Updated: Mar 28, 2020
If you’re background is anything like mine, you’ve heard the term, “guard your heart,” for as long as you could remember. To be honest, I always knew this was something I was supposed to do and something I said yes to doing, but it was never something I understood or knew how to walk out. It’s taken me a lot of trial and error to receive breakthrough in understanding and a lot of fleshing it out with the Lord. However, I really feel I have come to a point where the Lord has given me some pretty concrete things to go off of.
I'm going to share what I feel like the Lord has spoken to me. I am only sharing with the hope this leads you down a path of asking the Lord what you should do. That It would spark a conversation between the two of you so you can figure out your path. I also pray this would eliminate ignorance. Ignorance is bliss until it leads to some painful moments.
Chances are you've mostly related this topic to dating, but I think this stretches into any relationship, ever. It’s something I have found wisdom in both dating (now as I'm engaged! Yay!) and in forming new friendships!
What makes me excited about this particular area, is increased understanding leads to wisdom! So if at any point feelings of shame rise up, due to wrong decisions in the past, tell the devil not today. This understanding has brought freedom to me, because it isn’t meant to condemn, it’s meant to help us live healthily.
Throughout this post I will ask different questions for you to think on. These are meant to encourage you to start your own journey in this topic. I will also have these in a section in the end. So you can choose if you'd like to process as you go or spend time at the end!
As mentioned before, I want to look at this topic in an atypical way. What if guarding our heart actually pertains to seeking emotional health? What if it is all based on looking into actions that harm or help our internal being? What if we find emotional health when Christ is at the forefront of our lives and when our identity is rooted and established in Him? What if this perspective is the key to having healthy relationships with others?
I think it is.
// Foundation. Where does this come from? //
Did you know you're made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27)? One key characteristic of God is He is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three-in-one. Take those two facts and add them together. We are made in the image of God + God is a trinity = we have components of a trinity.
Ours is spirit, soul and body. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 makes a direct reference to this three-fold person. Paul's prayer is our, “whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In order to live to the fullest, each one of those components must be in good health. I have seen this correlation in the simplest things. When I have the flu suddenly: I've woken up, I feel terrible, I'm craving fruit roll-ups (I know, it's weird but it happens every time) and I want sleep. Even though only my body is sick, suddenly I can’t think straight. As a matter of fact, I don't want to think and usually I'm really emotional. When one thing is messed up, it's all out of wack.
// Practical application. So what does this mean for me? //
I've made the connection that there will be greater difficulty in guarding our hearts, without understanding we are made in Christ's image. Specifically if we don't recognize the reflection of the trinity within us.
Anyone remember Shrek's famous line,"Ogres are like onions"? If not, its a good line to remember because it is relatable. When you commit to a friendship you commit to peeling back one layer at a time until you get to the middle. Certain actions peel off layers. There are actions in each area- mentally, physically and spiritually- we can peel back layers in. Growing up, I was often unaware I was peeling a layer away and then I'd suddenly find I had given away too much and would try to back peddle. I was ignorant of how my actions affected me emotionally!
We were created to be relational beings. We want to love and be loved and to be known and fully loved. But scripture says not to give your valuables away to those who don't recognize the cost of something and cherish it (Matthew 7:6). We should take that in and look at how to practically apply this to our lives. How often do we long to be known so we throw out our experiences, time and resources then it's received by the other then stomped on because the other didn't realize it should have been esteemed?
When you’re wanting to start a new relationship with someone, take your time. There is hurt when someone doesn't turn out to be as faithful of a friend as we had hoped. For dating relationships, look at where you are currently in your relationship and choose behaviors the Lord tells you are appropriate for your current stage! Use your discernment. When you accepted Christ, you were given the Holy Spirit who has given you the mind of Christ which leads to wisdom (1 Cor. 2:14-16). Also, seeking counsel from other believers is always a wise choice.
The Trinity Reflected in Us
// Soul: Mentally & Emotionally //
These two seem funny to pair together because often times we think the mind and heart are opposites. However the verse Proverbs 4:23 actually uses mind and heart interchangeably. Our emotions can be indicators of what's going on underneath the same way our thoughts can steer our emotions. There are tangible ways to give yourself away, but it is also a way to test your emotional health. If you aren't a healthy person, it affects your relationships.
When you want to get to know someone, typically you spend time together and talk. You swap stories and experiences, the joyful times and times of loss. You typically dip into the emotional sides of yourself, the hurts and the happy. With every story shared a door is opened to your heart. You're saying, "these stories reveal who I am because they reveal what has shaped me." I would be willing to rephrase that to a picture of you placing yourself on a golden platter and handing it to someone, but then tagging on a, "here I am, will you accept me?" at the end of it.
It's an obvious picture of allowing someone to "peel back a layer." So how do we look into our emotional health so we don't just run around throwing ourselves around? The answer is rooted in evaluating our thought patterns.
God sees and weighs the heart of man (Prov. 21:2). If He pays attention to our thoughts and weighs them then there is significance to them. Col. 3:2 instructs us to set our minds on things above. There's a word used many times in Scripture which pertains to continuously thinking on something, it's meditating. Psalm 104:34 is a prayer saying "let my meditations be pleasing to Him." When balanced out and tested, the thoughts/emotions relationship is beautiful. It helps us operate well. If you find yourself thinking about a particular thing often, ask yourself why? Ask how is this affecting me? What we dwell on can steer our emotions or be an indicator of where we need healing.
When you find yourself needing healing, go to God. He is the only one who will be able to provide answers. There have been times when I find myself sharing with someone and I leave the conversation frustrated with the other person or dissatisfied with their response or even running after them hoping this time I will be satisfied. As I've evaluated why, it was usually because I was unknowingly expecting them to heal me, but no person is capable of healing. Only God is called The Healer. After talking to the Lord about it, I was able to discuss it with a friend without unrealistic expectations. It's because I had already given my burden to the one who could handle it.
Ask yourself: What are you meditating on? What is your motive behind sharing your emotions with another person, and is there an area you're searching for comfort in? Have you walked away from conversations with friends recently feeling dissatisfied? Tally up the "hot topics" in your brain, now rank them according to what you think of the most. Is God at the top?
// Mind: The Physical //
This area has two sides of the coin. A romantic side and a friendship side.
Romantically, between a man and a woman, there are physical levels to inviting another person into your life. This topic has been discussed in all purity talks. Thanks to that, there's no need to get into it here. What I want to touch on here is- physical acts have always been a representation of what's happening inwardly. In the Christian faith two main examples are Christ and baptism. When Christ died and came back to life we gained spiritual victory and eternal life for all those who accept it. With baptism, we display a physical representation of what we have said yes to inwardly.
Although the world wants to convince us when you connect with someone physically it means nothing and is only fun, it isn't the case. There are ties inwardly being made. Christ uses physical acts to accomplish/represent spiritual goals. In the same way we can walk around verbally spewing whats within us, we can also do the same physically. Which also means when we give ourselves away seeking affirmation and love, it is an indicator of distortion inside. What causes it to be skewed? A number of things. To name a few: a lack of relationship with the Lord, physical/emotional/verbal abuse from others, and ultimately a lack of our identity being rooted in Christ.
If we go to God for healing and ask Him to firmly attach our identity to Him, we won't treat our bodies casually. Praise God for his healing hand! I am deeply grateful for His ability to reach into the muck and reveal what He has instilled within me. Together we have discovered gifts I never could have imagined. If our identity is firmly rooted in Christ, we will treat our bodies that way. We won't treat this as good fun or something casual.
For the other side of the coin, which is non-romantic relationships, the way you invest in others is to not use but to give. Which is quite the opposite from the world's perspective. Throughout the New Testament Christ sets the example of serving others (John 13:13-14). But how do we invest in someone while guarding our hearts? Well the truth is when loving other broken people, we are going to be hurt. However, we have the choice to keep loving (Matt. 5:39). If we take our hurts to the Lord, as mentioned in the last topic, then He will heal us and we will be able to keep loving without bitterness or resentment.
Ways of serving can be using time, money and other resources we may have, which could be the skills of listening or praying for them. But what if the other person is continuously hurting you or taking advantage of you? Talk to the Lord about it. I would also encourage you to think on these scriptures: James 1:5, Romans 16:17-19, Matthew 18: 15-17 and Matthew 10:16. Know you are not in charge of changing a person. Instead entrust them to the Lord.
A healthy heart realizes they are only there to point others to the Savior not to be the savior.
Ask yourself: What does God say about you? Do you believe what He has said? Have there been times the world has said otherwise? How can you serve someone today? Is there a hurt you need to bring before the Lord?
// Spirit: Spiritually //
Nobody knows how a creation should operate, the in-and-outs and what something is capable of like the creator himself. Who, when it comes to us, is God. He is the one who knows us the most (Ps. 139:13-14). He is also our refuge (Ps. 46:1-3). Which is why He is there to run to and talk everything out. He is our strength in times of trouble and where we are able to be the realest version of us. It's what our prayer times are for. To be our most honest selves. It's a time of intimacy between you and your creator where He reveals what He has instilled within you and what needs to go. The purpose of this is for sanctification. The good news is, when we accept Christ and are saved, we are not just stuck there as is. He will refine us and we will get better and better (1 Thes. 5:23).
When we let a human in on this time, it is like rolling back the curtain to our hearts. Much like the emotion connection. It is inviting someone to not only let them in on our sanctification process it also gives them permission to also hear our burdens. In the context of a best friend or marriage it is a beautiful thing. After all, David and Jonathan had a friendship like that as well as the married couples in scripture.
A deep tie is formed when you sit and listen to someone else's outpouring of their heart or in the pouring out your own. The second I invite someone into these moments, I invite them into my sanctification process and in on my most intimate relationship.
For this reason, when it comes to guys/girls praying, I have always seen wisdom in praying with a group. Which doesn't mean there aren't going to be moments where I am in a situation where I pray for someone or with someone else. However, I have also noted, nobody empathizes with my struggles better than other women. Which leads to getting accountability and comfort more than something else. Even my sweet Fiance has difficult times understanding what the heck is going on inside of me and I with Him. Haha! But at this life stage we feel it's appropriate to pray together. Which has drawn us closer in a unique way.
I truly believe "guarding my heart" pertains to my emotional health and the only way to emotional health is through the Lord. He alone can secure my identity and heal wounds.
My favorite thing about this journey is with each question I came up with, I was able to ask Christ about it. And even though the questions were endless, He gracefully answered each one. Sometimes my answers differed from my friends. The more questions you ask the more He answers and the more He answers the more you trust.
It's at this point, I fully extend the invitation for you to evaluate what I've experienced. What tidbits, if any, will you apply to your life? If you haven't already, I encourage you to look below at the reflection questions. Hopefully they stir up a desire to seek.
It has been a joy sharing this with you. I pray you would know how deeply loved you are by God. How much He smiles upon you, and longs for you to see the beauty of who you are. He's deeply instilled a purpose in you and is drawing it out from within you. I pray you would dive into wrestling with the Lord because it always results in knowing Him deeper and having a deeper understanding of who you are.
1. Remember my "feeling sick" example? Has there been a time you have felt that because one area in your life was off, the rest of you was off?
2. Soul: What are you meditating on? What is your motive behind sharing your emotions with another person, and is there an area you're searching for comfort in? Have you walked away from conversations with friends recently feeling dissatisfied? Tally up the "hot topics" in your brain, now rank them according to what you think of the most. Is God at the top?
3. What does God say about you? Do you believe what He has said? Have there been times the world has said otherwise? How can you serve someone today? Is there a hurt you need to bring before the Lord?
4. Have you welcomed them in as a person who is helping in your sanctification? How often do you talk about Christ together and hold each other accountable? What's the subject matter?
"guard your heart above all things"
"My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways"
"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (thoughts of his heart, heart connected to mind)"
"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
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