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 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 said it, I can’t explain it, but it’s like my heart remembered. I knew her. I knew that was her name.
It means “utterance” or “thing said” in Greek. In the Bible, rhema is often translated as the word “word.” At first, Brandon thought it was too sacred 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 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 my womb. For nearly twelve years now I’ve said it/prayed it over her every night.
Autism, for us, has been about tearing down expectations only to build them up again into a fabric we could not ever have imagined. We named her “word”, and yet she was unable to speak a word. Our “holy” plans flew out the window every Sunday, and still do, as she struggles to make it through a church service and colors on every bulletin, sign-up sheet, welcome card, and hymnal she can find. She’s been known to low crawl under the pews from the back of the church to the front. Her favorite part is the end when she can race to the fellowship hall for a drink or to the car for a fast getaway.
This Holy Week Rhema and I have been studying the events that led to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross. We read of how “all the poison of sin was going to have to go into Jesus’ own heart… and poured into his heart would be all the sadness and brokenness in people’s hearts. And poured into Jesus’ body would be all the sickness in people’s bodies. It would crush him. (Jesus Storybook Bible).” But he would do it. For love. For us.
I asked her what she thought about this crucifixion and resurrection story. As she spelled out her answer, letter by letter, the tears flowed in amazement and joy. It was the culmination of years of wondering and hoping that she was indeed hearing and understanding words of faith. That it was/is true that even when she cannot fully communicate with us, God speaks her language perfectly.
All my prayers answered in her words tapped on a stencil board:
“I HAVE HIM IN MY HEART.” ~Rhema
The Word is there, has always been there.
On this Good Friday and in light of Rhema’s good confession, I have a renewed interest in asking those of you who read our blog: do you have him in your heart?