Eleven years ago today, also a Friday, we adopted our dog, Carly, from a shelter. On our first visit to the shelter several days earlier to scope out possible dogs, we had spent time with Carly as well as a hound mix named Luke. Departing, the family was divided with some wanting Carly and one child in particular strongly preferring Luke. Not knowing how in the world this could be resolved without incurring serious sibling conflict and accusations of parental favoritism, I heard myself say, “The Holy Spirit will tell us what dog to adopt.” I had no idea what I meant by this, but it did defuse some tension. And I really wanted to trust that the necessary wisdom would arise.
When we returned on Aug. 15, Luke was outside in an enclosed yard, happily playing with another dog. We proceeded inside to the kennel areas where the dogs were visible through glass windows. Carly was sitting on a blanket, reclined, but head up. The instant she saw us, her ears perked up in immediate recognition, and she looked directly into my eyes with such hopeful eagerness, expressing so clearly it was as though she’d spoken aloud: “Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I nearly choked up, the communication felt that palpable. Joe and the kids were aware of it too, and we took her home that day.
We love to recollect this experience. It evokes the special bond we all feel for our dog. “Remember how Carly looked up at you, Mom?” But today I’m marveling that 11 years ago a remark that I tossed off in part just to mitigate conflict actually did convey a valuable message about discernment.
Listen. Notice. Trust.
And it stuck! “The Holy Spirit will tell us . . .” evolved over the years into a mantra for faith in the face of confusion or uncertainty that the still, small voice would be heard. It became particularly relevant regarding college selection. I remember many conversations weighing the pros and cons of each potential school but without full knowledge for a final decision just yet – waiting for the acceptance letter or the scholarship award or the second visit. Finally the discussion would wrap up with a casual, “Well, the Holy Spirit will tell what college to choose.”
These memories provide a timely reminder as we approach big changes. Over the next two weeks, each of our children will embark on a major adventure – Christian, the youngest, to his freshman year of college in Minnesota; our daughter, Kieran, to a semester of study in Africa; and Michael, recent college graduate, to Chicago for independent life and work. Joe and I (and Carly!) will remain here in unfamiliar circumstances. Excitement and anxiety are in the air!