Being Open to Love, Whilst Guarding Your Heart – Part 1

To love anything in this life is to be vulnerable. Therefore, to open your heart up to love is also to open your heart up to pain. Not potential pain, but to certain pain; at some point and more than once, because we live in a fallen world where everything has been corrupted by sin and so is corruptible.

Loving people is the most pleasurable and common form of love that we can experience regarding God’s creation and at the same time, but because of this it’s also the most risky and life impacting.

Christian relationships and marriages are still open to dangers even though all those involved see Christ as the standard of what love is. So to love a Christian man isn’t to ‘play it safe’. Yes there is greater hope, but there is still risk. Yet still, risk worth taking.

Being hurt by a man can cause a woman to want to shut herself off from ever loving again out of a refusal to take that risk again. Now, though it is wise to take time to heal and it’s understandable to not feel like never being in that type of vulnerable position again, it’s always better to take the risk again. It’s always better to be open to love, even though that also opens you up to being hurt…again, because there is more to gain in love than there is to lose in it. God is love (1 John 4:8); therefore to be open to the very thing that He is on all levels, including that which takes place between a romantically involved man and woman, further teaches us about our Lord and gives us yet another avenue to glorify Him.

With this in mind, the best way to approach openness to love is with diligence in guarding the heart (Proverbs 4:23). This way, love is approached with wisdom and not zeal alone.

 

fiery heart

 

What Is The Heart?

In biology the heart is the vital organ that pumps blood around the body. Without this, a person can’t survive; therefore the heart is the central part of the body and physical life. Using this as a metaphor, in the Bible when ‘the heart’ is referred to, it’s used to address the most central part of a person without which there is no person. It’s their deepest thoughts and values; their inner being that is at the core of who they are. God gives us a new heart at salvation (Ezekiel 36:26), because at salvation who we are changes and God calls us to worship Him with who were are/our hearts (Luke 10:27).

 

Guarding The Heart

As we’re called to love God with our heart, when we guard out hearts, the ultimate reason for this isn’t to prevent ourselves from getting hurt even though that can certainly be a now and again benefit. The ultimate reason is to protect ourselves from things that will war against us loving God. Now it is true that being hurt can certainly be an obstacle to us loving God well and that’s why there is certainly wisdom in not needlessly walking into necessary pain. However the reason, again is to glorify God as opposed to just avoid the pain.

It’s not only single or unmarried women that guard their hearts concerning men, but married women need to also, because there are things that can occur in a marriage that can pose as a stumbling block to a woman loving God.

For the sake of THIS blog though, I’m going to talk about what guarding the heart and being open to being in love, can look like for an unmarried woman walking into a potential relationship with a man. In part 2, I will go into what it looks like to guard the heart as a married woman.

 

Time Wasting

timeSo teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” Psalms 91:12

Time is a precious thing. May we pray for the Lord to teach us to realise that our days aren’t endless, so that we may be wise with the time we have. Glorifying God on this earth is a precious calling and gift and we need to be mindful of the seriousness of that call, the consequences that our choices will carry and that we won’t always have ‘all day’ or ‘another chance’. We habitually think otherwise however.

A mature and godly man that is romantically involved with you, will generally respect your time; because he understands that it’s a valuable and limited thing with which you’re supposed to be using to honour God. So he’ll be clear with you about his intentions for you. There being the implication that he will actually have an intention for his pursuit of you.

So then, guard your heart from men who don’t respect your time and string your along an emotional journey, without ever making clear the reason. Such scenarios can plague a person’s thoughts and become all they think about; making it hard for them to focus on glorifying God in general life.

There’s no black and white rule for how long a man should take to make his intentions known, but you should seek wise counsel to assist you with determining what’s suitable for your circumstance. Also remember that once a man has made his pursuit of you obvious to you, that he should already have a reason for this. It’s not right for him to make you aware of his pursuit and yet not have a reason for his actions that he can share. Yes, men can observe and decide, but out of kindness they should do that discreetly, without the boldness that comes with an evident pursuit.

 

 

Endless Waiting

Delayed

Sometimes, a man expresses his intentions for a woman are to walk towards marriage and the two enter a relationship to hopefully get to that point. However, as time progresses, what can happen sometimes is the man stops walking towards that goal and remains stagnant in his preparation for marriage. When this is the case, it’s rarely expressed by the man and therefore the woman is unaware and left to assume that in due time, the two of them will marry as they had originally wanted to.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a man thinking that a woman isn’t actually one whom he wants to marry, however it is very wrong for him not to express this concern and to let her continue to believe that his feelings haven’t changed. Even though it’s a hard conversation to have, it’s still the kind and Christlike thing to do and also to do so sooner rather than later so that the woman doesn’t continue to waste her time.

For this reason, a woman should have a clear understanding of a man’s general roadmap to marriage. Understanding the key things that he wants to have in place before he is ready t move forward and marry. The woman should also understand these things for herself and ensure the man is aware. With this clear, both people can hold eachother accountable to intentional preparation as well as observe eachother’s seriousness about what they discussed. If the woman sees that the man is not walking towards his pre-marriage goals then she can ask why and use his answers as clarity about where the relationship is heading.

So then, a woman should guard her heart from a lack of clarity in relationships, concerning pre-marriage goals. Not having this clarity means that all the woman has to go on is the fact that he said he wants to get married one day. She then just has to sit and wait, having no indication of when that season is coming. It could be months, years or even decades, but she has no idea. That’s not good or wise. Having clarity about a man’s pre-marriage goals can protect the woman from endlessly waiting for an unknown amount of time and then choosing to continue to wait when she reaches a point of believing that she has invested too much time to turn around now.

Having no idea what a man is doing with your time and heart can again plague a woman’s thoughts and distract her from the Lord. So protecting herself from this is beneficial for her.

 

 

Anxiety

anxiety

It’s not your responsibility to figure out how if you guard your heart, a potential suitor will possibly ever get to know you. That’s God’s job. Smile and take joy in that, because it’s a tremendous weight to carry to be responsible for other people’s actions; one too heavy for any human to carry. Ask anyone (including yourself) that has tried and they can testify. God alone is capable. God explicitly calls us to not be anxious so guarding out hearts from it, helps us to glorify Him (Philippians 4:6). Trust that nothing you do can thwart the will of God for you (Job 42:2).

 

Too Much, Too Soon

pig

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” Proverbs 11:22.

God calls us to discretion. So then, guard your heart from having all of it’s feelings and thoughts revealed too soon. Yes be honest, but be restrained in this season so that you don’t tempt your flesh which is already vulnerable and weak and also so that you don’t walk into a season that the man in question isn’t leading you into with him. Let him be the one to first put his cards on the table. Let him initiate. Don’t try to get him to notice you by being loud and the centre of attention. Be yourself, but have a boundary. Don’t be scared that if you don’t talk over everyone he’ll never get to notice you amongst them. Be discrete with your physical beauty by dressing modestly and not intentionally or unnecessarily drawing attention to your wonderfully shaped exterior; tempting him to lust after you and not just admire your godly beauty. Don’t be a stumbling block to him, in the name of trying to get him to notice you.

 

Hard To Get

hard to get

Be discrete about your feelings before he airs his, but don’t lie when he does express himself. God calls us to integrity and kindness, so guard your heart from giving in to a desire to play with truth. There’s a difference between being self-controlled and not easily won over and then simply playing games as if you don’t want him to win you at all. Just as your heart isn’t a playground, neither is his.

Sometimes playing hard to get will see you repel a godly man who would have been a blessing for you to let in, but he just grew weary of having to fight your pride. It is a man’s role to pursue, but remember that it’s also a man’s choice to do so. Don’t make yourself unappealing to choose.

 

Pessimistic

glass

God calls us to hope. So guard your heart against being pessimistic and thinking that it’ll always not work out and that the guy always has a hidden and shady agenda. Hope in God and have faith in the fact that God does desire good things for you and all things are working together for your good (Romans 8:28). Walk in wisdom and be strive to be optimistic. Your story doesn’t have to pan out like everyone else’s and history doesn’t always have to repeat itself.

 

t.

 

Too Quick

quick

Keep in mind that things change. Courtship isn’t marriage, so people are free to (though it shouldn’t be done on a whim), walk away. Sometimes a courtship doesn’t result in marriage, though both parties had started out wanting it to. Therefore, don’t find yourself planning your wedding just because you’re in a courtship, no matter how much you both really want it. God calls us to be wise, so guard your heart from racing ahead into a season that hasn’t yet come.

People do break up, yes even Christians. So if you put all of your eggs in a basket that hasn’t even arrived yet, you will be at a total loss if it doesn’t work out that way. Now of course as time goes on, you do start to prepare to put eggs in certain baskets, but just keep in mind that we don’t know what God’s sovereign plans are. This isn’t to say be pessimistic, but just keep a level head.

Is He Pursuing Me Or Am I Reading Into Things Too Much?

Please have a look at these Scriptures first: Ephesians 5:22-33, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Proverbs 4:23, James 3:17, Philippians 4:6, Job 42:2, Ephesians 4:31. I haven’t explicitly referenced these Scriptures in the actual the body of the blog, at each place where they would pop up, but I’ve referred to/encapsulated the teaching in what I put forward.

What Does It Mean To Pursue?

By dictionary definition, a pursuit is an “effort to secure or attain something”. A person can have a pursuit of happiness, a pursuit of a job, or in this case, a pursuit of a woman.

Anyone can pursue a partner, but it’s a godly thing for the man to pursue the woman, rather than for the woman to pursue the man, because the husband is head of the wife and home and so even in the build-up to marriage (in the courtship/pre-marital relationship), he should lead the way right from initiation. Of course this therefore implies that marriage should be the aim of relationships. It isn’t always the result, but the responsibility of Christians is to have it as the intent, should things work out accordingly.

There is no specific Christian way for a Christian man to pursue a woman. All of the books and resources out there can only at best, act as wise suggestions. To follow some of the suggestions would be godly and loving and so it would be a good thing for a woman to hold some of them as things a man needs to do/be before engaging her heart. However the point is, these things are not must-haves, but nice-to-haves. As Christians, the only criteria for a man to pursue a Christian woman is that he and she be saved.  That said a woman would be wise to want more than salvation from a man, such as spiritual maturity.

So what does a pursuit from a man actually look like? Here’s my take on it:

 

Effort

effort

A pursuit is an effort towards something. Therefore, the first thing that a woman should be able to identify in a man that is pursuing her, is him making an effort with her. With her and not just concerning her. Making an effort to find out things concerning a woman and making an effort to connect with a woman, are two different things. Though nothing wrong with either, the former is a pursuit of information, but the latter is a pursuit of the actual person.

When a man is pursuing a woman, he is actually pursing the person, not just facts about her through other people and observation. A pursuit of a woman is when a man is actually advancing towards her and not just facts about her. Sometimes a man is in a place where he is seeking to learn more about the woman and she may pick up on this. However even then, she shouldn’t presume what he’s doing to be him pursuing her. He may pursue her later, but she should allow him to actually take that action if he chooses to.

Where there’s no effort on the man’s part, to connect with the woman, there’s no pursuit from him. If he is responsive to her effort and even makes time to communicate once in a while, this should be seen as him just being friendly or polite. Men need to be loved enough by their single sisters in Christ, to be given the freedom to be friendly or polite, without being perceived as someone in pursuit.

Consistent

consistent 

Where a man is making an effort to connect with a woman, but he isn’t consistent about it, she shouldn’t see this as him doing anything out of the ordinary. A consistent effort is when a man’s actions aren’t once in a while or when the occasion arises. Rather, he forms a pattern of seeking opportunities or creating them, to a point where if he were to stop it would be noticeable.

Sometimes a man is consistent with his efforts and then he stops. Though this can be hurtful and somewhat difficult, a woman shouldn’t see this as a reason to confront or rebuke him. For whatever reason that he has stopped making that consistent effort, that’s what he’s chosen to do and the best thing for her to do is accept it, maintain integrity and move on. A man is allowed to change his mind, just as a woman is; but of course care has to be taken in how things are done. However (and we’ll touch more on this later) a woman shouldn’t easily allow herself to be in a position where if a man doesn’t ask for more than friendship, then she’ll be crushed. Pain isn’t always avoidable, but we do have a responsibility to guard our hearts as much as we can. Poor guarding of hearts not only causes people to be hurt but friendships and fellowship to be broken. We guard our hearts ultimately to honour the Lord as this is what the Bible teaches we should do. The individual benefits from this, but also the body and community in which they’re a part of.

A Spade Is a Spade, But What’s It For?

spade

If a man is making a consistent effort to connect with a woman, this is a pursuit. It is. The key thing to remember though, is that a relationship is not always the aim of a man’s pursuit. Sometimes a man is pursuing a woman to for example, help her with something. Though this would be an unwise position for him to put himself and even her in, in this example the man’s motive would be good, even though his actions are somewhat inappropriate on the level that they’re on. On the other hand sometimes and sadly, a man can pursue a woman for sinful reasons such as selfish emotional satisfaction, or to fulfil his lusts. These motives, aren’t wise or good but they are a reality in the lives of some men at different points of the lives. Therefore, it’s not just about understanding if a man is pursuing or not, but understanding why.

We’re all going through sanctification, so we all sin and are in need of grace. Men don’t fall outside of this category when it comes to dealing with women. There will be times when even a reputable man errors in his dealings with a woman (whether knowingly or not); so a woman’s default response shouldn’t be to presume him as an unbeliever or being in a ‘backslidden’ state.  Sometimes and this isn’t to trivialise it, it’s sin or error that yes has negative and hurtful effects and things do sometimes need to be addressed with spiritual leaders and other wise counsellors, but it isn’t always a reflection of the man’s entire character. Sometimes it is somewhat of an anomaly of his usual behaviour, a season of weakness or even an area of weakness, but he shouldn’t be cast aside as a heathen. Easier said than done when feeling the wounds of being used or badly handled by a man, but much better done than said. Bitterness is never a good thing or a godly thing.

For this same reason, sometimes the way a man is with a woman is kind of jacked up at first, but it wouldn’t be absurd following proper repentance and remorse, for her to give him another chance. There is no man who can hold up the testimony of how he pursued his wife as a perfect template for all men to follow. All would have fallen short in some way or other, because no matter how mature or how careful he is, he’s still not perfect. A husband can only reflect Christ’s pursuit of the church and not actually mimic it, so he needs to be given the grace to get back up after a fall.

As a man’s pursuit of a woman isn’t restricted to him seeking a relationship with her, this highlights why though males and females can be friends and good ones at that, boundaries have to exist in communication, meet-ups and even physical contact. Confusion or inappropriateness is inevitable where this doesn’t exist. Also there’s a high risk for reputations being damaged as other people observe the activities as ‘odd’, considering the fact that the two are ‘just friends’. We should care what people think because what people think of us will impact our ministry to them and even how they view the God we serve.

Before He Makes Anything Clear

mist

Until a woman knows that a man that she desires is pursuing her for a courtship/relationship, or that he is pursuing a friendship in order to establish if this would be a desire of his, she shouldn’t engage her heart with him. The only way to know his intentions however, is if he tells her. Not his friends or his pastor or anyone else. Simply him telling her for sure and not hinting or implying it. Therefore, until the man himself has told her these things, a woman should either wait whilst seeking the Lord, or seek the Lord and move on. Whatever her choice she should always be alert concerning her heart.

That said, there is a need for a man to not procrastinate in making his intentions known, when he has begun pursuing a woman. The simple reason for this is because it can be a very confusing and uncomfortable season for her to be in for an extended period of time, without knowing why. The loving thing for him to do if he is considering a relationship, would be to make a decision sooner rather than later, to move forward or not and introduce that season by talking to her about it lovingly and honestly. The position men have as leaders doesn’t give them free reign to take as long as they please when pursuing a woman, simply because they please. If he isn’t seeking a relationship but has another reason for pursuing her which he thinks is good, again he should very make that clear to her, so as to avoid her getting the wrong idea or holding out for something which he isn’t even considering. So if a woman finds herself in a position where a man is pursuing her, but hasn’t let her know why, she wouldn’t automatically be impatient or ungracious to no longer entertain his advances.

If a man is considering a relationship with a woman, there’s no rule for him to lay all of his cards on the table on Day 1 or even Day 10. As soon as he becomes interested he doesn’t then have to right away decide what he wants to do about that interest. Though the best thing for him to do whilst deciding, is to not pursue the woman for a relationship until he has decided that he actually wants one with her.

If he decides to pursue a friendship with her to help him decide what he wants, but he isn’t yet ready to talk about what he’s thinking, he should try to make his efforts discrete and blend in as much as possible with the crowd; so as not to draw attention to himself. This way he can obtain the friendship, but do so without causing her to have any further expectations or notice a gap if he were stop. So if a woman realises a man pursuing an exclusive friendship with her, but he has made no expression about why, she would be wise to reign in their communication and meet-ups to a level equal with other friends. This way she avoids perceiving him in an exclusive light but still allows a friendship to form. That said, if he does make it clear to her that he’d like to pursue a friendship with her to see if more could possible come of their relationship, then this is great as now the two of them can offer eachother that exclusivity in friendship, with the security that they both are considering the same thing, but without the pressure of being forced to prematurely decide.

How Long Should The Woman Wait?

waiting

If a man is pursuing a woman and she is interested in him, but he hasn’t yet made his intensions clear, or if they are in an exclusive friendship and he hasn’t yet decided what he wants to do, she is free to wait for however long she wants to. There’s no right or wrong length of time to wait once she knows that she does want to be with him. Rather it’s about her being godly in her motives to wait, as well as wise and loving. What that looks like can vary by circumstance. However, as she waits she should be careful to not ask him to move things forward or even to push him for an answer. She should let him lead the pace and well as the context of their relationship.

A few key questions to consider when waiting:

  • Is the waiting promoting godliness in both parties or is it a well of temptation, anxieties and pain? Even if just for just one person.
  • Is the waiting being done in the eyes of others who not only can, but do hold both people accountable in the situation? Or is she waiting in secret for him to decide?
  • Does she still desire to progress to a relationship with him for the purpose of potential marriage?
  • Does her individual life circumstance allow for her to continue to wait for an unknown amount of time?
  • Is the waiting being done in fear?
  • Is the waiting being done because she refuses to have it any other way?

These questions should be explored with wise counsel as when matters of the heart are involved we can often struggle to make decisions that aren’t wrongly swayed by emotions. Throughout the season of waiting, the woman should soak herself in prayer and the Word. She should regularly put her desires before the Lord (as there’s nothing wrong with asking for desires to be met) and asking Him to guide them both according to His will. The Word will never say “yes, keep waiting for him” or “no, leave that guy alone”. It’ll rather present godly teachings that she can apply to her life and thoughts. Ultimately though, the woman can only ever walk in faith, trusting God to have His way regardless of what she chooses. Believing that His plans cannot be thwarted.

 

“He’s a Godly Man, But Personally…I Don’t Find Him Physically Attractive…Am I Shallow? Should I Just Be With Him?”

Women have been given, by God, all the parts of the mind that cause them to view a man as physically attractive. Attraction is not sinful in and of itself and is actually a tool for the pursuit of marriage.

Attraction is also relative to the one who is being attracted, so though there are many common features of what people generally find attractive, different people have different preferences and therefore will have different opinions.

Finding a man physically attractive is not sinful. Finding someone physically attractive can be the same as considering them to be pleasing to the eye, without being personally drawn to them. This is human nature and real life. If a person has eyes that can see, they are capable of seeing something and someone that they consider to be attractive.

Just as someone is capable of seeing someone that they consider to be attractive, they’re also capable of seeing someone that they consider to not be attractive and this too isn’t sinful. What a person does with their opinion is the key factor and what can cause an opinion to encourage sin or not.

For example, a woman may have a preference for Indian men. There is nothing wrong with her finding the distinct features of Indian men more attractive than those of men of different ethnicities. Now, if this woman uses her preferences to exalt Indian men above other men, as if they were made more superior by God, then this is where her attraction has become stumbling block for her, due to her own sinful desires.

Another example, is if a woman didn’t find men who were shorter than her attractive, as long as she doesn’t use this preference as a reason to devalue or disrespect these men, her preference isn’t leading her to sin and in of itself isn’t sin either. There is nothing wrong with seeing something and not enjoying it as much as someone else would; as long as your difference doesn’t cause you to be sinful or wasn’t motivated by something sinful.

So the Answer to the Question Is….

So then, if a woman doesn’t find a godly man attractive, simply because his appearance isn’t her type, she isn’t shallow. Having a preference automatically means that you will enjoy some things more than others. What would be shallow is considering physical attraction to be all that is important in a relationship. If she doesn’t think this way, then her not finding a particular man attractive is certainly not shallow.

Marriage, is a reflection of Christ and the church. A love story told by illustrating the Gospel, where the lives and bodies of two people who have become one.

True conversion to Christ is done willingly. The person’s desire (though given by God regenerating the heart) is for willingly for Jesus Christ and so they follow Him. No one will go into Heaven with a hidden feeling of resentment in their hearts towards the Lord.

Likewise, no woman should marry a man for whom she does not desire. Desire is attraction and therefore it is possible to know a man is godly, but yet have no desire for him, because you are not attracted to him. This is ok.

Attraction is more than physical appearance; but physical appearance is often part of it and so it is important. The remarkable thing however, is that personality, spirituality and other non-physical attributes have the power to overshadow physical features that a person may not have initially found attractive and later become part of what they do find attractive in the person as a whole.  So then, if even with this possibility, a woman does not find a man attractive, despite the fact that he is a godly man, she shouldn’t ‘just be with him’. She has no desire for him and a godly marriage involves desire on both sides. If she really is going to reflect the Gospel then she should walk in her available freedom to be with a man whom she desires. Godliness doesn’t make every man attractive to every woman.