God let me know quite clearly that I needed to get my kids a dog.
As I grappled for well over a year with this very uncomfortable revelation, I subconsciously followed the five stages of grief. Who knew that could even be a thing?! At first, I just thought it was a funny connection, but the more I think about it, the more I think there's really something to this discovery!
As you read, ponder if you've also experienced this pattern, whether with personal or prophetic revelations.
Here is my journey, which began when God told me over a year ago that my kids needed a dog.
Stage 1 = DENIAL
"That wasn't a prompting. Surely God wouldn't add more to my plate right now, would He?! The last thing on this earth that we need is more chaos!"
No, I need to rephrase that: the last thing that I needed was more chaos.
My children would've felt like that was the highlight of their lives. They've all been begging for a dog for their entire lives (and I've vehemently refused!).
But at the time I was drowning in a broken marriage. My life was consumed with hurt, stress, fear, paperwork, planning, starting a business, moving Jake out, and keeping everyone and everything afloat. On top of that, I'm not a pet person *at all.* My family had an outside-only dog when I was growing up, but as an adult I realized that I don't want the mess, smell, noise, jumping, slobbering, biting, training, or general responsibility of trying to keep alive yet another living thing. And despite my children's overly-optimistic promises to take care of it, I knew that in the end the work would fall squarely on my shoulders.
So I dismissed the idea altogether. Nope, It must not have been real revelation: it doesn't make sense at all.
Stage 2 = ANGER
But the prompting kept coming, constantly gnawing at a back corner of my mind.
I knew it wasn't my own thoughts, so I couldn't ignore it. I was a little ticked off, honestly. How much did the Lord expect me to be able to do and give right now? Didn't He see how overwhelmed I already was? How I was already failing at everything? I was doing every difficult thing He'd asked--why was He constantly requiring more?!
Stage 3 = BARGAINING
I came around and realized that there was wisdom behind us getting a dog. My children really needed things that neither Jake nor I could always fill for them: companionship, happiness, entertainment, hope, consistency, a listening ear, cuddles, calm and steadiness, giving and receiving love, pulling them outside of themselves, uniting and redefining our family. Of course, as parents we did all of those things as much and as often as we could, but I knew that a pet would help immensely.
Let the haggling begin!
*Heavy sigh, maybe a slight eye roll* "Fine. I'll get a pet. But does it have to be a dog? Can we do a goldfish instead?"
I knew that a fish wouldn't meet the kids' needs. I analyzed just about every other pet I could think of, but for one reason or another, none of them could work. A dog it must be.
"Okay, then, how about an outside-only dog? It's better than nothing, and it worked just fine for me as a child."
I couldn't shake the feeling that we needed an indoor therapy dog. Between the kids and me, we have mixtures of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and ODD in our house; to be most effective, our pet would need to be available 24/7, even at 2am in the middle of winter.
So I finally gave in and started researching and looking for an indoor dog. But because I knew that this animal would be alone with me for much of its life, I couldn't move on without one last bartering move: I made a list of all the things that I, personally, needed (non-shedding, for example). And I promised God that if I found a dog that matched the needs of my kids and me--and one that I felt I could love--I'd get it.
Stage 4 = DEPRESSION
I looked. And looked. And looked. And looked some more.
After all of the promptings (and after diving headlong into following them), I expected to find a suitable dog before too long. But all I hit were dead ends for months. I was just doing what He'd asked--I wasn't in this for selfish reasons, that's for sure! Why wasn't He opening any doors for me? Why was nothing working out? Had I made it all up? Did my kids' needs not matter to Him anymore? So many questions, so many doubts.
I started this process being uncomfortable about getting a dog, and now the discomfort also included not receiving the divine help I felt I needed and deserved. Eventually my frustration fizzled, and my determination along with it. Without even noticing it was happening, I started to do less and less to find a dog. God didn't seem to really care about it anymore, so I didn't, either.
Stage 5 = ACCEPTANCE
About a month ago (after six months on hold), those spiritual nudges started coming back--now was the time.
Things were far more calm in our lives this time around: our family dynamic had developed a new normal, the pandemic had eased enough for the kids to start the school year in-person and to play with their friends. I was far more ready now. I had more time and mental capacity to take on more chaos. Chaos doesn't ever really disappear around here, but now I could see that this chaos was the good kind. The worth-it kind.
There were still hiccups. Things still fell through. I didn't find a dog that matched everything on my list. But I did find one I knew would be good for our family. As I held him the first time, and he nuzzled right into me and fell asleep, I knew I could love that little guy.
So here we are, with a sweet, spunky Havanese puppy (we still haven't agreed on a name). Puppy life is *so* much work and has derailed many things in my life. But I love seeing the sparkle in Sophie's eyes, hearing Johnny's gleeful laugh, and watching Grant snuggle up with him. He's already been healing for all of us.
Each of us faces times where we are confronted with personal or prophetic revelation that isn't comfortable. It may seem overwhelming, counter-intuitive, confusing, or perhaps even offensive. Here are a few examples:
That heart-pounding feeling that you should bear your testimony or serve a mission.
The impression to move or to change jobs.
A prompting to reconcile a painful relationship or to open up to your priesthood leader.
Sensitive revealed Church policies, whether old (e.g. plural marriage) or new (e.g. gay marriage).
The process of working through uncomfortable revelation can be similar to the natural stages of grief. If we understand this, perhaps we can see more clearly where we are and where we're headed. I don't know that we can bypass steps, necessarily, but maybe we can move through them more efficiently. This awareness may also help us be more patient with ourselves and others.
Even the best things in life--including wise counsel from a loving Heavenly Father--can be challenging when they push us outside the boundaries of comfort. That is completely normal! If we take that discomfort and choose to lean into (instead of away from) it, I believe we eventually experience greater growth and joy.
What from your life supports (or contradicts) this idea? What meaning does that add to your life?
God knows what He's doing. I don't always remember that in the heat of the moment when I can't see how it will all turn out, but with each experience I have with Him, my trust becomes more instinctual. Baby steps are still steps!