Guard Your Heart: A user's guide

Guard Your Heart: A user's guide

Tonight someone said something to me that I’ve heard hundreds of times before, have probably even written a post or two about, and have long been trying to come up with practical applications for: Guard your heart.

The context and timing got me thinking once again about this task of guarding my heart. The phrase is taken from Proverbs 4:23, which says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” So here we have this, apparently high priority task of guarding our hearts. But what are we guarding them from? What are we keeping them safe for?

I think I most often hear this verse quoted to women regarding keeping their hearts guarded in romantic relationships, and I think that’s a good thing, however I believe that the true meaning extends much farther and impacts much deeper. In fact, not long ago I read an ebook that spoke to this point in great detail… and it had almost nothing to do with girls and their relationships. You see, our “hearts” are used for so much more than crushes on cute boys. Our hearts lead just about everything we do, even for the most “rational” thinkers among us.

I do think that the term “guarding” can be a little confusing. I used to wonder how one can be both guarded and open, mostly because I envisioned being guarded as high walls, bars on the windows, a security system and doberman pinscher. But God has shown me that guarding my heart is more “bubble wrap” than “full suit of armor”.

Most people are either fully exposed or so locked up that they are untouchable. But neither of these options work well for long. We need to be protected, cushioned, insulated, but still open for impact. Without any protection we allow every bump that comes our way to put us in the ICU. That is painful and unsustainable. But while we can’t be fully exposed, hardening out hearts to the point where nothing touches us removes us from being used by God for His favorite work: loving compassion. We, in the image of God’s love, must be open and exposed, but insulated from the rejection and hurt that will inevitably come. The only way to accomplish this is to be “bubble wrapped” by the love and acceptance of God.

So how does this work? What can we do?

1. Ruthlessly reject bitterness. A few years ago I had plans to meet up with some friends from out of state. We were going to pick a central location to meet in the middle. We all seemed so excited, but as the day grew closer and I attempted to contact them to firm up the details, I was totally ignored. Facebook messages, email, even phone calls… nothing. I was hurt and angry. What happened!? The date we had decided on came and as it turned out I had a last minute invitation to a conference which I was now free to attend. While there I feel like God spoke very clearly to me the call that He had for me going forward. I saw and accepted my purpose. Could God have done that anywhere, any day? Sure. Did it have to be that day? No. But it was, and I might have missed it if I had been catching lunch with friends from the past. God showed me that He had allowed that rejection for a purpose beyond what I could see. I had no right to be angry at my friends. There is no place for bitterness in my heart when I can see that God is working ALL things, even hurtful things for my good.

2. Don’t entertain comparisons… not even for a moment. There was this guy I liked once. As it often happens with the good ones, I wasn’t the only one who had him in my sights. When I first realized I had some “competition” my first reaction was to mentally list off why I was better than her. After a few minutes of creating a strong argument for why he should like me and not her, God hit me upside the head strongly convicted my heart… She’s not better than me, but I’m also not better than her. We’re different. Both uniquely made and loved by God. It’s not a matter of the “best woman winning”, but a matter of God bringing two people together for His perfect purpose and timing. If he was the one for me I would have been thrilled, but if he’s the one for her then I will rejoice with her. I have no desire to waste one moment of energy on someone else’s husband or demean God’s beautiful creation by feeling inferior or superior to anyone.

3. Mind my own business. We’re naturally curious. But just because something happens naturally doesn’t mean it’s good… in fact, often our most natural inclinations have the capacity to hurt us and others the most. There are things that we just shouldn’t know about other people; we don’t possess the love for them to keep that type of information safe. But sometimes we hear information we shouldn’t know without even asking for it. Here we need to guard our hearts. Rather than tucking this info away in the back corner of our minds for a time it might be useful, we should hand it right over to God and ask that He help all parties involved… then step away. We have enough issues and drama of our own to worry about without wading into the puddle of other people’s private business.

4. Lastly, choose to operate only in the realm of reality. I have an active imagination. I’ve also studied people and how we work. This can, at times, make me think that I know why people do the things they do. I can, if not carefully avoided, come up with whole scenarios of what I think people’s intentions and motivations are. This is a slippery slope that never leads to anything good. Instead, I’ve made it my conscious effort in the past few years to operate only in the realm of reality. Not, “what do I think”, but “what do I know.” What are the indisputable facts, accompanied by no evaluation at all. This is incredibly difficult to do, but let me tell you, working under this principle has allowed me to offer the benefit of the doubt – which generally ends up being true. In another way, it’s gone a long way with helping keep my emotions in check. I try to not allow “what ifs” or “maybe’s” any room to set up camp in my brain. Don’t put energy into what might happen maybe, let’s focus on what’s happening now. While I haven’t perfected this skill by any means, I’ve seen enough benefit from it to know that the more I work this the better off I’ll be.

Do I do all of these things all of the time? Am I an expert at guarding my heart? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. In fact, most days I think I do a pretty poor job at this particular task. But I’m working on it. I’m growing, getting better, moving forward. And I’m ok with that.

So here’s to being beautifully bubble wrapped in God’s love.

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MAC