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Guarding your heart…or hardening?

If you spent your teenage years as part of the body of Christ (aka…you went to a church, which consisted of a number both single and married people…) you have probably been blessed with the numerous amounts of tips, advice, and counsel on the topic of…

Marriage.

And I would also venture to guess that the number one tip you heard and continue to hear is that – as you consider potential suitors -you must ALWAYS:

‘Guard your heart.’

Keep it safe. Guard it. Protect it. Don’t give it away.

I’ve heard this term used ever since I was a preteen.  The phrase did not mean much to me, until the moment I witnessed a girl sob uncontrollably after a break-up in high school, with a heart-wrenching cry that lasted for – I kid you not – weeks.

My good, Christian, marriage-advice-givers would look at such a girl and then tell me:

“That’s what happens when you don’t guard your heart.”

Really?

I would gulp a little, and then think: Yep…guard the heart. No problem there…Guard it…lock it up…no one’s going to hurt me like that!

Jump ahead to my early 20’s, and I find myself at lunch with a dear friend who, with a trembling lip and slow shake of her head, wonder how she has ended up alone despite all these years of doing so  (and I mean this with all love and as a compliment to her) well.

She followed the rules. She guarded her heart. She didn’t ‘date around’…she did the group thing. She was never alone with a guy. She made many good friends and never initaited, because she had to guard her heart from getting too carreid away. So she hid her feelings, so as not to be too pushy, and to ‘Guard her heart.’

As she poured out her heart of fears, worries, and insecurities, I thought of what we were told as younger women, to protect us from being ‘heartbroken’, and wondered if it had come a sort of wall for all relationships.

I wonder…are we guarding our hearts…or are we hardening them?

If we become too detached and never allow our true feelings to shine through for another human being, is that not the opposite of love?

Is love not supposed to be vulnerable?

I’m not only talking about the love between a man and a woman, but in every other way that love can be expressed. If you work in the social services arena, or in ministry, or with some community help program, or have ever been approached by a beggar on the street, at some point you decided on whether to help or not.  Determining the reality of a need in such cases can be gray areas, and it is not uncommon to find hardened hearts among those that continue to work in such places.

Because, after letting your guard down, after deciding to trust someone, and then getting broken, it hurts.

A lot.

But may I ask – does that negate the need for continual, vulnerable love to abound?

I am not advocating any process in the areas of dating, courtship, or even of those in distributing resources for those in need. I am simply speaking on that of love.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis, who explains it so well: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

We can either choose to love, and risk getting hurt.

Or, we can ‘Guard’…I mean…’Harden’… our hearts, and not get hurt at all.

So which do you think is the ‘right’ thing to do?

Fear will always be present; it is how we act in love that others will see our genuine faith in God’s sovereignty.

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