It’s a warm and beautiful evening and my daughter’s whole body displays her efforts to navigate the day. She’s rocking the Medusa-meets-Afro Puffs look, her hair is uneven due to the fact that she pulls it out when she’s upset. There are large dark circles under her eyes – attributed to allergies or the fact that she’s had trouble sleeping the past several nights. She has hiked her pants up Steve Urkel style – she’s never quite comfortable – and wiped them down in ketchup, popsicle juice, cheese curls. Her darkened arms still healing from the last round of self-biting, her hands still stained green from the marker she colored with at 3 am. Her eyelids are heavy now, the sleep med I gave her beginning to take effect.
I’ve stared at her nearly every day for ten years and I still can’t take my eyes off her.
A week ago we had escaped to a quiet room during church. She scribbled all over her paper and then wrote U <3 I. Before she could scribble over it, I grabbed the paper and held it to my heart. Later when I eagerly showed it to Hope she casually said, “Oh I write that all the time when I color with Rhema. She did it independently, huh?” Indeed it was exciting that she mimicked Hope, but the air wheezed slowly out of my balloon. I reminded myself that these things, most things, for Rhema only come after long periods of focused effort and repetition. And the breakthroughs – as sweet and earth-shattering as they as are – can be here today, gone tomorrow, if not continuously practiced and reinforced. U <3 I. Symbols on a page, not yet meaningful.
I walk her through the bedtime routine. As I do every night I say her verse, Romans 10:8,9 - The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart… If I push her, get in her face, hold her hands and say “night night” several times she will eventually repeat the words. But at the end of the day I don’t want to put any more demands on her. We have made peace with the silence. I tell her goodnight, she glances in my direction and says clearly, intentionally, “Nigh nigh.” There’s a hush as if the whole world stops to listen. Tomorrow I will go back to wondering about how she thinks and feels about everything she experiences and what she understands, but tonight she will give me words and help me understand.
“Thank you, Rhema.”
She pulls the covers over her head.
And I stand there for a long time at her window as the last sun fades like a great symphony quieting down, so beautiful you never forget the sound.
By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. ~Psalm 42:8