So there were a couple questions raised on the subject of girls being constantly told to “guard their hearts.” Ok yes, I know that the questions were actually addressed to Lizzie, but I am nonetheless horning in with two of my cents.
First: I’m sure all you girls are tired of hearing the older women say this. But as Lizzie astutely pointed out, once girls actually start listening to the advice the older ladies will no doubt stop offering it. The trouble, however, is that no matter how often people offer you this advice, it doesn’t actually make it any easier to do, does it? That’s where the real problem comes in.
Quick aside: If you don’t actually see the point of all this, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Guard my heart? Why on earth would I do that?” then hark back to the old truism about the tape. The first time you stick a piece of tape to something it’s good and sticky. If you then peel it off and stick it to something else it may possibly still stick. The third time, the corners are probably not staying down. Fourth time it’s only limply clinging on in a pathetic sort of way. Do this too many times and you find yourself with nothing more than a dirty, linty piece of cellophane. Similarly (in case you missed the inference), the more times you give your heart away, the less likely it gets that your heart will be capable of staying put. And it’s not just that something in you gets weakened each time this happens. As a matter of fact, something in you gets strengthened as well . . . your ability to switch the object of your affection. You have trained yourself to have a roving eye – and that habit will certainly not stop simply because you get married.
Right then. Having thus established my street cred as someone in favor of urging girls to guard their hearts, I am now going to promptly switch teams and take issue with the phrase “guard your hearts.” (I’m fully acknowledging that is a Biblical phrase – I’m not disagreeing with Proverbs here. I’m disagreeing with a certain understanding of this which sometimes creeps in.) Here’s the thing. One of my pet peeves (along with boys in my family allowing their socks to droop off the ends of their toes) is people acting as if a young girl’s heart is a beautiful, innocent, tender, blushing frailty which needs constant tending to keep it from getting damaged or spoiled. Pardon me while I dance around in a fury just thinking about that. A young girl’s heart is actually . . . we might as well be blunt . . . deceitfully wicked. (Don’t blame me – take it up with Jeremiah.) A girl’s heart doesn’t need to be “guarded” as if it’s a rare and beautiful flower that can’t be jostled. What it actually needs to be is saved, disciplined, rebuked, forgiven, trained, sanctified.
That said, here’s a bit of a hit list on things you can do to train your heart.
1. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of thinking of your heart as an innocent and beautiful treasure which you will tenderly bestow on some worthy knight in shining armor. That’s just a cop out.
2. Just because you “feel” something doesn’t make it ok. We too often think that when we “feel” a certain way, that somehow validates it. If it’s something you shouldn’t be feeling, make yourself stop. Pray for grace. If your “feeling” is a sin, confess it.
3. Don’t be an idiot about stories. Letting yourself swoon and obsess about fictional characters (or actors) may seem innocent – it’s not. If you have problems with infatuations, take an honest look at what you let your mind and emotions do in books and movies. Your imagination is the training ground for real life. If you have swoony pictures of Johnny Depp up on your wall, go take them down. (Go on – do it now. I’ll wait til you get back. And as a spiritual exercise, once you’ve un-taped it from the wall, try taping it back up again and see how well it sticks.)
4. Don’t focus all your efforts and energies on impressing the guys, or getting admiration from them. As you are getting dressed and doing your hair in the morning, if all your mental energy is expended on imagining what the guys will think when they see you . . . well I guarantee that you will be unable to guard your heart if and when any of your efforts prove successful. If all your conversations in real life and on facebook are conducted for the benefit of any guys who possibly be listening, you have officially given away the store as far as guarding your heart goes. If you’re constantly casting about in the hopes of male attention, well then I think we’ve pinpointed your problem.
5. If the guy is a wimp, a skeeze, a non-Christian, already married, or otherwise unsuitable . . . then no matter how handsome he is, or how complimentary he is about your eyes, don’t let your emotions go there.
But what if he’s not any of those things? What if he’s a great guy? What do you do about your heart then?
A couple things spring to mind. Are you 13 years old? If so then this is not the time to scope out husband possibilities – but it’s a great time for you to be working on training your heart. If he’s a great guy but courting someone else, then now is a great time for you to work on training your heart. If he’s a great guy but is clearly uninterested in you, then now is a great time for you to work on training your heart.
But what if he’s a great guy, and he’s a legitimate possibility? Well I would say that the main thing to keep in mind is that there’s a big difference between being optimistically open to a possibility, and allowing your emotions to gallop away into the rosy horizon of possible relationships. One is being open to something, and one has already closed on something. Incidentally, this one is quite difficult and takes a lot of wisdom. And if you’ve really stunk it up on the above list, it will be next to impossible for you to do this one right.
Lastly, what if you’ve done everything wrong on this list? What if you’re feeling a bit like an un-sticky piece of tape? Well that’s the beauty of forgiveness and grace. You can confess all that, and God will forgive all that. Nothing is hopeless about Christianity – especially not the state of your heart. God’s in the business of giving new ones.