Matthew 16:18

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (KJV)

I decided to show my face in the baptist church today, because I haven’t yet told them that I’m leaving, and haven’t attended for several weeks. The church as a whole feels like that relationship you should’ve ended by now—it’s easier to stick with it, because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and you still remember all the good times so maybe it’s not so bad. (Honey, just dump him.)

During the message, I expected God would reveal reasons why I shouldn’t be there anymore. I anticipated the Catholic bashing, which I could’ve dealt with. I thought maybe he’d talk about the rapture, something I’d learned to ignore before. But I did not expect him to preach on the very verse where Jesus builds his church.

And I certainly didn’t expect him to declare that Jesus, not Peter, is “this rock.”
I squinted at my Bible—because I didn’t dare look up with that expression on my face—and thought, That’s not right.

It wasn’t just the inaccuracy. It struck me because I remember very clearly the moment I learned of Peter’s role in the early church. It was one of the first things I’d learned about in the Catholic faith. The preacher went on to talk about Peter, how he was often a “leader” among the apostles and the guy in charge. But he never once said that Peter had anything to do with building the church.

And it wasn’t just Peter, either—it was the invitation. It was, “the Bible says you have to accept Jesus into your heart.” (It doesn’t.) It was watering down salvation to a mere prayer, its purpose being our ascension into Heaven rather than anything glorifying God. I’m horrified by how many thousands of time I’ve heard this and never realized how self-centered it is.

I’ve been putting off my official departure. I don’t know how I’ll tell them; I’m too rooted in this church to simply disappear. But surprisingly, I’m not anxious over it. It won’t be fun, like any breakup, but I’m not worried. Because God had guided me thus far. And He’ll continue to guide me to the end, even (maybe especially) during the parts I don’t want to do.

Job 30:26

But when I looked for good, evil came; and when I waited for light, darkness came.

There are moments that the crystal clarity of God’s purpose knocks you in the head. When you’re driving home late at night, the radio off because there’s nothing good on anyway, and He drops everything on you at once: The seemingly random way you’ve come to this point. The reason for things that have happened. The revelation of why these things didn’t turn out the way you had planned (as if you really had any say).

He reveals a glimpse of the truth. It’s exciting and scary, and you don’t know how it’ll work, but you’re going to trust it.

And then, almost instantaneously, that clarity is clouded over.

It could be a lingering doubt that never quite went away. Or a completely unrelated thing a friend said to you. Or just a solitary sleepless night, wandering the house because it’s better than lying in bed wide awake.

It was a glorious time when the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity. “Go build your temple!” the king had said, and they rushed into Jerusalem to glorify God. But, wait, this edict says you can’t build anything. And now foreigners want to help. We can’t let the impure into our holy temple. Hey, God, when in the world can we rebuild the temple? Isn’t this what You want?

We wait for the light, but darkness envelops. Yes, the darkness makes the forthcoming light so much brighter. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier, when we’re literally crying to him in the dark. But that’s part of the process, too. The light will come, and in our continual worship and devotion He will continue to guide us toward it.

Ezekiel 36:11

I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

Sometimes in your readings, verses jump out at you. You pause, and read it again. Then you take off your reading glasses and close the book, just for a minute or maybe ten, because you’re sobbing uncontrollably. Because in those words, there’s hope.

The Israelites messed up. I mean, these people had it all—they were God’s chosen. Like, when God personally leads you through the desert, you’re doing pretty all right. But they got comfortable. They got proud. Little by little, their priorities shifted. Until they were seeking their own glory, and worshipping gods that were not Him. But they repented. And God forgave them. Then they stumbled, again, and they cried to God, again, and He forgave them. Again. Repeat about eighteen hundred times.

Until God said, No more. And they were taken into captivity.

Israel was broken. Isaiah and Ezekiel spend chapter after chapter prophesying their destruction. But then: God makes a new promise. Sure, they’ll inhabit their own land again, eventually. But it’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be better.

I’ve been asked, “How did you listen to God?”
I didn’t. And I continued to not listen. As a result, He started stripping things away. Gradually at first. An attempt to get me to notice Him. To listen. And I continued to not listen, until I found myself sobbing on the living room floor because I felt empty and alone.

He didn’t just break me. I was shattered.

But then… I began to pray.

Every day. All day. I consulted Him for seemingly minor things. I consulted Him for seemingly major things. And He showed me my priorities. And wouldn’t you know it… I had them messed up. I mean, you don’t get to the breaking point by doing everything right, after all.

And just like the Israelites, He started to rebuild me. Not into the person I once was. There was no picking up those pieces, even if they were worth salvaging. He was building a new creature, one that was more good than ever before.