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Guarding Your Heart
Brett Anderson ©2005

This is something I have given a lot of thort to and I discussed it with a good friend of mine the other day (some of you know Mugabe Ratshikini, no relation!) and we agreed in principle on it. I think it is important that you really take some time on this one and see exactly what I'm saying (and I hope I will express it well) because I think this is a delicate topic, but one that is important to think about. Also to say that I will probably tackle it in the area of boy/girl relationships but actually it is totally valid to the area of friendships as wel, which I will probably touch on, and so I do feel this is a message that is relevant to everyone.

There have been three significantish girls in my life who have held very strong views on the concept of 'guarding your heart' when it comes to boys and so I have heard/experienced quite a bit of that and that is what I am wanting to explore a bit today. There is a verse in Proverbs that I think this comes from in 4:23 which says, "Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

The general idea behind 'guarding your heart' is the idea of protecting yourself from getting too emotionally (and probably physically etc.) close to a person of the opposite sex, so that if things do not work out between the two of you, you will not be too emotionally scared and will have kept yourself from getting too hurt.

I think the idea is then that one day when you meet your husband (or wife) you will be able to drop the guard and really give yourself over to them. This principle is sound in terms of keeping more of yourself pure and apart just for that person you will one day marry.

In fact, let me just add right here, that although I am going to stick 'guarding your heart' under the microscope and pull it apart a little bit, I am not saying I totally disagree with it. There is a lot of validity in the principle of keeping as much stuff sacred and hidden for your one day future partner and it is something I would way more advocate than the general principle of young people today to do as much stuff with as many people as possible and have nothing special left to give to their future partner.

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION

But, my hesitation on being totally sold out on the concept, comes for a few reasons:

Possibly the analogy that best explains it for me is that of a beautiful rose. To fully appreciate the beauty of a rose, you have to be prepared to risk the pain of the thorns. You can look at a beautiful rose from a distance and think it looks great... but if you really want to experience the beauty and hold the rose, and appreciate it close up, there is the chance that you are going to be pricked by a thorn.

The danger with protecting yourself from bad stuff can be that you inadevertently 'protect' yourself from good stuff as well. Guarding your heart means putting up some kind of wall structure, and holding people at a distance, and so while it keeps out the rubbish and protects you from being hurt, there is also the chance that it will keep out the relationship you are guarding your heart for. [this is where the concept stretches to friendship because a lot of people who close up and put up walls to protect themselves from being hurt, because they have been in the past, often exclude themselves from any friendships with people, including the potentially good ones that are likely to bring them healing and restoration.]

I am not saying that you must be absolutely open to everyone that comes along and let everyone in instantly and share your deepest stuff and make emotional bonds that way. But I think it is important that if you are guarding your heart, you have a way of slowly unguarding it for certain people as trust is built up and allowing them to get to know you a little bit better and seeing a bit more of you. Relationships are definitely a trust issue (whether boy/girl or friendship) and as trust is built up so you open yourself up a little more and the friendship/relationship grows deeper.

So I think this is my main concern when people start using the term 'guarding my heart' - that they may be missing out. I know of one girl who even missed out on just being friends with me cos she was guarding her heart so strongly and I just think what a pity, because I missed out as well on a potentially strong friendship with someone who I know is a quality person.

Also in terms of relationship, the assumption is that you will know when 'the one' arrives and that's when you will let the guard down and allow them into your space and to build greater depth and intimacy which will lead to marriage. Well, obviously a topical subject at the moment, because I think I proved to some extent that I at least am not too good on picking up that particular 'knowledge.' But, my concern again, is that as someone strongly and fiercely guarding your heart, you have to be careful that you don't put up defences too strong that they keep out the good and possibly even the potential partner you are saving yourself for.

DE-MYTH-STIFYING THE MYTH

Mugabe brought up an interesting point when we were having this conversation. He told me the verse it comes from and then added, "but that verse is not talking about that" which instantly peaked my interest and caused me to go do some investigation.

The Proverbs 4 chapter is talking about Wisdom being supreme and is actually written from the perspective of a father to a son (altho in my experience it is always girls who talk about 'guarding their hearts') and in the context the father is talking about wise and righteous living, and not relationships at all:

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." [Proverbs 4:18-27]

Once more, a reminder of the dangers/error in taking a passage out of context and creating a whole theology or life philosophy around it [* cough prayer of Jabez cough *] that doesn't necessarily line up with the rest of Scripture...

POSSIBLY THROWING A SPOKE IN THE WORKS...

While I was chatting to Mugabe, I then brought up the example of Jesus, kinda thinking aloud as I spoke. Looking at the way He lived, I don't think He ever guarded His heart. In fact, almost the opposite - He deliberately let people in and, in a sense, gave them the power to hurt Him. Jesus was a man who really allowed anyone to approach Him (Samaritans, children, women, prostitutes, lepers, drunkards, tax collectors...) and there is no evidence in the Bible of Him putting up defences.

In fact, if Jesus had guarded His heart, knowing what His destiny was and how the people around Him were going to respond, especially at the end, then His mission would have been a lot easier. He could have kept people at a distance and minimalised some of the pain that was to follow.

But He didn't! And at the end the crowds He had been preaching to and feeding and demonstrating miracles to and healing, turned their backs on Him and called for His crucifixion. One of His band of twelve friends handed Him over to the enemy for a pouch of coins; one of His closest three denied even knowing Him or having anything to do with Him; the rest fled when the guards came and deserted Him; they fell asleep when He needed them to be praying for Him. All of which added the burden of rejection and emotional suffering to the spiritual and physical suffering of the cross. Jesus gave people the power to hurt Him (by not guarding His heart) - why?

Because it was the only way that He could fully love them. 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love is not self-seeking and later on adds that it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The story of the prodigal son helps illustrate that as well. There was no reason to believe the son would not turn around and turn his back on his father again... but yet the father gives the biggest, most enthusiastic welcome possible.

And maybe there is a challenge to us all in this. In girl/guy relationships I think there does need to be an extra element of care and caution I guess, because the ultimate purpose is marriage and that is the only place where you should be really giving yourself unreservedly to someone. But in terms of friendships and general relationship with people, maybe we need to consider follwing the example of Jesus and being less guarded and more loving?

AND FINALLY

In conclusion, I looked up in my concordance for other instances of the term 'guarding your heart' and the only other one I could find was in Philippians where it is interesting to see who takes the responsibility for the guarding: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 4:7]

So it seems to indicate that God is the One who will guard your heart and your mind with His peace through Jesus Christ.

[DISCLAIMER: let me finish off by adding this - that altho I believe there needs to maybe be some kind of balance in terms of 'guarding your heart' and not, when it comes to boy/girl relationships, let me say that IF you are rather moving to one of the extremes, I would much rather you went to the extreme of over-guarding your heart - and possibly missing out on what someone has to offer - than the extreme of just having no guard whatsoever and allowing anyone in - and possibly losing something that is special and should be saved for that special person one day]

I hope that this week's thort has caused you to at least see a different perspective on this topic and I encourage you to give it some thort - as with all other thorts I send out, it is important that you 'test the spirits' and check what I've said with the Bible and other mature Christians you know and never ever just accept something because I've said it. I look forward to hearing feedback in terms of what you thort about this one...

Remember the beauty of the rose (I do, when I look at some of the most awesome friendships God has blessed me with and the depth and intimacy and vulnerability and accountability that I get in those, because those people didn't overguard their hearts.)