What an attention-getting name for a blog, I thought while surfing the ‘Net in 2010. Was this some ketchy (Urban definition is: cool, neat, hip) offering from someone who never tried religion enough to have an informed opinion? Or, could it possibly be a real pastor wanting to make a statement?
Turns out David Hayward is an ordained minister who, as explained in Naked Pastor, “…left the professional paid clergy. He is still passionate about how people can find and follow their own spiritual path with courage and joy, as well as in how people can freely gather and form community in healthy ways.”
He started the blog in 2006 so he could initiate “his public analysis of religion, religious community and spirituality through his writings, art and cartoons. Thousands of people are challenged and entertained by nakedpastor every day.”
Challenged and entertained, indeed. But also served.
David, it seemed, was this brave man whose openness and honesty was serving a myriad of people who have had some significant and difficult experience with their community of faith.
So David expanded his blog to include his creation of an on-line community called The Lasting Supper.
How did David’s blog capture me? In the early 2000s, I had begun an administrative role at a parish of my faith. I had accepted the position with gusto and expected it would be a treat to be amongst spiritual people daily.
After decades of marching the marbled halls of Corporate Canada and swabbing the messes laid by politicians supposedly running Government, I thought these simple, uncomplicated and loving responsibilities would help grow, groom and hone my spirituality.
Phew! How naive and ill-placed those expectations turned out to be.
I discovered a spiritual underbelly more cruel than any professional business practice I’d encountered. No teaching contained in Christianity prepared me for the nastiness that broke my heart.
A few years after I resigned from this work in the Church, I discovered Naked Pastor. David collected and embraced heartbreaking stories of people who experienced events and feelings that may be a form of spiritual abuse. They had to leave their churches to protect themselves, but they grieved the loss of “what a faith community could be.”
David offered an oasis for sorting and shape-shifting that invites healing.
David addresses the “unsayable”. He puts a light on the dark, smelly patches that others simply avoid. His message shocks. It exposes soft spots and drains wounds. Just when I think he’s likely emptied his quiver, he shows where his gaze holds another bullseye.
He recently posted How God Let Me Go. I KNEW he wouldn’t be saying he’s been abandoned by God even though his cartoon could certainly force the question. As I read through the post, I silently cheered. I was viewing the graceful unfolding of a Mystic.
I respect David steadfastly and celebrate yet another level (dimension, depth…???) of his faith. His heart’s been obvious through delivering its spiritual breath to others whose ember needs to be fanned. In the midst of giving up a profession, facing the loss of income, being a homebody while his wife attends Nursing School, maintaining his stature as a go-to-and-is-always-there Dad and keeping a healing message for a throng of people, his service never faltered. He just kept showing more strength.
I have no right to interfere, but he keeps taking me back to Mysticism.
Thankfully, my spiritual teachers flamed my appreciation for mysticism. They provided me with insights and resources that hold stories of incredible courage exercised by ancients whose mystical and wise lives were full of challenge, torture and tumult.
They practiced their beliefs under the threat of death. Their message had to be camouflaged and shared like some modern day dope deal. One such mystic anonymously wrote: The Cloud of the Unknowing.
The teachings from this tiny book ask the seeker to be comfortable with not knowing who or what God is. It says to surrender the mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing,” at which point, the nature of God may reveal itself to the seeker: “…beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up, whatever happens.”
To me, it’s a call to trust. I’ve learned that Love would rather be tested or confronted than discarded. My humanness causes me to test this Love regularly. How would I manage if I was not free to do so without fear of losing my life. I trust that All That is Love doesn’t let go. Ever.
A last incredulity is the timelessness of mystical teachings. A passage, written by the Spanish Mystic, St. John of the Cross who performed many great works while being treated horribly by other Orders within his Church, contains all the vitality we need as stewards of our planet:
“Mountains have heights and they are plentiful, vast, beautiful, graceful, bright and fragrant. These mountains are what my Beloved is to me. Lonely valleys are quiet, pleasant, cool, shady and flowing with fresh water; in the variety of their groves and in the sweet song of the birds, they afford abundant recreation and delight to the senses, and in their solitude and silence, they refresh us and give rest. These valleys are what my Beloved is to me”. – St. John of the Cross
So, I’m going to keep my eye on David Hayward. He may not call himself mystical, but, in my view, he’s a modern day mystic who bears watching. Not out of fear…only Love.