A few summers ago I was chatting with a friend and casually mentioned a guy who had become a new friend. Sensing my hesitancy to provide much detail even though I was interested in him, my friend told me she would stop asking me about it. “I know you’re just trying to guard your heart,” she told me. I bristled at that phrase because it seemed totally out of context. I was hesitant because I had been getting to know this guy over a few months, and at the moment it was just a friendship. I was hopeful it would turn into more, but my wanting to not talk about it was more an issue of not having much to say other than “we’re friends.”
We talk a lot about guarding our hearts in the Christian community, especially when it comes to dating and courting. And of course it’s essential to date with wisdom and integrity, being discerning of someone’s character, morals and relationship with God. But sometimes we can assume that admitting we like someone or opening ourselves up to heartache by being vulnerable is a bad thing. I knew there was a possibility my new friend didn’t see me as someone he would want to date, and I was OK with that possibility. I hoped we would date, but I also knew that even if we did, there was no guarantee it would lead to marriage.
Being vulnerable is essential to the Christian life, I think. That’s why I keep this quote from C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves on my fridge.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
My friend Lindy wrote about this idea a few years ago. She said the context for guarding our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23) is guarding it from sin. Not against being vulnerable and potentially hurt/disappointed/wounded/heartbroken in a relationship. She writes,
“The problem with this approach is that it demands that God give us a guarantee of ‘happily ever after’ before we ever become vulnerable with someone we care about. But because marriage is always between two sinful people, it will always be a leap of faith. And for two God-followers considering the possibility of marriage, there will often be fears, misgivings and hurts as we grasp what it means to be an imperfect person who deeply loves an imperfect person. And this, I think, is the core of the heart-guarding issue. We may say we’re guarding our hearts to honor God, but if we’re really honest, we’re trying to keep ourselves from getting hurt.
“Instead, we ought to see dating and courtship as a time of trusting uncertainty. We find someone who could potentially be a godly spouse. Sparks fly — hopefully for both people — and somehow or another (depending on which books we’ve read), we become intentional about getting to know each other.”
There was no guarantee that my new friend from a few summers ago would ask me out. But he did, we dated, and broke up right after Valentine’s Day (I know, incredibly bad timing). But I’m so glad I was willing to risk the pain because God used it in some amazing ways. I learned a lot about myself and saw a lot of areas of selfishness and pride in my heart. I learned (yet again) that God could be trusted with my deepest desires and biggest dreams. And had I been so concerned with guarding my heart, I would have missed all of that.
Copyright 2013 Ashley Boyer Hendley. All rights reserved.