Giving Up The Guard

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life

-Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) 

You may have been raised on that verse from childhood. Or like me, you heard it for the first time when you just a teenager and your relationship with God at the time closely correlated to your experiences in your junior high and high school youth groups. I was sixteen and had been betrayed by a very close friend not long before that. Whenever I talked about it with other people, especially the ones within my church,  the general consensus was that I wouldn’t be hurting so much if we hadn’t grown so close. When I asked for guidance on how to avoid such a situation in the future, I was advised not to let my guard down, particularly with a man, until I knew for sure that he would be my husband.

From my final two years of high school to my first two years of college, I was defensive and distant as well as extremely confused. I heard “guard your heart and you won’t get hurt” while longing for deep, emotional connection.That ache, that thirst intensified when I met someone very special freshman year. Yet I did not want history to repeat itself. 

 It wasn’t last until semester that I began to loosen my grip. It began with a break through therapy session and continued with one of my girl friends looking me in the face really letting me know how much I was hurting myself. When all was said and done, I knew that my one resolution for 2013 needed to involve working toward closing the gap between me and those that I care about.

And that means that I need to stop “guarding my heart.”

I need to stop holding everyone at arms length, assuming that all they’re going to do is take advantage of me in one way or another.

I need to stop blaming myself and believing that it is my fault when someone that I’ve connected with walks away from the relationship.

I need to stop constantly making choices out of fear, and start making choices out of love.

Now before anyone cries out that I’m going against scripture, I’m not. What I’m going against is the interpretation that I and many others have been presented with over the years. The one that says we’re responsible for other people’s choices, when in fact we cannot control what other people think. The one that says heartache is avoidable if we put ourselves in a bubble, or maybe just walk around covered in emotional bubble wrap.

But the way I see it, the whole idea of doing that often turns into being self-reliant. Again, it might cause one to believe that they’re in control of something when they’re actually not. On top of that, it gives them the the notion that walking with God is pain-free, when in fact He promised anything but (read John 16: 33).

 I was unable to find the actual article, (via Relevant Magazine) but I once read a piece where the author said something to the effect of how guarding our hearts keeps us from fully trusting Jesus to heal our brokeness if we do get hurt. Personally, I could not agree with it more! No one wants to experience any kind of pain or heartache, but I’ve learned that sometimes it is necessary. When I’m brought to my knees, it is a reminder that I can do nothing apart from Him.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but it seems like the greater pain in life is one without love and community, rather than one without risk and possibly a broken heart. I say that because I’ve been there, and it’s excruciating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood next to or across from a friend, knowing full well that there was a barrier between us. It was a barrier that didn’t have to be there and would only take a sentence or two to remove, but I was down right scared of what might come afterward.

From now on, I’m not going to put someone in a “danger” box when I’m first getting to know them or learning about them on a deeper level. Instead, I think it’s best to pray frequently and use discernment when being vulnerable; there are going to be those that may not have the best of intentions, but you never know how God can speak through you and vice versa.

Timing is important, but not always to such an intense degree. There are instances where when my friends and I have met each other for the first time, one or the both of us was going through some rough patches in life. I’m not going to force anything to take place if there isn’t an opportunity to discuss the matter, but I won’t shy away from doing so if one does come along.

So I wouldn’t say that I’m just going to prattle on about my life story to anyone who will listen, or open the door to anyone who knocks. But I don’t want to live in such a way where love is a greater risk than it is a reward. If there’s one regret that I can say that I have, it’s what I’ve chosen not to do simply because I was afraid to do it. 

Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves a chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” 

There is no one formula to avoid pain or trouble. Instead of trying to come up with a “plan”, pray about it each day and focus on keeping God at the center of it all. You can be a light while still having boundaries. And above all, don’t do these things just because it’s what everyone in your church, youth group or Bible study is doing. We’re all called to do things in different ways, and what’s right or comfortable for someone else may not be the same way for you. 

Every single one of us is created to love and be loved. The question is, will you allow it? 

My answer is yes.

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