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.

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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Silence Says Something

I am terribly ill-equipped to say the right thing when it comes to racial tensions, racial inequality, and racially-motivated killings in the United States. Anything I say will come up short and (as an introvert who takes quite some time to formulate words) too late for the moment it’s needed. So I’ve often opted for silent, private grieving. But silence, although comforting to introverts like me, can be experienced painfully by others.

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Lean Facebook

Facebook is a great tool for connecting with far-away friends and acquaintances. It can also lend itself quite easily to superficiality:

  1. voyeurism without connectivity,
  2. exhibitionism, and
  3. a facade of the “newsworthy” things

The latter is usually comprised of the highlights and occasionally a life-altering lowlight that we are essentially asking prayer (or warm thoughts) for, but not much of the mundane in-between. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because

a) most of us don’t want to be inundated with the minutest details of our friends’ lives, and

b) most of us don’t like our “dirty laundry” or that of others to be constantly aired out online.

The issue is, because Facebook is mostly a conglomeration of good times and best moments of hundreds if not thousands of friends on the newsfeed, it can be very easy to believe that one’s own life pales in comparison to everybody else’s.

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Cold Feet Truths

In the early stages of our relationship, my husband and I knew the chances of it resulting in marriage were a long shot. We were very different, lived on two separate continents, and didn’t have enough money to bridge the gap very often. The limited amount of time we had in person was rushed and jam-packed with experiences, without the ability to see each other in normal, everyday kind of life.

But there was something about this man that, despite the challenges, kept me riveted to my computer screen on Skype. So much so that I married him the 3rd time we got to be together on the same continent (for a more spiritual version of the story, click here).

I knew—absolutely knew—that this was the man for me. But lots of people get some version of cold feet before heading down the aisle, and I was not an exception.  Annoying little contradictions crept periodically into my mind, things like “we don’t have enough in common” and “what if I’m making the biggest mistake of my life?” My confusion and frustration about all the mixed messages I was hearing regarding my future often led me to tears.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 4: Helping Others Heal

For context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst, Part 2: Examining the Angst, and Part 3: Healing the Angst

From the end of Part 3 (Healing the Angst): I thoroughly believe that my healing journey is meant to help others along in their own journeys, and that as I do, my own healing moves forward, too. So, whether you are a foster kid (former or current) or you love one, I invite you to read and reflect on the following letter (written to my 6-year old self and the 30-something old self that sometimes still needs assurance). I pray if it is relevant, that this letter may serve to help you in your next step forward.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 3: Healing the Angst

For context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst and Part 2: Examining the Angst.

If you’re new to this whole process of emotional healing, I’m going to say something now that might frustrate you: it’s probably going to take a long time and be a lot of work. We can reach major milestones and still have setbacks, but that does not mean we’re not making progress, and I hope that you won’t let it discourage you from beginning and continuing to do the deep inner work of healing. I’ve been frustrated and discouraged, also, and sometimes even gave up hope for periods of time that I could ever reach wholeness. But for me, living with the angst without pressing on toward healing left me in a state worse than the hard work of healing. I knew that there was something better for me than staying in the muck of depression—it was discovering my truest identity and finding freedom and joy in that.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 2: Examining the Angst

To read in context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst

My thoughts and feelings as an adult about my childhood have fluctuated over the years, from nostalgia to gratitude to ambivalence to anger to shame to sadness to a conglomerate of all of the above and more. As difficult as they were to uncover, these are the feelings of an emerging adult who had the advantage of retrospect and the ability to articulate something so complex as overlapping emotions. What is more difficult to discover are the feelings of the pre-articulate child as he or she went through those painful moments. If you’ve never allowed those kinds of feelings to flood to the surface, I’d say to proceed with caution, and also with a trusted friend, family member, advisor, or therapist present. I’ve chosen each, at various times and in various situations. They offer a form of safety/comfort if you’re exploring emotions from a time when you didn’t feel safe as a kid.

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Formerly Fostered: The Search for Healing, Part 1: Accepting the Angst

Some of my most-formative years of life were spent in foster care (following a handful of tumultuous years with my family of origin). These early years formed my biggest fears, my greatest strengths, and so many of my habits, both good and bad ones. But I didn’t always understand how much my childhood had impacted me, because I was taught that it was more important to focus on the present, to be grateful for the pleasant things in life, and to sweep anything unpleasant under the proverbial rug.

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Couples Retreat

A friend of mine once told me that thousands of years ago in Israel, newlywed couples would retreat for a year to get acquainted with one another. They’d be isolated from the people they knew, leaving behind the former ties and making new ones with their spouse, before re-emerging in their society as a couple united in mind and purpose.

I don’t know where she got her information, and whether it was historically true or not, and generally I thought something like that was kinda unnecessary in the day and age (and the type of society) where couples actually do know each other very well before getting hitched. But something about it drew me to the idea because I was in the kind of long-distance relationship that didn’t allow for us to be around each other very much in normal everyday experiences. We talked a lot on Skype, and I was sure that he was the right guy for me, but I knew that sharing a home and a life would be a hard transition for a couple who couldn’t act like a couple most of the time and who essentially turned back into independent people as soon as the computer screens closed or as soon as one of them got back on a plane to go home.

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