This is just a little story about God’s provision.
Right after Hope was born, a dear friend wrote me:
“I think you will find that Hope will form a special attachment to Rhema and will become protective and caring in a way that will be wonderful to see.”
Believe it or not, his words troubled me. Although it was very apparent that Rhema had autism, I still found myself in denial. Rhema is quite capable. She won’t need protecting, I thought.
(People say not-so-smart, even hurtful things some times. My friend’s words certainly did NOT fall into that category. But I realize that at that time in my life, I was angry and extra-sensitive. Just about anything anyone said to me could be twisted into something negative. Nowadays I try to extend a little grace when people say things… most of them mean well, and I was probably just as clueless once.)
Yesterday we took the kids to a place called Monkey Joes – an inflatable play zone. They know this place forwards and backwards. But it was extremely crowded and, lately, Rhema seems to be really struggling with crowds.
She quickly ascended the steep stairs of the inflatable slide. But after she made it to the top, she got “stuck.” Stuck for Rhema does not mean that she is afraid or incapable of completing the task.
For whatever reason, she just loses her way.
For a long time, Rhema remained at the top of the slide completely engrossed with her hand that she was bouncing and twisting… back and forth, back and forth… in front of her eyes. Lots of children came and went, but Rhema seemed oblivious. By the time, Hope and I came over, Brandon said, “She’s been up there for over 20 minutes. She won’t come down.”
Hope eagerly climbed up the rungs. Still a toddler, she’s a little slow but she always makes it to the top. When she got there, she paused for a minute by Rhema’s side. Then she went and sat down at the top of the slide.
“Get Rhema! Hope. Get Rhema!” Brandon called.
I think I shouted a “Get Rhema” as well, but I was a non-believer. I did not think Hope could get Rhema down the slide. Hope could barely stay on her feet with the older, taller children bouncing all around her.
Sometimes I think I want to spare Hope. I don’t want her to become discouraged. She tries to talk to Rhema, but Rhema won’t look at her. She tries to offer Rhema a toy or a pretzel, but Rhema won’t take it. She tries to hug Rhema, but sometimes Rhema pushes her away.
We watched Hope stand up from the slide and squeeze her way past kids and wedge herself behind Rhema. She hugged her legs. She tried to push her. “C’mon Rhema. C’mon.”
Rhema wasn’t budging. Hope tried for a little longer before giving up. She returned to her seated position at the top of the slide.
“Hope. Get Rhema! Get Rhema!”
There was a sense of urgency.
Hope scrambled up again. I could see that she was going to try and lead Rhema by the hand this time. It was not going to work, I was sure of it. To take Rhema by the hand you must have a strong grip – if you weakly hold her hand for a second, you can forget it. She will become either an escapee, an immovable fortress, or a wet noodle on the floor.
But Hope, in 2 year-old determination, grabbed Rhema’s fingers. As if she were rescuing Boots himself from the Gooey Geyser, she yelled in her best Dora the Explorer voice, “Pull! Pull! Puuuullllllll!”
I think she knew. She knew this was more than physical. Rhema was in her own world again, and with all her might, Hope was pulling her out.
Rhema went with her.
To the top of the slide. As if waking up from a trance, Rhema got her bearings and happily slid down the slide. Hope followed, squealing all the way down.
Brandon and I looked at each other, wonder and joy in our eyes.
“Thank you, Lord,” he breathed.
Thank you for providing a sister, teacher, protector, friend who loves enough to never let go.
Some of you get exactly why this means so much.