Is This the Year?

Dreams, marbles, black holes, and soil


Early in my church planting journey, before an appointment, I’d sit in my car and pray. I was taking so many meetings that I’d occasionally lose track of who I was even meeting with. There were so many needs to be met: funding, finding passionate people to join in, introductions to even more people from others. After the prayer, and some deep breaths, I’d open the car door and walk into the coffee shop or brewery. The conversation would ebb and flow, navigating the normal currents of relationship, God, and this church I was planting. But, would any of what I was sharing connect, or was I just throwing marbles into black holes? 

It often felt like that, throwing this pretty cat’s eye into a dark void, wondering if anything would happen. At those meetings it was a furrowed brow, a telling lean back in the chair, or sometimes (the worst of all), silence. These were the indicators that stoked defeat. Heading back to my car, I’d look up at the sky or down at the ground, and wonder–as a half prayer–if this was going to work. Start something, anything. Design an app, invite someone out for a date, apply to sell tamales at the farmer’s market–if you do, you’ll see what I mean. You’ll hold your dream, send it off, and wonder and wait for what seems like far too long.

Actual black holes can be as small as an atom or as large as a few million earths. Their gravitational pull is so strong that light can’t escape, burying these vortexes in unsearchable darkness. Is that a fitting image for dreams? Tired, a slipping hold on hope, it felt like it. But I see now, that my sense of things in those desperate and frustrated moments, never corresponded to reality. 

As for the church plant, momentum picked up. The Holy Spirit seemed convinced that letting me reach the edges of myself before surprising me with provision was the way to go. Even if your dream isn’t a church plant, it’s something: perhaps a child, or a house, some mending of the body or family, or maybe an opportunity at work. You, like me, wonder and taste the bitterness of waiting. But this world is not all marbles and black holes. 

There are caveats. God is sovereign and God’s ways, though always kind, just, and creative, are more mysterious than black holes. Some dreams are just the toxic concoctions of the flesh and should, in actuality, find a black hole. Then there are the thorns and thistles that obstruct even the most beautiful dreams from reaching maturation. And finally, there is time. God’s aid for making us wise and wearying us of our self-dependence. At the center of the universe there is not mere disinterest or a Nietzschean power vacuum, but rather an empty tomb and a loving God. The redemptive dreams that do not take, remain held in a scarred hand. 

In my backyard there is a garden. It’s winter now so there is nothing green, just the barren look of damp dirt. But, I have planted garlic and onions and potatoes so I know that, in time, there will be evidence of something other than dirt. The earth is pregnant with buried seeds, forgotten–hidden from glory. Nothing will grow perfectly, and some, perhaps through tears, will never take as hoped. But, surrendered dreams hold a seed’s potential and there is, somewhere in God’s world, the right soil. 

What is the thing in your life that you’re praying over and dreaming about? 

Does it feel like a cold and hard marble? 

Or does it feel like a seed? 

Does this world feel like a black hole? 

Or does it feel like soil?

God of the slow lane and the buried seed, remind me that you do hold all things together, even me, even my dreams.

If the dream you are being called to pursue in concrete ways this year is starting a new ministry, consider Faith+Lead Academy’s How to Start a New Ministry course. Or, if you are already in the throes of a new ministry, and looking for community, check out The Seeds Project!

  • Bryan Halferty

    Bryan and his family live in Tacoma, Washington, where he regularly breaks his body skateboarding, works closely with church planters, and serves as the Lead Pastor of Anchor Church.

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