February 27, 2019

When You Have Only a Seed of a Dream

Last year was one of the most disorienting I've had since the year we moved to Charlottesville from Texas with the dream in our hearts to plant a church. For ten years, I've carried that dream--nurturing it, acting on it, supporting it, and giving myself away in order to see that dream become a reality. And it has. Our church is a beautiful testament to me of God's faithfulness and goodness.

As all beautiful, living things do, the church has grown and changed over the years, but I haven't always wanted to change along with it. I've never stopped wanting the dream, because I liked who I've been in it,  and I liked forging it into reality alongside my husband.

I've loved these difficult, brutal, sweet years of church planting. But we're not church planting any longer and, in all honesty, I've felt a bit lost for a while now. I've forgotten who I am apart from the dream. I, of course, am still pulsing along in the fabric of who we are as a church, but somewhere along the way, as it often does for church planters and their wives, the reality of the dream became entwined with my identity.

The Lord has graciously and patiently been calling me forward, to a new time and space, while at the same time splitting me from these false identities I've formed for myself. With him, this invitation and splitting is always a call to peace and freedom. But I have hesitated time and again, holding tightly to the glorious days of the past.

Who am I without this dream? 
I am not left without dreams, however. I have a new dream forming inside, one that's incubated for several years now. My heart beats a bit faster when I imagine what could be, and I know the reality of what could be, because I've sampled it already. I sense a growing passion implanted within me by God himself, but along with the passion is a catch in my spirit, a certainty that God is saying, "Not yet." If God wills it so, this dream belongs somewhere in the future. I, however, long to reach out and grab those days and those opportunities from the future and bring them to now.

Who am I without this dream?

I am this person here, that's who I am. I'm here in this place, among these people, with this limited time and these opportunities. I am, in other words, right where God wants me, doing exactly what he wants me to do.

I have not liked this truth much. That is to say, I've resisted and despised the disorientation of it, of seeing one dream completed and the other far off on the horizon. In this in-between, I want to grab on to something solid, something that feels significant, something that feels like a guarantee.

But I'm not promised my dreams. I'm not promised the choice of place and opportunity. I'm promised God. And he is pointing in one direction, over and over and over: do what is in front of you. Nothing more, nothing less.

It's not just that I'm to do what's in front of me. It's as if he is inviting me to enjoy doing what's in front of me. To enjoy the smallness. Enjoy the thinking and learning and growing. Enjoy the everyday acts of faithfulness that seem insignificant. With God, there is just as much fanfare over the small and unseen as the spotlight or the stage, if it is an intentional act of faithfulness done in his honor. He is with me here in this time and space, and because he has me here, I'm in his will.

So what do I do with my dream? I hold it, patiently waiting, for if it is implanted by God, he won't waste the dream or the passion behind it. I also hold it loosely, trusting that if the dream is really mine wrapped up in God language, he will remove it altogether. And I choose to want that if he does.

There is a tension, almost a grief, in the waiting. I feel sometimes as if I'm going backward, as if the best years are behind me or that I missed my chance. Perhaps God has moved on to someone else. Perhaps I get only one beautiful dream becoming a reality, not two.

But I know enough now to know that God doesn't waste anything. The times I've previously been limited by circumstances or graciously held back by God's providence were times of growth, almost like a seed nestled in the soil. I'd have had nothing to say, no gumption to lead in our church if it weren't for those years of smallness. The limits and the obscurity and the lack of opportunities to use my gifts were the very things I needed in order to fulfill the purposes God had for me later.

I know he's doing the same thing in me now.

Who am I without this dream? I am his.

So I nestle myself in the soil, waiting, while he nurtures me.

This post was commissioned by one of my Patreon supporters, who asked me to answer this question: "When God has planted a seed but there is no fruit to be seen yet, how do you wait well?" Thank you, Melissa, for making the "By Faith" podcast possible through your support! If you'd like to join her and others in supporting my work (and discover how you can commission a blog post), find out more here.