I learned a lot about love this week, but it was kind of a backwards experience.

I learned how much I needed love when I tried to “love” people without feeling loved myself, and without truly loving them.

I’m great at being nice. Just ask anyone I work with. I practice forgiveness and written extensively on dreaming. Over the past ten years or so, I’ve heard God whisper kindness and love into my ear about other people, and while I haven’t delivered every message, I shared many of them.

I’m well-practiced at faith, at Christianity. At being good. At rituals, at standing and sitting at the right moments.

I’ve traversed the path of earning my salvation. But I’m so tired. Or I was. It wore me out trying to work so hard to love all these sick, despairing people. My heart hurt for them for a while, but eventually it was just the duty of the pastor’s wife, or the social worker, to console, to comfort, to pray, to offer encouragement.

I did it well, but I ended up bitter and resentful. And I couldn’t figure out why because I feel called to this crazy, taxing life. I don’t want to, can’t fathom, doing anything else.

This week I had to give out all this extra love, to total strangers too, not just people who can eventually scratch my back and tell me they appreciate me next week at church. But people who might tell me I’m bothering them. I had to take risks and try to give love when I didn’t have any to give.

So tonight I just laid here and cried because I’m so shriveled up and dead and I’ve been a branch off the tree for so long, trying to nourish myself and produce leaves and fruit without the sustenance of the tree. It’s been bad.

So I canceled my religion and converted from this belief system where I earn love and salvation and a spot in heaven. Cause I’m too tired and here was Jesus offering me love without a performance review in 90 days. Just giving out love for free. And I’m too tired to protest. To try to validate why I deserve it.

It makes me sad I went so long, but at least I remembered. This was always about love. That’s why I’m doing this. Because I got suckered in with good love. With him. With the feeling of forgiveness and newness, something no one else ever gave. With the knowledge, the absolute certainty I couldn’t earn it and that was just going to have to be okay with me cause I’m not making the rules. God can love whoever he wants, I guess. I can’t argue if he’s picked me.

Here is Austin’s live album. This song and these words are my Coming-Back anthem, the song of every minister whose heart is tired and broken. “You, Jesus, are the reason that I stayed.”

It was always about love. And I die when I forget that.

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