What it means to “Guard your Heart.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Isn’t it fitting that I am going to write about the heart on Valentine’s Day?  I know, I know. So festive.

The other day I came across this proverb:

    Keep your heart with all vigilance,
        for from it flow the springs of life.
(Proverbs 4:23 ESV)

Another version says “guard your heart.”  I like the word “keep” and I’ll explain why.

Here’s the deal.  In my short life, that verse has ALWAYS been used in the context of dating.  “Guard your heart.”  Meaning, when you date and find yourself feeling affection towards a man, be careful, lest you get hurt.

But, in my short life, I have come to the conclusion that this proverb is not just telling us to keep from getting hurt.  It is not just telling us to keep up walls and to stay away from love and to protect ourselves from being hurt by other people.

No, I think it’s saying “keep your heart” the way you’d keep… maybe a garden.  Like, pay attention to what’s growing there – or what is not growing there.  Cultivate what needs to be there.  Cut out the weeds.

Let’s say someone I love hurts my feelings.  (Something bound to happen if you live in real relationships with people.)  My heart feels hurt, maybe angry.  I may likely put up walls and protect myself by distancing myself from that person, but what does that do to my heart?  I have found that it causes the anger and hurt grow into bitterness, but then I put up more walls, and then although I have successfully protected myself from getting hurt, the “springs of life” that were meant to flow from my heart turn dry.  I’m free from hurt, but not free to love those who can’t love me back.

Is that what this verse is telling us to do?  Protect ourselves from getting hurt so we can avoid heartache? Obviously, I don’t think so. 

Maybe if we are keeping our hearts with all vigilance, it does not mean we are protecting it from people and hurt, but it means that we are paying attention to its emotions and cultivating them with truth so that whatever is there doesn’t grow into a bitter weed or into ugly idolatry but turns into worship.  Maybe it means laying your raw emotions before Jesus so that he can use them to change you into a more adequate lover of Him.

If that what it means, then we don’t have to fear heartache and pain.  We don’t have to protect ourselves.  We are free to experience any and every emotion because our security and comfort is in Jesus, and he will use those emotions for our good.

Perhaps I will expand on this in the next post.  But for today, feel free to chew on that.



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