By Tom Ehrich

I call it a "virtual Lenten pilgrimage," though I have no idea what that means. I just know that I can't afford Canterbury, Lourdes or Guadalupe, so maybe I could do a pilgrimage close to home.

I am finding it difficult. I get the technology of it. I get the reallocation of time. I get adding a meditation to my morning. I get the challenge of writing about it.

What I can't seem to do is "leave home." I can't leave my accumulated frustrations with religion -- church stories that I am tired of telling, wounds from being a pastor, glimmers of joy immediately stolen by the stiflers, promises made and abandoned, loyalties betrayed, confidences broken, my family deeply wounded, people who expected me to drop everything for them but gave little in return.

I am tired of processing these experiences. They won't change. I am tired of naming the flaws -- the flaws of others, the flaws of institutions, and the flaws of yours truly.

I just want to be a person of faith. I just want to say my prayers, do my writing, occasionally sing a Gospel song, do my ministry, publish my online magazine, and touch a few lives on God's behalf.

Sounds simple. But the past is a more demanding god than Mammon. To deal with this god's seduction, I find I have to start thoughts and sentences and then set them aside. I need to write paragraphs three and four times and occasionally set aside entire articles.

When I hear an old story bubble up, I need to step away. Not to find the soothing and rosy, for life is anything but soothing and rosy, and our God is demanding, too, and needs us to be more than we are. I need to step away to hear the fresh voice, to see the fresh image, to speak the fresh word.

This pilgrimage, then, turns out to mean leaving my old self behind and going in search of my emerging self. I have no idea how to do that, just a determination to try.

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