Broken Heart Made Whole

The Danger of Guarding your Heart

As an emerging adult, I was taught that one of the most faithful things I could do as a young Christian woman was to guard my heart. That meant preventing myself from falling in love, especially with anyone who could lead me astray, and it basically resulted in me not dating because no one sinless came along. And I was relatively fine with that—I had a lot of other things on my metaphorical plate, so this freed up my time. But mostly I wanted to follow the Bible’s wisdom of not giving away my heart too easily because I loved God, I wanted to obey God, and I trusted that God’s advice would protect me from getting hurt. And I definitely didn’t want to get hurt.

Many years later, I was resisting falling in love with someone, and a Christian colleague of mine asked me why. I had many answers, all of which my colleague shot down, and the most eye-opening and memorable was his response about me guarding my heart out of faithfulness to God and fear of getting hurt.

He said that despite quoting a biblical verse, what I was describing was not actually biblical, not actually something God asked of his people. Out of the entirety of the Bible, “guarding one’s heart” comes up only once, and it is about keeping oneself from leaving the God who created and loves you for something less worthy. I was not leaving my loving relationship with God for a romantic relationship with a human person—in fact, the man I was interested in also loved God. I was simply trying to figure out whether to bring the three of us together.

Furthermore, my colleague said, the overall message of the Bible is not one of self-preservation but one of overwhelming, sacrificial love, exemplified in the life and death of Jesus who took the greatest risk possible by loving all of us. As God’s people our primary concern is not reducing our risk of getting hurt, but loving like Jesus did, accepting the possibility of getting hurt in the process.

Of course, we don’t throw all caution to the wind and risk everything important to us without weighing the costs. We try to choose romantic partners who

  • treat us and others kindly, and
  • share our deepest values and purposes (like our faith if we have one)

And in that process we recognize that we still might get hurt (Jesus certainly did), and that that might not only be ok but perhaps part of a bigger story of redemption and healing.

The danger of guarding your heart is potentially missing out on the tenderness, intimacy, and sacrifice of God’s story written into your’s. It’s potentially missing out on God’s healing of your past relational wounds. It’s potentially missing out on all the other invitations God has for you to love others radically like God does. But remember—just because you stop “guarding your heart” doesn’t mean you stop stop guarding your mind—continue to heed warning signs, wisdom from trusted community members, and the guidance of your Creator every step of the way.

If you have been preventing yourself from falling in love solely out of some misrepresented understanding of “guarding your heart” like I was, I pray you will find some courage and give your heart a little bit of freedom. May you find yourself on your own healing journey within the grand story of redemptive love.

Enduring a Job You Cannot Stand

I was once recruited to a job that wasn’t what it claimed to be. I never would have said yes to it if I’d realized exactly what I’d be getting myself into. After about a month I’d had enough, but my financial situation was such that I couldn’t quit without having something to replace it. So, I found ways to endure the horrible job while actively seeking out employment elsewhere. Here are some of the tips and tricks I developed during that season of captivity:

Formulate mantras

Mantras can give you courage and strength. I put mine on pop-up reminders on my phone that interrupted my distress throughout the day. Some of them were:

  • “You can only do what you can do. Everything else must wait til tomorrow.”
  • “It’s not your fault, don’t let it ruin your day.”
  • “You are not Super Woman, you cannot save the day.”
  • “The worst thing that will happen is they fire you, and you can overcome that, too.”
  • “Honey badger don’t care, honey badger don’t give a f***.”

Pretend every day is your first day

This helped me lower my too-high expectations I had for myself that I should be more capable than they trained me to be, it removed baggage from previous bad days (what bad days? Today is my first day!), and it gave me freedom to reinvent myself every day into a more mellow and emotionally-detached person rather than feel the pressure to remain the same chipper and fake-friendly person I pretended to be on the first day (#socialintrovertproblems).

Shut off your work brain at home

I.e. “think happy thoughts.” After venting or crying to my husband for an appropriate amount of time when I got home, I needed to get my mind off of work. I didn’t want that place to own me at home, too. We planned activities or had conversations that made us happy, which gave me something to look forward to as I trudged through the workday, and it let me leave work at work while I was distracted by more worthy thoughts and activities at home.

Form an alliance / friendship at work

It may be difficult to find out who hates working there as much as you do, especially if they are afraid of being fired. But if you do know someone who wants out as much as you do, consider them your ally, the person who “gets it” and makes it more bearable to be there. Vent to each other, encourage each other, and console one another when necessary. I’d advise if you’re married, that you limit the venting / consoling to coworkers of a gender you are not (or would not in the future become) attracted to. Just don’t risk it.

Milk it for every resume-building skill you can

Learn as much as you can, volunteer for the projects that will be great to brag about on your resume, and write down any accomplishments you make along the way (also to add to your resume).

Apply your way out (or up)

Don’t feel guilty about looking for something that works better for you. Keep in mind, however, that future employers may question your reliability if you hop around too frequently. So weigh your pros and cons, determine if there’s a minimum number of months you will stay for your resume’s sake, and look around. It doesn’t really hurt to look. And if you find a possible dream job, it doesn’t really hurt to apply (as long as you check the box that says you want the potential employer to NOT contact your current employer—definitely don’t want them to catch wind that you are hoping to quit before you’re ready to).


May you find your own ways to endure your horrible job for the time being, and may you hold on to hope for something better.

Gratitude

During a month-long experiment to try to become a more positive person a few years ago, I identified lots of things worth being grateful for. I know that when I focus on the good things in my life I tend to have a better attitude, complain less, and be more generous with others.

This is not to say that giving attention to negative circumstances is wrong. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary so that wrong things can be made right again. Like complaining about a pain can cause a loved one to drag you to Urgent Care to address the problem. Or talking to your roommate or spouse about something you want to be different in your home or in your relationship brings up a desire you otherwise would have internalized and grown bitter about if you’d said nothing. Or writing to your senator about an important issue you feel isn’t getting enough attention (if enough constituents agree with you and do the same), may encourage the senator to prioritize it more. Sometimes giving attention to the negative things is just what is needed to make positive change.

But if we get so caught up in the wrong, the irritating, and the painful, we may miss out on some fantastic opportunities: things to celebrate and admire and draw energy from.

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Transitioning out of 2017

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution enthusiast, but I love the coming of a new year with all its symbolism of rebirth and starting fresh. It’s a significant milestone or checkpoint—to look back on a whole year and reflect on what was good, what was hard, and what has changed since the beginning of it. It’s also a useful tool for evaluating what to carry over into a new year, what to discard, and what new themes to incorporate. This is much gentler and more flexible than a rigid “resolution” and therefore less likely to fail you in the long run.

A friend of mine asks God for a word for the coming year—to guide her spiritual journey and give her a focal point throughout the year to help her attend to her soul. My tradition is similar—asking God to help me categorize my year in a theme or two (for instance, 2016 was the year of waiting and of the unknown), then asking what God foresees the theme of my upcoming year to be. It gives me a good idea of what to look for and how to interpret events and my reactions to them.

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The Hierarchy of Want

Advent always gets me thinking about longing, including the many layers of desire inside me. I want a lot of stuff—some material and some immaterial:

  • a new jacket
  • a new computer
  • tickets to Disneyland
  • a graduate degree
  • getting out of credit card debt*
  • uncluttered counters
  • my neighbors to be more considerate in the laundry room
  • my fellow humans to be treated with dignity
  • introvert time
  • to feel loved
  • to actually be loved
  • for my loved ones to feel and be loved

There are so many layers to desire.

I spent most of my life suppressing desire because I had inadvertently learned that it was selfish and ungrateful to want. But over the past 5-6 years, with the help of many therapists (mostly friends, but also one I’ve seen professionally), I’ve been on a mission to discover who I really am, including all the layers of unspoken desire locked inside.

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Married to a Non-Introvert

I am a super-introvert, and my husband definitely is not. Not that he’s an extrovert—that actually might have been easier to adapt to since he would have had a broader social circle to run around with and would have depended on me less for social stimulation. But he’s sorta in the middle of introversion and extroversion which means that he prefers to spend most of his time with one or two of his favorite people. And that almost always includes me.

So, spending time together gives him social energy, while mine becomes depleted (as is the case with all of my social interactions).

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Talk Therapy

I think that we all could benefit from a little professional “talk therapy” in our lives. Some of us could benefit from more than a little. Here’s why:

We are more capable of loving ourselves and our loved ones when we at least know why we sometimes behave insecurely, erratically, defensively, or arrogantly. It’s even more effective when we take that knowledge and do the hard task of working through our shit.

We love our people. And we hurt them because of hang-ups in our distant and not-too-distant past. It’s usually not irreparable damage—the people we love tend to forgive if asked, sometimes even when they aren’t asked. But I’d rather be the kind of person who engages with my loved ones in healthy, helpful ways. If I can help it.

And sometimes our people are the ones who hurt us. Therapy teaches us how to handle the pain they cause us and how to form healthy boundaries so we stop enabling them to hurt us and others.

I don’t want to settle for the unhealthy patterns in my life. If you don’t either, I urge you to give therapy a try. Find someone you feel comfortable with, who accepts your worldview even if they don’t believe it themselves, and whose priority in your conversations is to help you find the ability to thrive in all areas of your life, including your relationships.

May you love well and be loved well.

My Kind of Feminism

One of my earliest memories associated with feminism was a TV commercial that admonished parents to not buy their daughters tea sets but to buy them chemistry sets instead. It was an attempt at shaking up the status quo, to introduce science to little girls who otherwise wouldn’t have thought to ask for it because it had never been modeled for them, and to broaden the career horizons of many young women. That commercial infuriated my mother.

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Meaning What I Sing

I love to sing songs to God in church. Not all songs, certainly, and not all verses/refrains in any particular song. I feel very strongly about meaning what I say, and sometimes I stop singing when I’m not quite sure I’m on board with a line or two in a worship song.

In particular, some songs bring up a lot of tension for me as an introvert. They may have their root in scripture (or they may not), but I have some difficulty singing them if they haven’t been contextualized for our modern day and if they seem rather extroverted on first look.

Verses like:

Shout it, go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses…

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My Year of Yellow

My life was consumed in my twenties by my ministry job which was devoted to helping people. It was hard but fulfilling work, and I didn’t have a lot of energy, time, or money outside of it to have much of a life or to develop hobbies. My color-coded schedule in my google calendar represented the major categories of my life: blue for work, red for church, green for finances, and yellow for fun. There was very little yellow in my calendar.

So at the end of my twenties I decided to change that.

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