“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23
Meditating on this verse today, a series of thoughts came to mind which sent me on a Google search for images to depict those thoughts.
(I totally ripped off these three pictures from cyberspace)
As a confused Christian, for years the definition of guarding my heart looked much like the first image. Keeping anything unwholesome out of my life was top priority and well defined in my life. Association with people with a different lifestyle or value system was avoided. Television and movies were strictly monitored even to the point of never watching R-rated movies. Profanity was
never rarely a part of my vocabulary. Control over the people and things in my life was necessary because everything had to look good in the eyes of the beholder. All of this was exhausting but just a part of my life and I knew no other way. I now believe this was driven by fear, but at the time I truly believed it was the right, moral thing to do.
In reality, I think the second picture is what my heart looked like. It was steel reinforced – I allowed nothing, no one in, including my Creator. There must have been a lock somewhere hidden in that steely surround because eventually God answered the cries of my heart (now I realize I had been crying out for help) and led me to a place in time when my heart was unlocked and slowly began to heal.
Today I think my heart is more like the third photo – Soft, moldable and longing to love. My desire is to care for the hearts of people rather than judge them for their life choices. I make decisions about what media I put into my mind by listening to my heart. There are some “R-rated” movies and programs out there that have profound meaning and are very much worth watching, while there is plenty of other stuff out there meant for general audiences that are downright demeaning even without sex, nudity or profanity. Admittedly, I swear more now. The beauty of it is that I am open and honest about it. I am no longer afraid to let strong feelings be known and to sometimes use more powerful language to express those feelings. Letting go of control and not worrying about what people think has been most difficult but also incredibly liberating! Learning to not worry about what other people think of me is an ongoing process but absolutely worth the effort.
Today I realize that guarding my heart now has a much different meaning to me. My heart does not need to be guarded from the people around me anywhere near as much as it needs to be guarded from things like anger, irritability and unforgiveness. That was the old me.
The new me wants love to be the course of my life.
Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.