myreasontosing asked: This summer I met a wonderful man. He recently asked me, “Do you struggle with boys?” and of course I talked about how badly I want a boyfriend/fiancé/husband, how my greatest fear is not getting married, and how I’ve only had one boyfriend. He said he wanted marriage soon (he’s 22, I’m 21, both seniors in college). And now I’m a hot mess because I like him a LOT and he’s the kind of man that I want to marry someday, and he just confuses me - I can’t read him. He doesn’t particularly act like he likes me romantically (he doesn’t flirt, he calls me “sister” all the time, and he sometimes takes over a week to respond to my emails). I know I’m supposed to “guard my heart,” but what does that even mean anyway? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: Well, the phrase “guard your heart” comes from Proverbs 4:23, and from the surrounding verses, we see that it refers to listening to good wisdom, and protecting yourself from bad advice. Which is ironic, because some Christians have stretched the meaning of that verse to mean that you should protect yourself from having too deep of a romantic feeling for someone. Which is, in itself, bad advice.
Today, when we refer to the heart verses the head, we mean the seat of our emotions verses the seat of logic and thought. But in Biblical times, they thought you did your thinking with your heart. (Aristotle famously thought the brain served the function of cooling the blood.) So when you read about guarding your “heart”, be aware that the Hebrew word used there, “labe”, is translated 36 times elsewhere in the Bible as “mind”.
All that to say, it’s not really talking about romance.
The kind of man you want to marry some day should be very clear on what he needs to be careful about in relationships, and what he should be wild and crazy and passionate about in relationships.
He should flirt with you, he should see you as way more than a “sister”, he should respond to emails in a timely fashion. He should also be making love song mixtapes, he should be buying flowers, he should be telling you how beautiful you are, and he should be telling you all the ways that you drive him crazy.
In short, he would not be cautious about romance (how would you really do that anyway?), and he would be clear on the fact that love is the one thing in the world you don’t need to guard your heart against. Sure, you can end up getting hurt and rejected, but there’s no avoiding that, there is no way to have healthy dating relationships while preventing yourself from loving someone.
A wise man of God isn’t trying to be careful about love and romance, and passion, but he IS always working on being careful about these things:
- Sex. God should have a direct say in how far is too far. Then both people in the relationship set up smart boundaries that keep them from going too far. You should learn about being careful about how much time you spend alone, knowing exactly what to do when things get overheated, and how do seek more wisdom instead of wallowing in guilt and superstitious fear when you’ve gone a little farther than you were supposed to.
- The relationship. For sure relationships can get too serious too fast, commitments can be made before they’re really prayed through. And there can be a million bad little ideas choking out an otherwise good relationship between two good people. You should carefully consider anything that can improve empathy, communication, and teamwork.
- Fear of loneliness. In an internet-connected age where meeting people who share your faith and your interests has never been easier, it makes no sense to fear being alone. If you’re working a “system” of handling romance and dating, and that system is resulting in you rarely meeting anyone, and rarely getting into any relationships when you do, then you might ask if your system is really from God or not. Either way, fear of loneliness is the worst reason to be in a relationship, bar none.
Just as the man in your life needs to be careful about these things, but not romantic things, you need to ask yourself if you are being overly careful (or chicken) about expressing your romantic feelings. That might sound something like this:
“I think I deserve to be with a man who is romantic, and passionate, who makes me feel like a woman. I think there should be flowers and chocolates and we should have a nice slow dance to an old romantic song. I deserve to be with someone who is crazy about me and isn’t afraid to feel it, and isn’t afraid to show it. I’m just wondering if you’re that kind of man.”
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