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.

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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Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen

A number of years ago a friend loaned me her copy of Henri Nouwen’s the Return of the Prodigal Son. It, along with a few other great books I read around the same time, opened my eyes to the depth of relationship that is possible with God. It also addressed how my deepest insecurities often distract me from that deep relationship I simultaneously long for yet am afraid of. In The Return of the Prodigal Son, Nouwen shares insights from years of study and thoughtful reflection (his own, his friends’, and fellow scholars’) on the familiar parable through the lens of Rembrandt’s famous painting.

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Streams of Living Water, by Richard Foster

One of the most eye-opening books I’ve read about my faith is Richard Foster’s “Streams of Living Water.” In Streams Foster describes six different ways that Christianity has been lived out over the centuries, each of which he asserts is as biblical and valid as the others. This came as a surprise to me, as I’d grown up in one of the six that seemed to assert that it was the only right expression of Christianity.

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The Good and Beautiful God

A handful of years ago I stumbled across a book that changed my perspective on my faith, which in turn has changed the trajectory of my life. I like books like that. This particular one was James Bryan Smith’s “The Good and Beautiful God.”

The premise of “The Good and Beautiful God” is that Jesus had the most intimate and true understanding of who his Father was, and that if we learned how to see God as Jesus did, we wouldn’t be able to keep ourselves from falling in love with that God. That was a very appealing promise, and the more I read, the more I felt that Smith was delivering on that promise. His book shook me out of my misconceptions I’d been believing and living out for most of my life, misconceptions that left me feeling disconnected and estranged from God despite my strict obedience to him.

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An Outsider’s View of the Seventh Day Adventist Church

I’m not a member of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church, but I’ve been attending one for the past year. I’ve gotta say, I don’t agree with everything in their doctrine, but I’ve never felt so strongly the love of God emanating from any other pulpit. Talk of the love of God, sure, but here I actually feel it.

I’m sure it’s not every SDA church. In fact, I’ve been to two or three others that were a little weird, one in particular that creeped me out and was pretty out of touch with the world around it. But right down the street from my apartment is a place that accepts people just as they are, provides healing for the hurting and hope for the cynical (that’s me!), offers genuine hospitality, and teaches how to radically love like Jesus the people outside its four walls.

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