How God let me go

David Hayward, 28th Apr 2016 3 comments

After decades of anguish David Hayward – for many years a pastor – now finds himself at peace, because God finally let him go.

It was the God in my mind that eventually and gradually let me go. It took so many stages and many decades before I reached the place I’m in now, where I rest in Reality, in what is True.

This is my personal story. I don’t expect anyone to believe it or apply it or adopt it, but I’m hoping that maybe someone might benefit from it, get clarity from it, or even comfort.

These are the stages of belief in ‘God’ I went through to reach where I am now.

God as Jealous

This was my first presentation of God. He was jealous and would have no other gods before him. He demanded my complete and undying loyalty. I had to think about him 24/7, and if I didn’t, I would be a disappointment to him. He required my all, everything of me and about me and anything that was mine… it was his.

I could not think outside the parameters that had been set by him and his bible because it meant certain spiritual death. I was to read only the bible and tested theology and nothing else. It was complete 100% domination and slavery. At times it was pleasant, but at other times it was miserable.

My life wasn’t mine, but his.

God as Open

Then I came to a stage where God was open to other ideas. He admitted that he revealed himself to others, to people of other cultures and even religions. He invited me to read about similarities to him, to Jesus, and to the bible in other religions, spiritualities and philosophies.

Oh, God was still jealous because it was him he wanted me to see in all these other religious and spiritual expressions, not someone else or another god. This was God inviting me to recognise traces of him and his work throughout the world and down through time.

This was a season of intense exposure and learning and integrating of other expressions and ideas.

God as Gracious

This was a period when, now influenced by recognising God throughout the world and throughout time, I started to realise that God was gracious.

Barth’s famous commentary on Romans rocked my world. I started to wonder if I was a universalist. Barth was and still is accused of that, but he tried to avoid using that word to express his belief that God really does love the whole world, and that somehow through the work of Christ the whole world, not just a select part of it, was reconciled to God.

I came to understand that God was so gracious that he would even allow me to question, doubt, and change my beliefs.

God as Releasing

There is a cheesy saying I saw on a poster of a butterfly being released from someone’s hand: ‘If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.’

I started to believe this about God. If God would allow me to question my beliefs, then he must be willing to allow me to question my beliefs about him as well. I somehow absolutely knew this to be true.

I no longer believed God was an insecure lover, but one very secure in himself who could handle my questions, even me questioning him!

I came to understand that the ideas in my mind about God were not actually God, and I knew God already knew that. So I was allowed to question the ideas I had in my mind and even reject them as not God, fully confident that God not only permitted it but encouraged it. He knew that when I finally hit rock bottom, whatever remained of him that was true, I would be faithful to this.

God was so gracious he let me go.

God as Not-God or All

On a night in May, 2009, I had a dream of a waterfall. The dream was a picture of reality, including “God” and All-That-Is. I understood that above the rim of the falls I cannot see.

This compares to God. God is invisible. An infinite source. Never-ending supply. But we cannot see it. We can only guess what God is from what comes over the falls.

This is the Incarnation, or the manifestation of the Mystery. Christians would call this Christ. It is a picture of what may be over the rim of the falls. Then when the water hits the ground and spreads, this is the Spirit, the application of the Mystery, the assimilation of the Mystery, into the affairs of the world and humanity. The Spirit is about love, justice, joy, and peace.

When I awoke from this dream I suddenly knew that the All really is All. I saw that we are all one, connected at a deep level, unified and not separate. Separation and division is only an illusion that impresses our eyes and minds.

I suddenly realised that the only thing that seems to separate us is language. Thoughts. Words. Ideas. Beliefs. That’s all. We all feel the rain as it falls on us, but we all have different experiences of this rain, thoughts about it, words for it. Same with reality, the universe, the mystery, or God. It’s just words. Believer or atheist or anyone else. We are the same. God as Not-God or as All. It is the same.

I saw this as clearly as anything I’ve ever seen, although it is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to articulate. But this has given me a peace that passes understanding.

About the author

David Hayward – The Naked Pastor – left the full time ministry to found The Lasting Supper– a free-thinking online community for people seeking to find a personal spirituality. He is a cartoonist, a self-styled ‘graffiti artist on the walls of religion’.

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  • Tony Rutherford, 9th May 2016

    An inspiring and open piece, showing clearly how “bad” teaching can
    damage a life. You will be encouraging loads of others to take the risk and
    find a new journey with the confidence they are not alone.

  • David Hayward aka 'nakedpastor', 10th May 2016


  • Ruth, 13th May 2016

    ‘I came to understand that the ideas in my mind about God were not actually
    God’…Thank you especially for this liberating idea!