Unless you're careful, being a minister can give you "altar burn" from overexposure to religious associations. It's unhealthy being around piety all the time. There is a stained-glass pallor about the people you meet. When they open their mouths to talk, you see little balloons coming out with all the print in Old English. Sometimes you want to preach in Chinese, or some other language nobody will understand, and say scandalous things while smiling like an archbishop.

Whenever that feeling gets too strong, I know I need a vacation from God. I need to be immersed in a world where the signs aren't all printed in Old English and people's hands aren't all folded primly in prayer. I need a freshness that will revive my religion-asphyxiated soul.

Sometimes I need to be in a large city where I don't know anybody and nobody knows me, where I can walk and gawk and be overwhelmed by the strangeness and the immensity of everything. I love to walk in strange places, see people I have never seen before ...

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From Issue:Fall 1988: Spiritual Vitality
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