“Guard your heart.”
It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times over the years. It’s been the advice given to me by my mother, mentors, pastor’s wives, and best friends. It’s a staple amongst the church, since Proverbs 23:24 declares “Above all else, guard your heart, for all you do flows from it.”
Guarding my heart has never been a priority for me. I have always been pretty reckless with it-when you’re open and not subtle, it comes with the territory. Needless to say, I’ve been hurt more than my fair share of times-most could have been avoided if I had just cared a little more about my own state of being. Yet I’ve taken pride in one thing, and it’s that when it comes to love (platonic or romantic) I’ve refused to love below average. I’m an all or nothing kind of person in this area. If I’m going to love, it’s going to be boldly, passionately, and fiercely. I’ve never known anything less.
Yet as they say, pride comes before a fall, and I’ve fallen more times than I could count. I’ve fallen for people, fallen in love with love, and fallen to the ground when things didn’t work out. I’m surprised I’m not in a permanent cast from it all, yet I’ve survived this far.
Recently, I was venting to someone I look up to about the latest in a series of “almost but not quite relationships” Things hadn’t panned out, and it hurt more than I had assumed it would. Their advice to me?
“Guard your heart.”
For once, I decided that maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea after all. I should probably start actually taking care of my heart, for once. Yet I didn’t know where to start. This wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought it would be. When you’ve lived your entire life with your heart on your sleeve, when you might as well have it tattooed on your wrist, it’s not simple to remove it. How does one go from unrelenting expression to mysteriously vague intentions? Going from open communication to aloof interest? In my mind, and according to others, it seems like it wouldn’t be too insane of a notion. Yet even just a day after I decided I wanted to do this, I found myself wanting to throw my heart on the line again with th last guy I had talked to in attempts at restoration and clarification.
I understood that all this time, I should have kept my heart locked away. Instead, I went and made copies of the key for anyone who had interest. They didn’t know they had unlocked my heart. This left me in a state of beginning to fall for a person who wasn’t sure what they wanted yet. This usually was met to me with a sense of false security, and a cruel reality check when they left their key on the table, no longer interested.
I decided to withdraw myself from the kinds of interactions with guys that I was used to engaging in. I wouldn’t text them. I wouldn’t try to get their attention through various social media (guilty as charged). I wouldn’t go out of my way to try and see them. I needed to keep my heart safe for awhile, and that meant keeping it on lockdown. To remind myself about it, I started taking a marker and doodling a tiny little heart on my wrist- My reminder saying that my heart doesn’t belong there.
You know, its funny how silly exercises like that will teach you something. When I looked at my wrist at the end of the day, my once adorable and clean cut heart doodle was smudged. Parts of it erased. Half of it you could no longer tell was even a heart anymore; just a black smear staining my wrist.
I thought about how many times I had allowed my heart to get battered, smudged, and unrecognizable. With the drawing being on the underside of my wrist, I didn’t think much would happen to it-barely anyone could see it unless they really looked. Yet I thought about the times I basically threw myself at people-pursuing them, giving my phone number, dropping plans to meet up with them. Only to be returned with disinterest, no response to texts, or sitting home alone when those people became busy. How every time, my heart took a little hit. Eventually the hits added up enough to make me question what I was doing so wrong. Unlike my smudgy heart doodle, the answer was clear- I was giving people things they never asked for; giving people my heart when they never asked for it. How could I really be angry at someone for hurting me, when I just as easily could have withdrawn myself from the game? The blame fell on me too.
I became tired of getting hurt, over and over. I decided if someone wanted this damaged, confused, smudged heart of mine, they were going to have to ask for it. No more displaying it in the window anymore. It’s going in the safe. I now know that someday, someone will pursue this heart of mine, and when they do, I believe the wounds will be healed and the scars will remind me of what I know now. Guarding my heart is worth it, and hopefully the next guy to come along will believe the same.