Last summer I almost died.

One minute I was feeling a little sick, the next I was gasping for breath. My body felt like it was on fire, and every time, I stood I felt as if I would faint. I had to crawl to my sofa to reach my phone to call for help. In hysterical tears, as it got harder and harder to inhale, I told my sister I needed her to take me to the emergency room.

“Ms. Baham,” one doctor told me. “You are lucky to be alive. Truly, if you had gotten here five minutes later, we might not be talking to you right now.”

I spent the next two weeks in the hospital, frightened every second I was awake that one of the several clots doctors had found in my lungs would kill me. When I would laugh and joke with my family, I was scared. When I would try to sleep, I was scared. When I would try to distract myself with TV, books or music, nothing worked. I was always scared. That was until I began reading what the Bible had to say about fear:

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Those verses sustained me. They showed me that I didn’t have to be afraid, but they also made me realize it wasn’t just my fear of dying that I had to conquer. For years, I’d been avoiding doing anything I deemed a risk, always focused on what could go wrong. What if I wrote my book and no one wanted to publish it? What if I applied for my dream jobs and couldn’t get hired? What if I stopped playing it safe with the guy I was in love with and finally made it clear that I wanted to be with him — long distance be damned! — and he didn’t feel the same way? Those questions had paralyzed me. But lying in a hospital bed, I decided I could no longer give them that power.

Gradually I found myself more willing to take risks. Anytime I would focus too much on a fear of rejection, change or getting something wrong, I would reread one of those verses, push through my trepidation, do it and let out a deep breath knowing that I was getting closer to living life less afraid.

But when it came to my love life, I just couldn’t do it. I had an amazing guy in my life — someone I could call a friend, whom my family loved, who came in town to see me while I was in the hospital. Yet I would clam up anytime I’d even think of confessing my feelings to him.

“There is no fear in love,” I’d repeat to myself. But I was still afraid. I was afraid that loving him made me weak; that it gave him too much power over me. I was afraid that he wanted me only as a friend. I was afraid that he loved me, too, but that our love wouldn’t be enough to overcome things such as distance and a complicated history. Mostly, I was worried that if I said the words aloud — if I told him I loved him — there could be no going back. I’d be all in, and that would be too vulnerable for me.

So I didn’t say a word. I went on with life, conquering my fears in my career. I learned to be more open and vulnerable with my friends and family. I even stopped being afraid I would die in my sleep from a blood clot traveling to my brain overnight. But as much as I repeated that verse in my head, I could not overcome my fear of love.

After several months, it sunk in. I gathered up my hopes one night, breathed in deeply and blurted out everything I’d been holding in. I told him that I thought we both worried too much about what could go wrong if we dated again; that I’d learned that faith was nothing more than choosing to believe that something good would happen when it hadn’t yet; and that I wanted to believe in the good for us. I told him that I hoped he would join me in taking that leap of faith.

That night he didn’t have a clear answer, so instead of pressuring him for one, I went with the status quo. I spent the next few months enjoying our time together but also found myself right back where I was before that conversation — worried that I would shake up our “good thing” if I said something again. Eventually, I realized that I still wasn’t fully trusting in what I said I believed — that God’s love would protect my heart, so I didn’t need to be worried about the consequences of expressing my feelings.

I also realized that whatever doubts he had about us had won out for him, too. He never actually said no to me, but his pattern of growing distant every time I thought things were great between us showed me he wasn’t up for yes. And that wasn’t enough for me anymore.

It took me some time to be okay with that, but then I remembered what I went through last summer. I remembered that almost dying taught me I could fear something, have it happen and recover.

That recovery is what I’m working on now. And I hope that when the time is right, I won’t hesitate. I’ll breathe deeply, push through it and trust that love won’t lead me astray.

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