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.
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.
“So 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.
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
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.