Having our hearts properly guarded doesn’t keep others out, it keeps God’s great love for us in and first. It protects us from pain and reminds us Whose we are.
I used to be stepped on daily. I realize now that I allowed it. I didn’t know my worth. I didn’t know that my opinions and preferences mattered. I really thoughts others’ opinions and preferences mattered more than mine. And that if I voiced my own, I’d be considered rude or demanding. My desire to please other people led me to a place of silent suffering and constant pain. It led me into a marriage with a domineering and dominating man. A man who looked for a woman to please him by leaving him alone, letting him live his life separately, and letting him have his way. I internalized that pain and thought it was because I must not be enjoyable to spend life with. In my head, that must have been true, or he would have been there….with me, with us, enjoying life together.
My heart was not guarded whatsoever with the truth that God desires for us. I lived unaware of who I am to Him and that He died for me personally. That, no matter what happens, He loves me. That I am worth loving and fighting for. Not perfect, by any means, but loveable and precious just as I am and was.
I’ve learned that there is a difference between walls and boundaries. Walls are understandable after trauma and formed out of fear to protect ourselves. Walls aren’t bad, they are normal, but can be broken down with consistency and genuine love. Once the heart feels ready to love again, boundaries promote a love that feels comfortable and provide opportunities for both parties to trust again. Boundaries and healthy. They protect and help love blossom without blocking.
Just like there is a difference in walls and boundaries, there is also a difference between a closed off heart and a guarded heart. Closed off is also understandable after trauma and shut down for fear of pain and letting someone in again. Closed off comes from the fear of speaking up for yourself or maybe not knowing who you are or what you want or need out of the relationship at all. Closed off is having no interest in getting to truly know anyone else because you feel better off alone. If that’s the truth, then so be it. But, if it’s because of fear or indifference, it’s closed off. We’ve all been there too.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
This verse used to confuse me because I thought it meant to shut out, but I see now that it means to shut in. Let the love of God into your heart and shut the door tight. Keep it there and love yourself and others with it. You are a precious child of God. We can remain open, yet very much guarded. We need to properly guard ourselves from coworkers, friends, parents, our children, and even our spouses. Because, guess what? Words hurt. Loss hurts. Conflicts hurt. Separation hurts. A guarded heart loves others, loves themselves as a child of God, listens, forgives, promotes and accepts change, and lives aware of the fact that God loves them more than anyone else ever has, does, or will. Guard your heart so that in the wake of extremely painful consequences, the love of God will comfort you more than anyone or anything else ever can.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)
To me, this means He doesn’t want us closed off to others. He wants us open to love them, but to not forget ourselves or Him in the process. Lean on the Lord and be you. Be you because you were created different than anyone else for a reason. Be you because the ones God has for you love you for who you are. God put you here to be you and love others through Him. Not to “love” others by constantly pleasing them, always telling them what they want to hear, or giving them exactly what they want exactly when they want it. Give them you, soaked in Jesus. That’s the best you, you can be.
People change, lives change, circumstances change. He does not. He will not. He is our Rock. Guard your heart with that beautiful truth.