Dominic Balli: Risking the Dream

Tony Peterson

devozine Press 2B

When Dominic Balli first told the football coach that he wanted to play quarterback, Coach laughed at him. Coach thought he belonged on the offensive line, not calling the shots from the backfield. But during a practice, Coach caught Dominic passing the football and decided to give him a shot at quarterback. Dominic won the position; and with that new prestige, he became The Dude.


Dominic played that role to the hilt. He was living an iconic high-school version of the American Dream, but his dream turned dangerous. “I was experimenting with drugs and alcohol and was in bad relationships with girls,” he says. “There’s something about everybody looking at you as The Dude; you tell yourself, Hey, you’re in control, you call the shots, it’s all about you. That was kind of the beginning of my rebellion.”

Dominic began to emerge from his self-centered self-deceptive nightmare when he was arrested for stealing. “I had become a kleptomaniac in junior high and high school. I would steal stuff just for fun. I would have two bucks for a bag of potato chips, but instead—well, it was just the thrill. I got addicted to stealing.”

Addiction can be particularly deceptive when you’re The Dude. In a video store, he forgot to pull off the tag on one of the videos he was stealing. As he left the store, the security buzzer went off. Lyrics from “American Dream,” the title song on his latest reggae-pop hip-hop album, reflect that episode:

I was never told that the high life
Would demand my soul such a high price

A month after his arrest, he decided that being The Dude was not his dream anymore. He left that dangerous life behind. He left The Dude behind. He decided to follow Jesus.

In his new life, Dominic gave Coach another laugh: Dominic quit the football team to pursue a singing career. If his story were featured on a certain musical TV show, the football hero would also be the glee club star; but that’s not how this story plays out.

devozine IMG_4720 Band2Dominic learned quickly that his new Christian life had its own risks. First, of course, he lost the status that came from being The Dude. Then he had to figure out how to pursue singing when, out of eight siblings, he was apparently the only one in his family gifted with tone-deafness. The first days of his new life were lonely ones. He didn’t know any other Christians his age.

But something seemed right about this new life. Miraculously and inexplicably, he did learn to sing. Dominic has also learned that no life is safe. In fact, for Dominic, the so-called American Dream is really about pursuing a false sense of safety, “to set up our lives so that we are comfortable.” Dominic wants to inspire folks to a different kind of life. Again from the song “American Dream”:

What about a dream where the Kingdom comes
Peace on the earth and his will be done
What about a dream where the people fight
Not for fortune and fame but for saving lives

What about a life of loving God and loving neighbors? To paraphrase a line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Of course that life isn’t safe, but it’s good.



Read Genesis 12:1–3. If God wanted to bless the world through you, where would God send you? What would God ask you to do? What is the difference between the American Dream and God’s dream for you? How can you hear God’s dream for you? What is your next step toward living God’s dream for you? What are the risks? What might be the rewards?


Photo Credits: (top) by Christianne Taylor and Josh Newton; (bottom) courtesy of Tony Peterson.


Tony Peterson is an editor and writer in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Laura. Their “safe” lives are regularly interrupted by the love of their six children and seven grandchildren.

—from devozine (July/August 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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