by Nakedpastor David Hayward · April 7, 2010
DO YOU NEED HELP?
27 Nov, 2014
17 Sep, 2007
11 Dec, 2017
Your cartoon led me to wonder what’s next. Painful I’m sure…but also exciting.
Dave, this makes me sad. Am I supposed to feel sad? Am I supposed to think He’s left? Because you looked happy with Him in the first one, and now you just look lonely. It looks like you progressed from happy, to sad, to peeved, to lonely. Yep, not a happy cartoon at all.
It’s lonely without Jesus being right there in a way that you once thought He was. Even if He is there in a way you hadn’t understood before. Its still lonely. Sometimes very lonely.
Maybe he is so close you can no longer feel the gap?
C.S. Lewis made the same observation.
Very interesting. In interviewing an older friend about middle age, he said he had observed in his later years the distance of God. God’s absence was not, however, a bad thing. He saw it as God trusting him to do the right thing, that he didn’t need the clear direction from God as he had needed in his early years.
Reminds me of Jesus words to Thomas in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
so is jesus out of the picture or is it the jesus we once thought of, you know, the white guy we see in pix, all that is gone?
Reminds me of Mother Teresa and how the last 3-4(?) decades of her life she didn’t feel God’s presence anymore. But she kept on walking, or limping, best she could.
I am deeply sorrowful on your behalf. I cannot adequately imagine the emotions you are going through. I am praying for you with tears in my eyes; tears for you that have been growing in my heart for a long time as I have watched you suffer.
I am compelled to tell you what is going through my mind. Please examine my words and accept or reject them as you feel fit. This message to you is written as a result of my concern for you and is not intended to hurt you further but is sent to you in the hope that what I have written will prevent further hurt to you.
When I first met you, I saw clearly that you were given the gift and calling to be a messenger for God. You had the authority as the leader of a church to be in a special position to bring the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven through Jesus Christ.
As a person so specially called you were always a danger to Satan. Satan was prowling around you watching for a chink in your armour. He found it in your intellectual curiosity and your warmth for others that makes you listen attentively to another person’s point of view and makes you eager to let them know your affection for them and your appreciation of their ideas. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these qualities. In fact it is their very nobility and generosity that make them seem so appealing. But when we respond in this way to others and examine their ideas, we had better be sure we are well protected with all the Armour of God otherwise we are in danger of being deceived by the Father of Lies and becoming lost in a morass of confused thoughts.
Next, without knowing how it happpened, we find ourselves doubting the foundations of our belief in God and as a consequence we begin to imagine we have been forsaken by God; by Jesus as depicted in your cartoon.
But I strongly believe that it is never God who has left us. It is we who have lost sight of Him. He is always there watching and waiting for us to seek His face; to take hold of His outstretched hand and return to Him.
I imagine God longing for you to love Him again with the same love you first had for Him; an innocent love unfettered by the wisdom of the world; before you had been wounded by the world; not distracted by the troubles of the world; not influenced by the opinions the world has of you. I imagine Him seeking you, first with the gentleness of a lover, but now with greater and greater urgency by whatever means possible to get your attention; to get you to turn back to Him.
My prayer for you is that you will find Him again in the truth of the gospels that you once told me you loved so well.
The amazing thing about grace is that Jesus is still there, whether you see or feel Him, AND He’s still smiling at you: His greatly loved child.
Praying for you and love you.
This has been my experience too. Though, I have to admit it has been so in a “dark night of the soul” sort of way. Now that I’m no longer in the “dark night” I feel Jesus’ presence, but in a different way than before. I think perhaps that my relationship doesn’t look like what others tell me it should look like, or look like it once did, but the relationship is still there.
Blessing to you, David. Your candidness is so refreshing.
Mmm… I relate to your cartoon.. well perhaps the first three frames.. not sure what that says.
I comfort myself that I believe more days of the week than I don’t.. on the days when I don’t I wonder whether I am just in touch with the deeper parts of myself rather than God.
I do regularly wonder whether all that zeal and happiness I felt in the first frame was really Jesus, and how does that match with the pain and the agony that we witness and go through. Perhaps I was just happy to be loved, that was pretty amazing.
On the upside I think, ironically, even though I am in frame 3, I am more whole than I was, more humble, more compassionate, I listen more and judge less. Perhaps I am becoming more like the Jesus I so wanted to emulate.
If Jesus is the man of sorrows, I wonder whether the character on the right is becoming one with the character on the left.
Didn’t this used to be called, “Footprints in the Sand”? ;P
I am from Finland and just recently found your websites. I was an elder in our church for 12 years. But left that two years ago and now I feel that this cartoon is right from my life.
I plan to read your stories and meditate your cartoons. There’s so much in them
David, go find thee a labyrinth.
I really enjoyed the cartoon – speaks to me. I can relate to that exact journey – from being a new Christian to where I am at today.
However, I think real growth in one’s relationship with God is about moving from a state of early dependance to one of independance. I always wonder – isn’t this part of growing up and being mature? Like parents let their kids grow and take control of their own lives – wouldn’t God (as a parent) want this exact same thing?
The absence of God’s presence is so common among Christians – when they’re given the space to talk about it – it’s a wonder that the Church doesn’t take this more seriously.
For David and others who feel this way, and who just can’t listen to another chorus of, “it just seems as though God is absent, but he’s really not,” I’d like to recommend “A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart” by Martin Marty.
Here’s a description from the dust jacket: …Marty pursues the metaphor of “winter in the heart” to trace the spiritual journey that has been described in many images: the dark night of the soul, the cloud of unknowing, the negative way to God. Marty bases his concept of a wintry way to God on a passage from theologian Karl Rahner describing a “wintry sort of spirituality.” It refers to the movement toward faith that grapples with pain, uncertainty, evil, loss, and the mystery of death to discover “hope on the winter-fallow landscape.”
Speaking personally, what a relief to discover that the I was not alone in experiencing spirituality this way and to be affirmed that experiencing God as on a far-distant horizon is not bad, wrong, a sign of spiritual weakness, or a conquest of Satan in my life.
Good quote Brian.
It looks like you are putting away your childish things.
Shouldn’t you be the one to decrease so that he may increase? Or am I missing the point of the cartoon?
I have had the opposite experience:
(All caps are intentional)
It seems to me that for years and years church was my Jesus and I was told that I was not important. Now I’m learning to love myself because I am worth loving and by removing church from my life (for the most part) Jesus has become more real and present.
Paint the face of the traveller in the third panel with desperation instead of anger/frustration, and add a fifth panel with a small smile, and you would have drawn my journey, David. I hope you have someone you can go to for loving support.
that one made my heart ache……… will be praying.
I guess there’s nothing to do but keep walking.
I wonder though, what would the peripheral show?
I’d say consider ALL the possibilities of why your journey is as shown above, not just the Christian ones that involve Satan, etc. If you stay within the Christian box in your thinking, you may not find the real truth. After all, didn’t the idea that the earth actually revolves around the sun seem totally ridiculous and unacceptable in the past? Somebody had to think and consider unlikely possibilities in order to find the true reality.
Valerie said above that you are a close listener of others and have intellectual curiosity. To my way of thinking, those are wonderful qualities, and only in religion can they possibly be seen as detrimental. This is a pet peeve of mine!
Very interesting and personal of you to share with us readers. So this seems to be a transition time for you, which can be rough.
Many people have transitioned in their beliefs, from one set to another, or another form. But you seem to be articulate in your self-examination, so I expect you’ll come out the other side in a state of balance. You’ve got to find your own well-fitting beliefs, so that you can feel comfortable in your own skin.
As someone who changed his beliefs from one that didn’t fit, to one that does, I can only counsel you to have courage and know that you will find your feet and come out on the other side more authentic to who you are.
Personally, I’m (currently) an atheist, but I really do identify with what Brian wrote above about a wintry sort of spirituality.
“…and only in religion can they possibly be seen as detrimental.” amen, sister
When you start with (or at some point “find”) a very personal, interventionist, loving Jesus, there’s often a great deal of dependency heaped on that figure. Whole communities revolve around “Him” and lives are spent “serving” and “living for” Jesus.
When you realize, one way or another, that perhaps you’d gotten it wrong, you can experience that “God-shaped hole” that many evangelists like to talk about. What they don’t talk about is that people carve out that hole all on their own, and it doesn’t need to be filled, it just needs to be healed.
It takes courage and empathy to find your own meaning and purpose in a world that seems quite empty and cold when you let go of belief in gods, but many of us eventually feel freer, lighter, and find more potential in our godless lives.
You deserve deep respect for your honesty and courage.
I have never believed in a deity. I promise you, it is not a lonely walk.
You’re very brave for posting this. I was a Christian and missionary with the Navagators for nearly a decade and within the past two years, my husband and I left our belief in Jesus. It was lonely at first, yes, but then it got better. We still have friends sad for us, but we’re much happier now than we were before because we have reality instead of trying to hold onto superstitions. We have a freedom that “The Truth” of the Bible didn’t give us. I still haven’t been able to tell most of my friends; I hear how they talk about non-believers. Maybe someday I’ll be this brave.
Valerie talked about how you as a pastor have a heart for people, which I don’t doubt for a second, and that you like to hear their concerns and then:
“Next, without knowing how it happpened, we find ourselves doubting the foundations of our belief in God and as a consequence we begin to imagine we have been forsaken by God; by Jesus as depicted in your cartoon.”
I echo Valerie’s concern, although I haven’t been following your blog as long as she probably has.
The fact that you can’t see Jesus anymore, really makes me sad.
This being said, it is definitely a good thing that you have stepped down as a pastor.
Would you really want to lead people into the dark, where Jesus is absent, along with you? I hope not.
By the way, have you noticed many of the people who echo your sentiments are either non-religious, atheist, agnostic, or ex-church goers (and likely also ex-Christians)?
I know we all have dry spells, but what does this really say?
What it really says Lauren is that I can have a reasonable conversation with non-religious, atheist, agnostic and ex-churchgoer people. Which I’ve worked hard for.
Concerning the cartoon: I should’ve put a smile on the guy in the last frame. And for everyone’s information: Jesus IS invisible.
I’ve never read your blog until today, but I feel the need to add some sentiments that I haven’t really seen anyone else say: do not be afraid to doubt, to ask questions – even the really hard ones. If you give up on your own intellectual curiosity in order to come back to the same belief you had before – I’ve been there, and it a short term salve for a mind that doesn’t rest. Many times I thought to myself, “Let’s not think about that” when facing a tough question like trying to figure out WHY I believed what I did, and for a time I could ignore it. But it always came back.
I walked a different path than you, I was raised in Judaism, but the emphasis on the love of God in my synagogue was much the same as in Christianity. And love is a hard thing to give up, but the more I read about other religions and philosophies, the more I realized I could not pin myself down to just ONE belief, particularly not the personal deities of Western religion. But I also realized that I didn’t have to give up the parts of my faith that still resonated with me, or the new tidbits I’d found that rang true, instead I could embrace them and create a identity all my own.
I don’t worry whether the things I believe are the Truth, because I realized us humans can’t ever have that kind of certainty; I worry about being a good person here and now, which I’ve come to believe is what God really cares about (on the days I choose to call what I believe in “God”). It’s what works for me, and it was hard for me to walk that journey, but the effort of finding out what truly matters to you is worth it.
If you take the risk and come back to your old beliefs, you’ll realize with that much more certainty how well they fit you. And if not, then you’ll find something that fits better.
Its almost like no-one has read the book they so love to quote…JESUS LEAVES…that is, the external Jesus…and we are left with the Christ in us, the hope of glory…no more man-in-the-sky Santa Claus God…no more relationship w/a book…just us and the Holy Spirit. The same scriptures you would use to crucify David with explain this. Yes, your pastors have taught you against this…and with good reason. Too many spiritually immature people decide to go off on their own tangents without a foundation. But David has a foundation, and its time for him to find the truth within himself. Anyone who has been called to a mystical path reaches this point.
The reply you left for everyone at 3:37 pm on April 8th? That says it all!
NP: You do look awfully bummed out in the last frame. That’s probably the source of all the concern.
Douglas: I believe the truth is a “pathless land” as someone wise has said. I totally concur with what you say.
Christine: I don’t look bummed. I should’ve drawn a smile. That would be better. Next time. I learn as I go.
Hey everyone. I LOVE your stories. More!!!
NP: Yeah, you said. It’s a relief actually. So, is it more a change in the sense of God’s presence, as some have suggested, or more a change in how you see Jesus, or something else entirely? I guess the cartoon is wide open to interpretation. Or was that the point, to leave it open?
I can’t say I don’t know how you feel (as depicted by this cartoon) but I can say I choose not to base my beliefs on my feelings. My feelings just change too much from day to day – I need to have a base of determined choice to fall back on, and my choice is to believe that Jesus is there, whether I can feel it or not.
I am curious as to where your beliefs stand now. Do you still believe that Yeshua resurrected and was born of a virgin? Or do you simply think that while Christ is real, he is not speaking to you anymore.
And also, from my experience, you aren’t really as alone as you feel. When I left my religion, I felt lonely at first, but later gained a better appreciation for the support my friends and family provided. If I were to draw a 5th panel for myself, it would have all my loved ones in it.
Would Jesus have a Cheshire Cat smile?
Well, at least in the last frame you are looking somewhat ahead at where you are going…
This is one of those transitions many go through, eventually you’ll find yourself feeling liberated. Dan Barker’s Godless is a great roadmap of the transition most atheists and agnostics experience as he himself was a youth pastor, later minister and influential Christian musician.
Eventually there’ll be a 5th panel of you smiling once again.
What comes next is a happy face for not having to be afraid of the sky man anymore.
I went through the same thing when I was a teenager. I used to tell my dad I felt like I was talking to the wall when I prayed. I’ve been an atheist ever since. I feel stronger and smarter since I’ve accepted that we’re all meaningless animals, living meaningless lives. Our universe is like a drunk driver that accidentally hits your sons dog, except it’ll tear apart Earth without even noticing. God is Dead.
jesse: but sometimes the driving’s good.
Christians are always confused by metaphors.. did Jesus actually die and come back to life or is it a metaphor? did Mary actually give birth without conception or it a metaphor? did Moses actually split the sea or is it a metaphor? did Jesus actually walk on water or is it a metaphor? did Jesus actually turn water into wine or is it a metaphor? Whether you’re religious or not, you already know there’s about a 50/50 spread of people who think it all happened, regardless of being physically impossible. In reality, where reasons matter, it didn’t happen.
Now you can focus on real friends and real happiness 🙂
Instead of self deluded fake happiness based on non-realities…
There’s no substitute for the real thing!
Go meet some real people and have some real personal relationships.
Actually conundri, I have some very real friendships I plan on continuing to enjoy from the church. There was nothing fake about that.
Theres a fifth panel to this cartoon if you want there to be.
Its you walking alone but smiling as you come to terms with a life without gods.
Glad to hear it, I have friends of many cultures and faiths myself. I don’t doubt that those relationships with real people were and are real. The fake relationship i was referring to, was with the imaginary guy who disappeared in your drawing. In your picture, you didn’t draw any of your other friends walking with you through life with you. Perhaps keep them a little closer and “in the picture”. Then when one imaginary guy disappears in a crowd of real friends, it won’t make for such a lonely or sad drawing…
Glad to hear it, I have friends of many cultures and faiths myself. I don’t doubt that those relationships with real people were and are real. The fake relationship i was referring to, was with the imaginary guy who disappeared in your drawing. In your picture, you didn’t draw any of your other friends walking with you through life. Perhaps keep them a little closer and “in the picture”. Then when one imaginary guy disappears in a crowd of real friends, it won’t make for such a lonely or sad drawing…
@Gribblethemunchkin – For a fifth panel, i would suggest a crowd of real physical people who are friends…
One of the big problems i see with religious people is the inordinate amount of time and effort they spend connecting with an imaginary “god/jesus” as opposed to actually connecting with the real people who are around them everyday…
I like your comments. It’s real people who help. It’s real people who need you. It’s real people that you are capable of having a relationship with. They actually do listen and discuss and touch and care.
And I have no doubt that there are some people from David’s church-maybe lots-who are capable of talking and thinking outside the Christian phrases we’re all too familiar with.
I pray that the author and those who relate to this cartoon will discover the real Jesus… the one who doesn’t want to walk beside you but rather live IN you!!!
[…] This cartoon’s from David Hayward (a.k.a. nakedpastor), who recently left his position as church pastor. […]