“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
GUARD YOUR HEART. It’s a lesson we’ve heard time and time again – often to the extent where it feels like a threat instead of words of encouragement. But God wants us to guard our hearts so that they can be given, wholly and selflessly, to our future spouses – NOT as a means of repression or a strict rule designed to cage us in! The call to guard our hearts is really a reflection of the immensity of God’s love for us!
I absolutely love the concept of ‘The Veil’, because it reminds me that God’s got my back. He wants to protect me from making wrong decisions, and keep me safe as His gift to the man He intends me for (as He saves that man for me). But it would be dangerous ground if I thought I could rest on that and go about living however I liked because ‘He’ll clean up my mistakes’.
Yes, he makes all things come together for my good. But as with any earthly relationship it would be unfair to demand that He does all the work. As important as it is to be open to God and let Him work in our lives, we also have to recognise the role we must play ourselves. We have to work with God to fulfil His plan for us.
That means always keeping God at the centre of everything we do, and considering whether it is where He wants us to go before we take each step. I was giving out communion in mass once, when a really good looking guy approached the altar (yep – holy AND handsome!). I got flustered, forgot what I was doing and offered him ‘the Bloody of Christ’. I laugh about it now, but the deeper truth is that in that instant I was no longer focusing on the Lord. I let a guy whose name I didn’t even know come between me and Jesus in the precious Sacrament which, I might add, I was holding the whole time.
Ever heard the phrase ‘Run towards Jesus, then look around and see who’s running with you’? In the race of life, keep your eyes on Christ for as long as possible before joining a partnership. Allow plenty of time for those who are weak, undetermined and uncommitted to drop off! I don’t mean put off marriage for years when the opportunity is right there, I mean give yourself time for deep discernment. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Our natural reaction is to jump head-first into relationships in an attempt to reap the benefits meant for much further down the line. Instead, enjoy each phase of the journey!
Take it slow!
Dating is stressful. Dating is exhausting. Dating is confusing. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a stage of the relationship we all just want over and done with. But don’t let that impatience and awkwardness cause you to act rashly. Take a step back, enjoy each other’s company. Enter into COURTSHIP, allowing yourself to discern whether they are future spouse material. If they’re not, don’t continue dating for the sake of it – that has no productive end goal, and means you’re not open to the true vocation which could be calling you.
Apply strict boundaries.
Don’t put yourself in a situation which leaves you vulnerable to temptation or misinterpretation. In the early days – and for as long as you need into the relationship! – try to avoid being left alone at a group gathering. Always say goodnight at a reasonable hour. Be sensible with where and when you meet – opt for a romantic, dignified dinner in a restaurant rather than an overly-intimate, candlelit meal at his house.
Don’t open up to them about things you wouldn’t discuss with your closest friend.
No relationship was ever built on emotional dependence or manipulation. At least none which survived! Relying on them to solve your problems or transferring your burdens will only put pressure on the relationship that it can’t withstand. Stop and think about where the conversation is going before you enter into a heart-to-heart too early on in your relationship. Getting into conversations which are deeper than your current relationship status can handle leaves you open to confusion and desolation – trust me, I’ve been there!
Guarding your heart DOES NOT mean avoiding the opposite sex altogether! It’s NOT a piece of advice designed to prevent relationships forming and keep you cloistered up for fear of making mistakes. Neither is it an excuse for isolation because you’re afraid of being wounded. It doesn’t mean locking your heart up so tightly that you dodge human vulnerability by never opening up to anyone. Love IS vulnerability by nature!
Guarding your heart IS about being aware of how you act, what you say and where you are, and practising self-discipline in order to protect yourself from heartache and sin. It’s about being discerning in your relationships, forming them on mutual trust, and building a strong foundation on which to then open your heart to the other person when the time is right.
Your heart is valuable. Make sure the guy can pay the price it deserves before you give it away!
Esther is a final year Psychology student at Oxford University, UK, with a particular passion for empowering women to be who God made them to be and the complementarity of new feminism. She blogs at For Such a Time as This
Thank you, Esther!
God love and bless you!
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