"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23
For years I thought this meant build walls around your heart until they are thick enough to keep even the most persistent wall-scaler out, and by ALL MEANS DON'T be good friends with boys. Ever.
Now I'm married. I never realized that Proverbs 4:23 didn't have a disclaimer. You know, something like "This verse only applies until you marry your best friend." Unfortunately, there's no disclaimer. There's no time frame. There's no free pass. We've built a misconception for ourselves, brick by brick, creating a "guard your heart" monster. That monster eats deep relationships for breakfast.
C. S. Lewis really helped me understand guarding your heart in the Biblical context instead of viewing it as a defense mechanism against being hurt. The intention of this verse is not to help you avoid hurt. The actual intention is to help you avoid sin. Sin does tend to lead to hurt, but we are avoiding the wrong thing.
From The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis:
"In its context, this verse suggests that keeping—or guarding—your heart means to retain wise words and resist wicked desires. But I’m afraid some people—ahem, me, too often—use it to justify being cowardly or cold instead of loving others, because we think that “guard your heart” means “don’t get hurt.”
"Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."
It is time to deconstruct our walls. It will not be easy and it will not be painless, but it is necessary. Brick by brick, the perceived protection and immunity to hurt that we think guarding our hearts will bring us must be torn down because it's just that: perception. Building walls around our hearts and keeping others out actually does not create immunity to being hurt at all. Instead, it breeds the inability to ever be hurt... the inability to feel. And it is unbelievably dangerous.
We are called to love... and yet how can we really love others if we build a huge tower to hide our heart in? I think we may use "guarding our hearts" as a cop out. Are we really guarding our hearts with the Word of God with the intent to live to please God or are we avoiding investing in others because it's risky and takes time? I know I'm guilty of the latter more times than I'd like to admit.
I pray today that your walls... and my walls... come down. That we invest without expecting return in kids, in friends, in family, and in strangers. I pray that we share openly and we speak candidly about our walk with the Lord and that we loudly proclaim, "I don't have it all together. I don't know all the answers, but that doesn't matter. I know who Jesus says that I am, and no matter how many times I want to build a wall around my heart, I know that I'm not called to live inside my self. I'm called to tell. I'm called to serve. I'm called to give."
I want my heart to feel... and even to hurt for those who need Him. I think I've sought to guard it so well that it has forgotten to deeply feel for that. Let us teach our children not to build walls around their heart, but to love freely with the love of Christ, expecting nothing in return, serving wholeheartedly, knowing hurt will probably come because Jesus Himself experienced hurt. Let's teach kids to embrace loving someone who is difficult to love, and even unlovely because that's what God asks us to do. There are souls at stake here. May they know us by our love.