But imagine my confusion when, just the other day, Clif gestured to the site, commenting about how much progress had been made since the last time we traveled that road. I’m sure I blinked and scrunched up my face in confusion since all I saw was red Georgia clay. No building. No foundation. Just dirt. As I questioned him a little about his comment, he took the opportunity afforded by a traffic light to point out the new retaining wall at the back of the lot, the heavy earth moving equipment, the changes in grade.
Benefiting from his eye for detail, I soon remembered how the site used to be littered with drainage culverts, plumbing lines, and other materials intended to deliver utilities to the building. He then pointed out how much focused time, planning, and effort it took to put those pieces in place and make them ready to function as integral and crucial arteries for the lifespan of the building. You see, while the things above ground (lighting, signage, landscaping) can and probably will be changed over the years, the things that lie below the surface are often the most important, and often the most difficult and costly to change. Because I couldn’t see visible progress, I had under-estimated the value of the critical work that had already been done.
You know, we can make the same mistake when we only use our eyes to judge the progress we’re making toward spiritual maturity. We get excited when we see obvious movement toward maturity and applaud as one spiritual brick is stacked on the other. But before we can be confident that the structure being established will be strong and able to withstand the test of difficulty, basic and fundamental work has to be completed beneath the surface. And that takes time… and effort … and a lot of patience.
That’s a great reminder to hang on to for believers, because often in the middle of God’s building process, it’s hard to see that anything is being done. Setbacks and exasperation seem more frequent than advancement. But like building a new structure, with the right plan and materials, and a dedication to the fundamentals, the progress does eventually happen, even if at times it seems like nothing exciting is taking place.
So, if you are looking at your life and see what appears to be an empty lot, don’t be discouraged. Remember that just because you don’t notice much movement toward your personal goals, Philippians 1:6 is a reminder that “He (Jesus) who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” In the meantime, cooperate with the process and dig into God’s Word, scrape away the barriers to prayer, follow the plans, erect a heart of genuine worship, and trust the Master Builder to create in you a clean heart that is yielded to God and faithful to follow Him.