by  Stacy N. Sergent is a hospital chaplain, and author of Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and Eventually Found My Faith. She blogs regularly at stacynsergent.com. On March 26, 2017, she will marry Will Lawton and become stepmom to Jackson and Beau. Hurley will also get a stepsister, Will’s dog Madison.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I John 4:13-18

I knew I loved the man who is now my fiancé when I started having nightmares about him dying. This is what happens when I begin to love someone. It happened when I adopted my dog, Hurley. I would wake up shaking after dreaming he was hit by a car or fell off a cliff or, in one creative nightmare, got electrocuted by power lines as we were tandem skydiving. It didn’t take long after I met the man of my dreams for the nightmares to come. My subconscious mind knew how risky it was to love Will, making myself vulnerable to the pain of loss.

It wasn’t that different when I began to consciously love God as a child. My longing to know and belong to God was strong. My prayers every night ended with, “I love you, God.” But that love was tied up with fear. I was afraid I’d mess up and God would stop loving me. Knowing my faults and capacity for failure, I feared there was no way I could be worthy of God’s love and so, sooner or later, I had to lose it.

I knew my love for Will had matured when the nightmares stopped. This is what happens over time when I truly love someone. The fear goes away. “Perfect love casts out fear” according to the above passage in 1 John. And while my love is by no means perfect, it deepens to a place of trust. I trust that loving Will, his two boys, Hurley, my friends and family is worth the risk, because even if/when I lose them, I won’t lose the love we share. I trust that although I mess up, nothing can separate me from the love of God shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

God, thank you for taking the risk of loving us, even enough to live and die as one of us. In Jesus we see that love is never safe, but it is strong, stronger even than death. Help us to love you and those around us without fear. Amen.

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