For the longest time, it looked like absolutely nothing was happening.
When St. Joseph’s Catholic Church tragically burned down over a year ago, the land was cleared and left to wait. Every so often, I’d drive by, the empty space on the parish grounds signaling a reminder of what was and an invitation to anticipate what would come.
When the plans for the new Church were revealed, I could envision the beautiful Spanish-style structure with two bell towers rising up in our neighborhood. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or a month. Or a year. And in the intervening time, when I’d stop by on a Saturday for confession, or slip into a weekday Mass, I’d peer between the chain link fence, always a little surprised to see…nothing happening.
Oh, there were trucks moving around. A few orange flags stuck in the ground. A pile of gravel that maybe moved a few feet to the right or left. A string marking a future wall. But for the longest time it all looked a little underwhelming and incredibly slow.
Then one Sunday, a parishioner from the building committee stood up to make an announcement after Mass. “I want to update you all on the new building,” he said. “I know it looks like nothing is happening. But I assure you: the most important work is happening. The foundation is being laid for the future Church.”
Listen to that, said the Lord. Listen closely.
When the work is hidden, underground, quiet and slow and secret—that is sacred work. That is work of massive importance, the work that will support the entire building. It is not thrilling, this unseen labor. But without it, nothing else is safe or solid or sure. Without it, the foundation is only sand.
So it is in our souls.
God can move in powerful and glorious ways, and He sometimes does. He can console with unspeakable tenderness. He can fill us with sweetness and lift us so high we can brush against His face. He can speak deeply into our souls, press His words upon us like fire, make our hearts swell and our voices ring with conviction. He can multiply our efforts with breathtaking quickness and miraculously magnify our work.
These are bell-tower moments. These are moments of light streaming into stained glass.
But they will dissolve without a foundation. And foundational, soul-setting moments are quiet, hidden, and often, very hard. They are the still moments, the silent moments, the work of surrendering, waiting, long-suffering and character-building. From the outside, all is dead—just a small orange flag fluttering like a small suggestion that something might be happening.
What is happening is that God is laying a foundation for the glorious work He will do in our lives. This is the kind of work that always comes before the more visible, tangible call.
And what is hardest, often, is that God doesn’t share the blueprint with us. We don’t see the plans. We just feel the scrape of the ground being leveled. We feel the ache of ditches being dug, the dullness of days thick with routine. And we wish we could see the towers and the doors and the windows of this interior temple. But foundation moments are dark and require our trustful waiting—like the disciples making that first novena in the upper room. Foundation times are the hidden, family-raising years. Or long semesters of diligent study, or periods of patient writing. They are seasons of chemotherapy. They are periods of grieving. They are times of starting something and giving ourselves entirely over to it, only to see a single small shoot twisting painfully and slowly out of the ground.
Each one of us comes with a design from a Master Architect, who has a glorious plan for each human life. But His magnificent plans include meticulous, foundational work. His cathedral-raising is slow, and tall towers require deep and solid groundwork. The Holy Spirit’s gusts are powerful—and need anchored supports to keep our souls steady.
Foundation-building isn’t a time to be passive or uninvolved—but to be watchful, steady, serene, disciplined, and tranquil in the “meanwhile” moments. To remain active and faithful in prayer even when the conversation feels one-sided. Knowing that God is doing a thing, bringing to completion what He began. Feeling our souls taking shape in the dark.
Last time I stopped by St. Joseph’s, the beginnings of walls were rising slowly, and the outline of a Church taking shape. I could see the frame of future glory. And I smiled, thinking of the firm but invisible support under the ground.
For still the vision awaits its time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Image (modified): Depositphotos.