thanks for your patience

I know I can be bitter. It is important for me to admit that.

The last two years of my ministry in the church were a very difficult end to a long and challenging ministry. It finally culminated in a meeting with friends that turned bad. I knew then it was the bitter end. The way I explain it is that it was the final piece of a thousand piece puzzle. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame the church. I don’t blame the last years either. The pieces to the puzzle that lead to my resignation started to find their way to me many many years ago. A year ago they all finally snapped in place and the picture was clear. Then my resignation was swift.

I have so many stories that might help you understand. I’m not unique. Actually, this blog confirms that suspicion. I hear from people every single day who thank me for nakedpastor because it helps them deal with the same crap I had to deal with over the years.

I don’t want to stay bitter. I will move on. Here’s a theory: I will progress from bitter to sour to salty to sweet. I still believe I will be a critic of the church and all things religious and spiritual because they are fraught with dangers. But eventually the bitterness will no longer seep into my cartoons and posts. Because it won’t be there.

Perhaps nakedpastor is like the lance that permits the poison to escape. So thanks for your patience.

Order my bookNakedpastor101: Cartoons by David Hayward“, from amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.de, and Barnes and Noble.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • http://www.on-the-other-hand.com Lydia

    I agree with your last sentence.Trying to keep a wound from draining will only cause more damage.

    I used to be much more raw and angry about my bad church experiences. Over time I’ve noticed fresh new skin peeking through, though! :)

  • Mike

    David:

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I certainly understand. I truly appreciate your blazing the way for us to have the fortitude for being honest and transparent in a healthy forum. We both know that honesty and transparency within ministry is usually not exhibited, especially openly. You are helping to break that mold and thank you!

    We resigned ministry about the same time, as I recall. And, I see my progression nearly mirroring what you write. Hang tough, man! You may not be pastoring. But, you are definitely ministering to a demographic needing to share the journey!

    Mike

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks so much Mike. you hang in there too!

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    I had a friend comment on my blog that I my leaving evangelicalism was obviously a bad thing because I became “bitter and cynical”. I responded, and I believe this is true – “I accept cynicism as a natural part of the leaving process – it is the scar protecting the wound. Anytime there is a removal, there will be a wound of sorts. Depending on the nature of the wound, there may be a lot of scarring; but I certainly do not blame the patient for saying “ouch” and perhaps being a little overly-sensitive in that area for a time. I will be glad for now that the infection has been removed.”

  • Anne

    Already some of your cartoons are more bittersweet than bitter, IMO.

    I’ve been bitter, still cynical, but mostly thrilled to be FREEEEE!
    Still get big burrs in my saddle when I hear of junk that is being done in the guise of religion or spirituality. I don’t sit on them as long as I used to .

    Glad I ran into a naked pastor! Thanks!

  • http://flavors.me/jomalone Jo Malone

    Amen! Sharing is halving, and each time you share, your bitterness halves once more.

  • http://essentialmrbill.blogspot.com/ Mr. Bill

    I belonged to a church where the pastor had a falling out with one of the older families in the church. The congregation was split about 50-50 as to whether he should stay or go. But the opinions on each side were venemous!

    The pastors wife left first. Then the pastor.

    I really liked the guy! It was such a travesty!

  • http://www.angiecox.net Angie Cox

    My mother has asked me why I am so angry and at whom I am angry. I had to tell her I really didn’t know. I don’t like the anger, but it’s as if I can’t help it.

    It’s encouraging to see others walking that same road, dealing with much of the same emotion, and seeing that it does get better with time.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    If I were in 90% of the self-focused, ladder climbing spirituality, navel gazing churches out there…I’d be bitter too!

    I don’t blame you one bit.

    When you finally realize our nature (totally sinful) and then you finally realize what Christ has done for us (make us totally righteous), then you can relax and the bitterness will go away.

    And then you can try to help others realize the same thing. And most of the time they will NOT thank you for it.

    Oops. (getting bitter again)

  • Maybe Gray

    Have you ever hung out with “sweet people?” Its nauseating. Shoot for savory.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    lol yes maybe gray. good point. thanks all for your comments.

  • Robert Cook

    David I have deeply enjoyed being allowed into your journey. A’s you have, the more people I meet everyday says me that our journeys are not unique. I really think that the religious establishment is being seriously declawed, and more people are finding their voice again, and their legs, and walking out of the pretense.

    I have been labeled so many ways, accused of so many things when I began to be a voice about the system. It started for me when my wife and I left the mega church. We couldn’t take seeing people fed through the mill to continue feeding a tireless and heartless machine. We decided we were going to start a church, and do it right, when the freeing question popped into my mind, “who said I was supposed to be doing it to begin with?” Looking for a way to do church right is like looking for a way to set off a bomb in the least harmful way… no matter how you do it, if you “do church” people get hurt.

    Even when your hurt and bitterness is behind you they still label you as such. Because there must be some type of label they can place on you. Your words make too much sense, and if they can’t silence them, they can label you to stop te ears of those who may listen to you.

    My older brother passed over a month ago. And a life long (now a fundamentalistic baptist preacher as I was for a decade) friend thought it would be the perfect time to tell me how bitter I had become. Sure the church wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t give me the right to criticize it.

    Now here is where it gets funny. I went and read his last “Pastor’s Note” on his church’s website. Want to know what it was about? It was about how his church is supposed to be different from other churchs because of all that wrong with these other churches… There he was, his poor heart filled with bitterness as he sat there writing his note, CRITICIZING all these churchs!!!

    Anyway, keep enjoying your journey my friend… every single day mine continues to get better!

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    wow robert. thanks a mill. beautiful. i really do appreciate it!

  • Terry

    I’m so sorry. I was reading your blog for months before I realized the particular type of church or denomination you’d been part of. The mainline church is far from perfect, but, for better and worse, our fights and power trips look and sound somewhat different. Not nec. better, but different. I guess each church culture goes wrong — in its own particular way.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Both a soothing salve and a sharp scalpel can be used in healing, and sometimes it is necessary to cauterize a wound with angry fire rather than suture it.
    All things in their time and place.

  • http://fallenfromgrace.net Bruce

    Time brings healing and time allows bitterness to fade. Once you have pissed off everyone you can life gets better. :) then that guy who has been on a mission trip for 2 years finds out about you leaving the church, quitting the ministry and he wants to straighten you out. Then it starts all over. :)

  • http://twitter.com/whythulc Deanna

    Thank you for being honest. For me, it’s refreshing to read someone who is emotionally naked. I have such a tendency to hide my bitterness because I’m afraid I’ll be a disappointment to everyone I grew up with if I admit that I’m angry and hurting.

    I appreciate that you are willing to talk about this and have a voice for people like me and so many others who have commented here. It’s inspiring for me to read your journey, so thank you.

    I think if people were to expect you to be anything but bitter it would be dishonest.

    Hang in there and thank you!

  • elderyl

    You have given us permission to speak. The primary root of all the problems in my former church, IMHO, was that nothing was directly spoken about. There was lots of behind the scenes/backs stuff but people didn’t go directly to one another and talk. I tried. My husband tried. I went to the pastor. I went to the pastor with witnesses. I was an elder. The pastor told me to go find someplace where I “could be happier.” I eventually did. I am, but I don’t think he’s happier because he is still dealing with people by not dealing with them. He still tells them to leave, or fires them, or has them come before the personnel committee when he doesn’t want to speak to them. He didn’t create that climate, it was there, faint but there long before he came. He augmented it and allowed it to flourish, or maybe the church allowed him to behave that way. It all came/comes down to not allowing people to have a voice, even when it is a gentle and loving voice. People in my small group were patient when I was bitter. (of course now half of them are also no longer attending that church) I think the Church would be healthier if we could speak and listen and have mutual forbearance. i am in a better place now. It its very theologically diverse. The two pastors are nearly at either end of the conservative / liberal spectrum but they respect each other and have created a climate of trust and, for me, healing. I still have times where bitterness creeps in. It is almost like having PTSD. A situation will come up where I was crucified at the old church and I become anxious and defensive. My sister, who was a staff person fired from the old church reports the same feelings. She becomes paralyzed from caution that she might say or do the wrong thing in her new internship at a new church. I often refer her to your blog which gives her a laugh and a sense that she is not alone and her tiny bits of bitterness (she is a remarkable saint and truly loves those who persecute her) are very normal and just may be part of the healing process.

    My new church is the same denomination and only ten miles from my old church so I don’t feel free to talk out my wounds. So this is where I come . It is like group therapy. You are the wounded healer who facilitates.

  • Jon

    I can’t imagine the pain, hurt & feelings of resentment that envelope a church split or a pastors resignation. In all these remarks I here the words…”church, denomination, quitting, bad church experiences,wounded, church, church, church, church, church.”…where’s the name of JESUS?? The Forever Friend…Rapha our Healer? HE’ll work all things out for your good, to those who Love GOD & are called to HIS purpose. I’ve been to hell & back in my relationship with GOD. I kicked HIM, cursed HIM,spit in HIS face, walked away from HIM several times…& HE never gave up on me. HE never left me. & HE’ll do the same for you. HE is no respector of persons. HE is my Loving Dad & HE hurts when we hurt. GOD Bless.

  • james

    anger is part of the grieving process, letting go of something that was your total life is going to be painful. What is rare is that you have been able to share this pain with us – to be honest I havn’t seen your posts as bitter but as real and authentic.

    The wound will always be there, but it will not be so raw – already it feels like you are a wounded healer by the comments received on this site

  • http://beccaislearning.com/ Becca Dean

    I love your vulnerability and your authenticity.
    It’s easy to be honest at the end of a healing process where your just full of sweetness- as you put it.
    But generally that process is long for us all- we don’t go from hurt and mistrusting to finished product quickly.
    I am thankful for the courage you show in being able to honestly talk about the hurt and bitterness you feel now, and the grace you have to own it.

    We need examples of how to do the process well, without being the finished product. In fact, I believe it’s vital and more needed than ever.
    Becca x

  • http://thepreacherlady.wordpress.com preacherlady

    Your nakedness has given the rest of us a place to validate our own hurts…a place where we could speak our minds…a place to find each other ( it was through your blog I found FBN ). It’s a journey and bitterness is part of it…partly because we bought into the system and put our hearts and souls into it. So, to those who criticize the fact that you’ve articulated your bitterness I ask what they expect? Are you supposed to keep a plastic smile and say everything was wonderful at church and you just decided to become a heretic to see what it was like? Church was something you had to do so you could assist others in their healing.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks everyone for your kind words. whew! what a great bunch of readers!

  • Jane Smith

    Yes, we’re saying kind things – but more importantly, we’re all saying honest things, as are you. I stumbled onto your blog “by accident” via the Friendly Atheist! You’re not bitter – you’re angry, and as Julia Cameron says in “The Artist’s Way”, anger is a friend. Not a nice friend, but an honest friend, because anger is a map. It tells us where we’ve been betrayed.

    And I agree with the poster who said how cloyingly awful “sweet” people are. Particularly “sweet” Christians – very often, vicious underneath. I’m speaking from experience.

    Your blog is authentic and healing. You don’t need me or any of us to tell you this, but Jesus Himself was very caustic at times – with bogus religious people.

    Jane

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    wow jane. awesome. thanks for that splash of cold water. remedial. i appreciate it. and welcome!!

  • http://www.kathyescobar.com kathyescobar

    david, your blog is one of my favs & i always pass them on to friends who get it and who need to laugh and cry and get pissed off about how messed up things can get. when i was exiting my painful horrible experience over 5 years ago i had someone say “when are you going to stop being so bitter?” he was a dear friend and so i could let it rip. i know my pain freaked some people out (it freaked me out!), but i had spent my whole entire life up until then not allowing myself to express anger and hurt, to buck up and rally. this time i knew i just couldn’t. i needed to mourn. i needed time. i needed to trust the process instead of hurry it up so everyone else around me would feel better. so i did. 5 years later, i am in a much better place but the truth is some of the pain is still there & gets triggered now & then. because i’m human. and it hurt in a deep place because it was all muddled up with God & identity & bigger issues that had nothing to do with “church”. i am so glad you are processing out loud. it is brave. and we need it. we need to know we’re not alone and that rushing just creates more hurt & is a big sham anyway. peace and hope to you along this wild & weird & beautiful path, my friend from afar. kathy

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks so much kathy. well said.

  • http://livingnextdoortoalice.blogspot.com/ Thomas Bryner

    Sometimes the bitterness does get too much for me, and I take a break.

    But I always come back.

  • Jon

    Forgiveness is a “Decision” it has nothing to do with your feelings. Biterness & resentment are nothing to play around with & nurse until a Root is deep within your own spirit. Forgive in your Pain…without an appology…That is the pathway to freedom again. Where you begin to dream again. Those people or church members who hurt you are walking free & you are in prison with your bitterness!!! You may not feel like forgiving but if you do, it won’t take long & the feelings will follow.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    jon: um. no.

  • http://fallenfromgrace.net Bruce

    Feelings are an essential part of who we are. One thing I have learned as a non- Christian I have no right to tell others how they should feel. Granted I have no god or bible to beat others with. :)

    I want you to be free to be who you are. Not the person the bible tells you to be, not the person god tells you to be, not the person some christian guru’s book tells you to be, not the person you made yourself into as a pastor in order to satisfy the demands of others….want I want you to be is the person you are, complete with all the quirks and irritations that make you who you are.

    As many pastors learn the ministry swallows them up and when done with them spits them out. Lost in the process is the pastor’s self-identity. The question that needs answered is who am I?

    Bitterness and resentment have their place, as does anger. I refuse to wave the Jesus wand over my life and pretend I am something, someone other than who I am.

    Emotions tell us we are alive.

    Bruce

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    i agree bruce

  • Johnfom

    I get what Jon was saying, sometimes it has to happen that way (forgive first, fell it later), but it’s not often the helpful way despite what the optimistic ‘name it, claim it’ world view proposes.

    And now, because I can’t abide too much seriousness on a Sunday morning…

    Coffee: evidence that a little bitterness is often useful for waking people up, but too much just makes you toss and turn at night :)

  • http://nursepastorfatherhusband.blogspot.com/ scott

    Interesting the use of the word bitterness. I suppose in my own journey I used the word regret. The breaking of a relationship that wouldn’t really be restored to the same amount of fidelity. I suppose bitterness is part of the breaking of relationships but it dilutes a with time.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    it wasn’t regret for me. bitterness well… is bitter.

  • http://fallenfromgrace.net Bruce

    I don’t regret leaving the ministry, leaving Christianity. There are things I miss but no regret.

    I love your deep exegesis of bitterness. It is what it is.

    For me, leaving the strictures of Christianity, especially Evangelical Christianity, has helped me to reconnect with common human emotions that I suppressed in order to be a good Christian and pastor. Things like bitterness, anger, hate,etc. Not always pretty but I feel more alive than I ever have.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    me too bruce.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Bruce and Dave,
    What you guys did took guts. You have my undying respect and admiration.

  • http://www.geek-speak.co.uk Chris

    This certainly rings true with me – I resigned from pastorship in December and have recently noticed how cynical and dissatisfied I am with the Church. I think I’m pretty self-aware, and it’s been interesting to see how my thoughts and emotions have run since my resignation.

    I wonder if part of it is readjustment to a new way of life… or working through the things that made me want to leave in my own mind.

    I’m curious to see where the journey takes me, and wish you the very best for yours.


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