recognizing that my kids had developed this sophisticated system of sometimes if they didn’t want to put their clothes away they just went right back into the wash—so we were washing them, quite literally, again and again and again.
I just was talking to myself going, “This is terrible! I have to do this again tomorrow and again the next day.” And I heard this whisper in my spirit—which is really just His Word—I heard, “I like it when you’re weak.” Which is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “His power is made perfect in weakness.” It was in that moment—in the laundry room—where I felt like, “He sees this. He’s seeing me right now. His eyes are on me right now.”
Something shifted about my day. The normal everyday trip to the bank or to the library started to take on a little bit new shape for me. If I had God’s eyes on me there, wouldn’t that be an opportunity for communion and not just another day to do another thing? All of a sudden it was like, “He’s actually not distant and hardened. He is wanting to engage with even the most mundane parts of my day.”
Dennis: I started my day by going on a walk—I don’t normally take walks. I went for that walk for communion purposes, just to say, “Okay, God. You know who I am, You know my address, You know what I do. I just want to take a walk with You and have a conversation.” I do think in this busy activity, accomplishment-filled life that we can all live—I think we do need more of these islands, like you’re talking about. I like the way you said that a moment ago, Sara. You talked about on your way you realized that could be an opportunity for communion with God.
Dennis: Not just run errands, but experience Him—as you did.
Sara: I would call that the white space. I think we have so much access to activity—even not physical activity—but let’s just talk about our phones; right?
We have so much access to other people’s lives—to checking in—we’re kind of constantly available and “on”. Yet there is this subtle in-the-backdrop invitation always from God to talk to Him in the white space—and to even actually acknowledge that there was white space at 6:30 a.m. You know, that there’s white space during pockets of our day that we might otherwise crowd out—and we might actually crowd it out because—I know for me sometimes I feel uncomfortable being bare before God. I feel uncomfortable with the white space—who I am before Him.
Barbara: I don’t think it’s just you, Sara. I think we all feel that uncomfortableness when we’re encountering God—or we have the opportunity to address Him, talk to Him, have a conversation with Him—when it doesn’t fit the way we think relating to God should look. So often we think that we need to meet God when we’re reading the Bible or having a quiet time or some kind of structured format—but just to have a conversation as you just described—
—when you’re putting the laundry from the washer into the dryer—to me that’s experiencing a relationship with Him in the way that He wants to.
One of the things that struck me about your book is you were talking about you being God’s friend. What I realized when I read that is I’ve always thought of Him as my friend, but I’ve never thought about being God’s friend. What is the difference in being His friend, as opposed to just seeing Him as my friend?
Well, if I just see Him as my friend it can be a one-way street—I can go to Him for what I need—I can be asking Him to help me—but if I’m God’s friend and it’s a two-way street, then I go to Him to listen to Him and to hear what He has to say, and not just me going and giving Him my list or asking Him for help. Therefore, you can be God’s friend and have a relationship with Him and a conversation with Him when you’re doing the laundry or when you’re doing a thousand other things throughout the day.
It’s being aware of Him in the everyday moments.
Sara: That’s exactly right. I think of—you know, some of the dialogue now about social media is like, “Just don’t do this much,” or, “Shut off your phone,” or, “Be more present.” And while I think those things are really helpful, I think, for me, also acknowledging that it’s not so much not doing that, but that there is the accessibility to the heart of God during those times where we could pray and hear from Him. I might get a little nudge, “Go take your nine-year-old on a walk outside,” that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, if I’m scrolling Facebook and figuring out what my friends down the street are doing.
I do think that friendship with God is accessible to us in more of the unconventional times of our day, and it’s a lot more attractive for me to put down my phone if it means, “Oh, there might be a conversation with God,” or a way that I could engage with His Word that’s a little bit different than just, “Put down my phone because I shouldn’t do that.”
Dennis: As I was going on my walk this morning, on my way to the end of the road I talked with God—on the way back I listened. I opened my Bible instead of taking my phone with me. I left my phone—and I have to tell you, I missed it. I was like, “Oh my goodness! I’m out here in the wilderness without a phone! Without access to the Web!”
Sara: “Would anyone ever find me?”
Dennis: I’ve got God—think about that—how foolish is that? But Psalm chapter 7, verse 1, says this, “O LORD, my God, in You do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.”
And then David goes on to declare to the Lord, “LORD, if I’ve done wrong against people, if I’ve plundered my enemy, would you hand me over to someone to plunder me?”
I mean, it was an interesting dialogue in Psalm 7.
So this dialogue you’re talking about is God as our friend, but us being God’s friend and being open to what He has to say to us. I think you’re pointing us in the right direction. Bob, I think folks—male or female—need to pick up a copy of Sara’s book and just maybe take a few moments without the phone, without the Internet, without the TV. It may have to occur early in the morning, when very few others are up.
Bob: Why are you looking at me like that when you say that? [Laughter] I’m just thinking, the way they can get Sara’s book is by phone or Internet, so— [Laughter]
Sara: You can mail in your order form.
Bob: You can, that’s true. It’s called Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed.
We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” Again, Sara’s book is called Unseen. Find out more online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or order by phone at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
You know, what we’re talking about here is what all of life flows from. Our marriages, our family relationships—all that we do in life flows out of what’s going on in the secret places in our hearts—and when what’s going on there is good and healthy and holy—then that has an impact on everything else in life.
When what’s going on in our hearts is unsettled or anxious, that has an impact on everything else in our lives as well.
Here at FamilyLife we—daily—provide practical, biblical help and hope that is founded on the importance of a vital relationship with the God who created you. Our goal is to effectively develop godly marriages and families, because we believe those godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time.
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Now tomorrow we want to talk more about our relationship with God—specifically talk about how we practice the presence of God in the midst of the mundane. Sara Hagerty’s going to join us again tomorrow. Hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with some help today from Justin Adams. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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