“Above all else,
guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”
Ladies, do yourself a favor and guard your heart…
It is a phrase that we have all heard before. It is the advice that I have given friends who have just begun dating someone. Looking deeper, it is a phrase that can sound quite ambiguous. What does it really mean to guard your heart?
I have come to find that, contrary to popular belief, guarding my heart is not confined to romantic relationships. Instead, this idea should permeate all areas of my life. A wrong relationship is not the only way that my heart can be tainted and altered in a negative way. I need to also guard my heart from the world we are living in- from media, culture, societal pressures, individuals, expectations, and norms.
Think about all you encounter in one day: People you met, conversations you had, media you were exposed to, opinions and expectations that were thrust upon you... All these things influence every aspect of your being. They can either have a positive or negative impact on the way you view life, yourself, and God. You have the liberty to decipher the ultimate truth.
As a woman living in today’s society, I constantly feel the pressure to be smart enough, skinny enough, less emotional, kind-hearted, compassionate, not too sensitive, have a little more this and little less that, do this, not that. The world does a great job at telling us who we are to be, rather than encourage us to embrace that which we already are. This pressure can be quite crippling…it can impair us.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
–E.E. Cummings, 1955
The ultimate standards that the world creates hinder our ability to see that there are no actual standards anyway. God does not have a single standard for His creation. He made each of us in HIS image and likeness, and therefore, we are inherently valuable. Life becomes beautiful, enjoyable, and liberating when we embrace the differences within us, as the things that make us gorgeous.
I do not have to seek this world or anyone in it to give me value and worth (and neither should you). I have already found that worth in God. Seeking value from the world will do nothing but let us down, disappoint us, and leave us feeling empty.
For most of the past 10 years, I tried to be someone I certainly was not. In fact, I tried to be and do EXACTLY what my friends were doing, wearing, saying, and liking. Independence, what’s that? Conforming was essential. Why? Well, because I wanted to do everything in my power to be accepted in my environment. I was tired of being the one who stuck out, the one who did not have a “place” in her surroundings. Fear drove me to act like those around me as best as I could. I was afraid that I would not be liked for who I really was, so I did my best to attain the characteristics of the people around me that were socially accepted and liked by others.
I felt like a slave to this world. It was not until I faced this idolatry head on, confessed, and repented to Jesus that I finally reached freedom…freedom from the bondage of this world and its foolish, irrational, unattainable standards. Believe me, this was not an easy process. It was excruciating. However, immediate peace overwhelmed me. God began pruning me to be more like Jesus. That rarely FEELS good, but good ALWAYS follows. For the first time in my life, I was able to stop trying and stop pretending to be anyone other than who the God Almighty has designed me to be. Insert a sigh of relief.
Once this happened, I was able to love God, others, and myself more deeply. When idols are removed from our lives, we are able to live freely.
IDOLS ARE ENSLAVING --- GOD IS FREEING.
IDOLATRY IS SELFISH --- GOD IS SELFLESS.
Simply put, guarding our hearts means to monitor what is going in and out of it.
It does not mean removing yourself from painful circumstances, difficult people, or even to isolation from the challenging realities of this world. Removing ourselves completely from this culture in order to guard our hearts is not helpful either. We have to figure out how to balance living IN this world, while also refusing to let our heart become a PART of it. There are huge ramifications for permitting the world to alter our hearts to its liking. We quickly become less of who we have been designed to be and less like our Savior.
Whatever we allow to enter our heart will affect what comes out of our heart.
Matthew 15:18 says,
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”
Luke 6:45 says,
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
See ya in the Round!
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."