Guard your heart. Guard your heart. And guard your heart some more. For as long as I can remember this has been the Catholic cliché when it comes to dating. “I want to guard her heart… I want to guard his heart… Let’s all guard our hearts!” Yeah. Until they’re walled by stone.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in boundaries, abstinence and in what we are now referring to as “emotional chastity.” And to some degree, we must absolutely guard our hearts, and prudence must always be our guide. But in my observation our generation has tended toward two extremes in the areas of love and romance: one, as we often see in the media and secular society surrounding us, the way of sleeping around, infidelity and tossing your heart loosely about. We all know this is not the road that leads to lasting love, joy or freedom.
But in reaction to this, I believe many Christians, striving to live virtuous lives opposed to the culture around us, have run to the other extreme: we’ve gone into hiding, terrified of making any mistake, refusing to take one risk, and as a result, we have fled intimacy. We’re not dating, not getting to know one another, and we are stuck. Frozen in the single life. Guarding our hearts.
When I was 13, influenced by the popular work of Joshua Harris, I myself “kissed dating goodbye.” I vowed to put walls around my heart and only date and fall in love with the man I was going to marry. There was just one slight problem. How was I ever to know if a man was the right spouse for me if I didn’t take the risk of spending time with him, being transparent with him, and gradually opening my heart to him? If I didn’t date him? This risk is a process we must undergo—and a messy one at that—if we are ever going to know the glory of walking down the aisle.
Intimacy is both joyful and uncomfortable. It’s our deepest desire to be one with another, to have someone see, know and embrace all of us—our beauty as well as brokenness—and yet, it’s our greatest fear precisely because of its risks. But let’s not forget that the cross and the resurrection are one reality. You can’t really know one without the other. And we will not know the joy of intimacy, love and marriage without pushing past the discomfort and fear of the risks they involve. The risks many of us are currently fleeing.
We can’t fall in love if we never jump. So while we’re guarding our hearts on the path to finding the love we are called to live, let’s also not be afraid to risk our hearts… just a little.