For nearly all of her life I have been waiting for words. (That’s about one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five days and counting).
I can still remember the moment I knew her name. I was 7 months pregnant, and Brandon was preparing to deploy to Iraq. My friend Shannon and I were chatting after dinner in my kitchen in Heilsbronn, Germany. I told her I that I was not crazy about the name we had chosen for the baby – it just didn’t seem to fit.
Shannon insisted that I had to be excited about the name. And so we brainstormed long into the night. Shannon was the first to say the name Rhema.
And when she spoke it, I can’t explain it, but it’s like my heart remembered. I knew her. I knew that was her name. I was so excited.
The name meant “the spoken word.” Specifically, “God’s Word revealed.” At first, Brandon thought it was too sacred of a name to put on a child. But my heart was set on it, and we studied the Scriptures for anywhere the Greek word rhema (which is translated as “word”) appeared. We chose Romans 10: 8-9 as her “theme” verse: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I recited the verse to her while she was still in the womb.
Little did I know that a year prior my mother had been praying for me one night. I had been trying to conceive for a couple years. My heart was breaking because we could not get pregnant. When my mother prayed, she asked God to “speak our baby’s name.” She remembers it being a strange request, but that’s what she had felt led to pray. Just before Rhema’s birth, I told my mother her name. My mother’s face contorted as she recognized the name, and remembered the prayer she had prayed.
Autism, for us, has been about adjusting expectations. Initially after her diagnosis, I thought, so I can’t expect conversations anytime soon… I’ll settle for sentences. Then it was… o.k… how about phrases? No?… o.k., o.k… Words? Approximations? Single sounds? Instead of “I want pop”, if she just says “p-“, we are to celebrate the effort.
All along we have been hoping, praying, fighting for words. Maybe I’ve focused too much on the language part? As she gets older, I kind of get that vibe… that maybe I should let it go.
We hold on to the hope – the belief – that her name is a promise.
Every night for the past several years I have quoted Romans 10:8-9 to her as I tuck her into bed. “Rhema, the Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…” Every night. It’s my ritual – half the time I don’t even know if she’s listening. If Brandon or a babysitter puts her to bed, I slip into her room after she’s asleep and whisper that verse.
I’ve written the verse on her bedroom door.
Tonight as I tucked her in, I quoted the verse to her (not nearly as enthusiastic as I was 1000 days ago).
“Rhema, the Word is near you; it is in your mouth…”
I touched her lips.
“…and in your heart…”
I traced a heart on her chest.
“Har.” She whispered, echoing me. Out of the blue.
I don’t think I was dreaming. Honestly, I was tired. But I don’t think I dreamed it.
The Word is there. It’s in her heart.