A Wise, Guarded Heart

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

If only we could comprehend the magnitude of this verse! As women, especially women that have been single longer than expected, it can be easy to magnify a man’s positive character traits at the very beginning. Finding a handsome man with good character can make it easy to let down our guard. Some of us have the tendency to fling open the gates of our hearts upon meeting a man who seems to embody what we are looking for. Yet we must be cautious-our hearts hold the wellsprings of life!

More than once, I’ve been guilty of not guarding my heart. There have been a few men who were amazing on the surface. They were attractive and knew exactly the right things to say. They shared the same faith and appeared to be seeking the Lord in their actions and the words they said. I opened my heart quickly to them. Yet, character is revealed over time and through different situations. Truths about their character were revealed—not the sort of truths I had expected or hoped for. Trusted friends (male and female) also brought details to my attention that came to light in their conversations with the men in question. I was left hurting and regretting my not-so-cautiously opened heart. I had charged quickly forward without exercising wisdom, blinded by the positive qualities I saw.

Part of the sweetness of building a relationship is the time it takes to blossom. A great friendship or marriage is built in the crockpot, not the microwave. The recipe is prayer, guidance from trusted mentors or friends, time together in a variety of life situations, and levels of trust and intimacy that grow according to the state of your relationship. The ingredients simmer together over time to create something wonderful.

Your shared history together helps to foster an intimacy that grows over time. You share your heart with wisdom over time as you continue to find green lights from God, your own sense of peace, and confirmations from people of wisdom.

My heart is precious to my Father. It holds the springs of life—springs that affect not only myself, but also many others surrounding me. I’ve experienced the pain that comes when I give my heart away in the eagerness that follows meeting a “great guy.”  By guarding my heart now, I’ll be better able to give away my love to the right person in time.

I’m calling on the Holy Spirit and my trusted friends as I discern wisely how to guard my heart and when to share myself more intimately. I’m feeling empowered with the healthy boundaries around my heart, and learning to thrive in healthy relationships that are built ingredient by ingredient, simmering together over time.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

No Shame

confident woman

Last week, someone I work with dismissively tossed in my face the blogpost I wrote on married sex life.  He said that it was being spread around the department.

For a moment, shock paralyzed me.  I was completely unprepared.  The attack had come out of nowhere.  Then I started talking—word vomit is more like it.  I said I was proud of writing it, that I wanted to break down boundaries.  Then I left.

Despite my words, embarrassment flooded through me.  The thought that he and other people had read the article and were even thinking about me and sex was horrible enough.  But that they were perhaps laughing at it and judging me?  People who I had to work with?

It brought back all of my insecurities and conflicted emotions about waiting for marriage for sex.  While the church preached abstinence, an adult virgin was a joke in the modern world.  As I got older, I would think of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin with a wince.  That would be me.

And even though I knew that it was a lie, my decades-old insecurity whispered—you’re only a virgin because no one wants you.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  That’s what everyone is saying.  They’re laughing at you.

I made it through the end of the day and went home, able to hold back the tears until I got in my car.  I had published the blogpost because I had wanted to help other women, just as reading a similar article had helped set my expectations before I got married and calm my fears when things didn’t go as planned.  But maybe it had been a terrible mistake.

Finally, a coworker helped me reframe what happened.  “He had been trying to shame you,” she said.  Just putting a name to it helped.  She was right.  There’s no real answer as to why he would do that – I heard later that his girlfriend had applied for my job and maybe he was just pissed she hadn’t gotten it and wanted to bring me down some way.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why he did it.  Naming what he had been doing helped me put it in perspective: he was using my own story to try to get power over me.   And seeing it for what it was helped me take back the power.

Because I am not ashamed of who I am.  I am proud of who I am.  I am proud of my choices.  I have integrity.  I am who I say I am and my private life reflects who I say I am publicly.  I am also proud that I am brave enough to put my life out there in public, even the vulnerable parts.  In this Facebook-frenzied, filtered, and airbrushed world, there’s a real need for what is genuine, warts and all.

So be brave.  Yes, you might face opposition and derision, just like I did.  But I survived; you will too. Be confident in who you are.  Call it by its name when you face that opposition and feel the power of the truth.  Be not ashamed to share your story, your light, and your truth with the world.  We can’t wait to meet you.

One Size

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I remember the day I decided to save myself for marriage. I was 11 and my health class had just started a segment about STDs.

I was absolutely terrified.

At that age, I hadn’t yet developed my own relationship with God to understand the biblical necessity of my commitment. But fear was a good starting point. No marriage = no sex. So simple even a 6th grader could do it.

But then it got confusing.

I was in college when I first heard about purity rings, bands of silver or gold wrapped around the ring finger as a physical reminder of a promise to abstinence.  Then, while hanging with some sorority sisters, I watched as they threaded colorful plastic pellets to create purity beads, cords long enough to tie around their waists. Only on their wedding night would the cord be cut by their husband.

During late night conversations in our dorm, as my friends planned to not kiss or hold hands with any guy until their wedding day, I listened with a growing sense of spiritual insecurity.

I know I’m not having sex until I get married but now I can’t even hold hands? I had no jewelry to signify my commitment to God. And I hadn’t even kissed a guy yet. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to wait until my wedding day to do so. Does that mean I’m not a good Christian?

As I grew in Christ and with age, it became clear to me that, aside from abstaining from premarital sex, physical boundaries are not one size fits all. Some couples can peck affectionately without conviction. Others feel led to steer clear of all physical touch.  And both ​can ​work, as long as the couple is seeking to honor God.

When I met my husband, I was not quite 30, far removed from the health class horror but still firm in my commitment to the Lord. We talked openly about our convictions and established what would be our boundaries. As our relationship progressed and we became acutely aware of, ahem, this thing called desire, we talked, prayed, and redrew our lines together.

If you haven’t thought about your physical boundaries yet, do so. Write them down and pray about them.  As long as your boundaries ​fit and ​create a continuous path to God, you’re on the right​ ​track.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!