Youth group is happening in the java café at church tonight. The smell of caramel cappuccino creates an inviting atmosphere for all the young people moseying in to figure out how to live this faith life in a complex world.
Of all the people in the crowd, three faces have my attention. One girl sits at a small round table of females only. When males approach for innocent conversation she appears squirmy and keeps her response short. In an attempt to watch over her heart, she’s avoiding any opportunity for relationship to grow. At another table a girl chokes back tears and rushes to the bathroom with her besties, because that is what girls do. Rather than make her heart ice like the first girl, she chose to feel and warm herself to the possibility of love. Though they kept their purity, the relationship ended in break-up and the fresh pain spills over in hot tears. Her ex-boyfriend hunches over the pool table from across the room. A good and godly man, he fumbles with emotion his own. Hurt doesn’t know gender and the internal grief he bears threatens tearful collapse but that doesn’t fit the mold society has wrongly formed for males, which expects him to move on emotionally void like the distant girl at the all girls table. He’ll let his heart bleed behind his bedroom door later tonight.
On the wall is word décor including Proverbs 4:23:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
And all three secretly question if they are living it well.
Proverbs 4:23 has long served a banner verse for purity. The problem is in trying to help our youth honorably save themselves for lifelong loyalty we’ve created a fear of connection and love that has effectively closed others out. Oh how Satan must be having a hay day with this. Christians, formed in love, placed in relationship with love, now hindering the marriage relationship that God first formed and celebrated because of trepidation that vulnerability means doing this verse wrong.
A relationship is the means to marriage and if we pull the reigns too tight we leave no room to let God write our love story. Sadly, it isn’t only potential joy that is lost. Relationship with Christ will suffer right along with it. When you’re so frenzied with what you are going to keep out you can’t keep your eyes on Him.
Obviously this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise wisdom in who you better get to know and say yes to dating. Without question you should still reject all known ungodly influences and relationships must mirror’s God’s intentions for purity, honesty, patience and kindness. Locational boundaries need to be determined to ensure that you won’t find yourself alone in the position of temptation. Mental decisions to save your physical self are critical BEFORE you date and frank verbal discussions about those boundaries need to happen on or before the first date to ensure that there is no confusion and both individuals are respected.
But this doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel hurt.
Ultimately the purpose of courtship and dating is to provide clarity about who we are most compatible with. And, while we can enter a relationship because the other shares faith in the Lord and possesses character qualities we want in a future spouse, that doesn’t mean that there will never be heartbreak along the way. Few find “the one” on their very first date.
This leaves you vulnerable, a place no one likes to be but a place every person must lend themselves to being if you truly want to find the person God has for you. You will share meals, cheer on games, make memories, exchange gifts, share secrets, slow dance, and cautiously dream dreams because it is what people who enter relationships with intentions in a future do.
And if it falls apart it doesn’t mean you’ve wrongly lived of this verse. It means a mismatch of the “right” two people.
Sometimes break ups help you better understand what God dreams for you. Whether it be in the fixing of a character flaw yourself or the identifying of differences you want in a spouse, God helps you use what you’ve learned to get you to a healthier place – with or without a significant other.
You see the key to living this verse is really asking yourself who is in the driver’s seat. Is it you or is it God?
Another verse in Scripture talks about guarding your heart and it clarifies all the mess and isolation and pain and guilt we’ve piled onto Proverbs 4:23. Tucked away in Philippians, the Bible says this, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:6-7)
To guard our hearts means to fall madly in love with God, trusting that He will help us guard our hearts by listening to His ideas not ours.
So, girl isolating yourself in a cluster of girl friends, ease up. You aren’t guarding your heart. You are closing it. As C.S. Lewis says, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” To the girl heartsick in the bathroom, let those friends wipe away your tears today but trust that as this chapter closes another opens. You are being refined in the fire and, one day looking back, it will result in praise and glory for the revelation gained. And, for that boy at the pool table, I understand that you’re trying to keep up the cool MO of the world but don’t forget that your parents and real friends in Christ gift you freedom to express what the ending of this relationship honestly feels like for you. You aren’t meant to go it alone.
And always talk to God. Regardless of our circumstance He NEVER fails. He wants the best for you and to achieve that your vertical relationship (with the Lord) has to be right before any of your horizontal ones will fall inline.
My book with Pam Stenzel will help accomplish this. Written with actual teen questions, stories, and comments NOBODY TOLD ME will drive you towards the Lord so you know the why behind choosing abstinence and how to safely set boundaries that will lead to a richer faith, more successful relationships, and protect your character.
This matters because ultimately this Biblical heart that you are guarding through the Lord’s teaching is the core of who you are and what you will become.
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