Cindy, over at The Veil of Chastity, has been posting some great stuff about Fantasy Relationships and Emotional Chastity. Her posts got me thinking, What about guarding our hearts when we are IN relationships? I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’ve gotten much better and guarding my heart when I’m single. It has taken time and crushes laughing in my face, but by and large I’m not one to get lost in the “Hey, I just met you…so let’s get married” phenomenon. But what happens when a good, beautiful, and true relationship comes along? How do we guard our hearts then, and is it necessary?
In one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written, I talk about the necessity of guarding our hearts. Even scarier, perhaps, is to pray for that certain someone in our lives, “Lord, guard ______’s heart with Your jealous love. Forbid me entry unless You will it. You know my intentions, if they are anything less than pure and holy, bar the gates of their heart, permit me not to enter. Wrap Your loving arms around their heart, creating an impenetrable fortress. Keep their heart safe and free from harm all their days. AMEN.” Certainly, praying that prayer, even when you are in a relationship, can be helpful and keep us focused on God’s will for our relationship, but isn’t there more to guarding our hearts?
Allow me to tell you a couple of stories…
There once was a girl, fresh out of college, who met a young Catholic guy and they began dating. It didn’t take all that long for talk of marriage to come up, to the point that the guy said, “If we are together a year from now, we will be engaged. I can see it!” The relationship progressed and just a few weeks before their anniversary the guy confessed, “I’m not in love with you…and I never have been.” Was the girl crushed? Of course! She believed him when he told her about the life they would have together, and she believed it when he told her that he loved her. Needless to say, the relationship ended in tears and broken hearts.
There once was a guy who had been away from the faith, but through a series of events he found himself back home in the Church…and quite smitten on a sweet gal. He began to pursue her and the two of them entered a relationship. It seemed that almost everyone around them believed that their love story was the stuff that fairy-tales are made of. The guy told the gal how he’d had visions of their wedding and engagement while he was praying. The couple began to plot out their life together, wedding day extravaganzas, apartment homes, little children running around, and the adventures they’d have together. Life seemed to be headed in the right direction…until one day the guy said, “I just don’t think you are my soulmate anymore. This isn’t going to work.” Again with the crushed heart, tears, and a relationship gone by. Promises were broken along with hearts.
I’m not at all saying that we have to guard our hearts and never let anyone in, but the rate at which we divulge our deep dark secrets should match the pace of the relationship. Guarding out hearts while single is necessary, but so is guarding our hearts in relationships. It is easy to think that once we meet someone wonderful and caring we don’t have to be on guard. It is even easier when someone makes promises or plans for the life the couple will have together. We can let our walls down and let that person in. While letting our walls down is part of a relationship and getting to know someone, the degree to which we let those walls down without any actual commitment is where the concept of guarding our hearts comes in. If we blurt out our whole history (including our less-than-perfect moments) on the first date, then we fail to guard our hearts. Letting someone into our hearts in such an intimate way comes with time and is something to be earned. Just as we wait for our wedding night to share our bodies and our deepest selves with our spouse, so too we wait to share our hearts fully and completely with someone. Talk of the future and making plans together is cheap and easy, but real commitment, and actions that match those words, is where the real work begins.
In each of those stories the relationship began to change when the couple (and probably more so the girl than the guy) got carried away with thoughts of the future and planning out a life together. While talking and dreaming about the future is normal, we shouldn’t get so carried away with thoughts of the future that we miss out on the present. Both couples, in some sense, became so focused on their futures together that they became complacent in the present. They didn’t foster a relationship in the here and now and stopped paying attention to what was before them. Eventually they realized that even though their future relationship was wonderful, they had nothing left, no foundation before them in the present.
How do we guard our hearts once we are in a relationship? I’ll be honest, there is no hard and fast rule. When you are in a relationship, it has a natural goal of marriage and discerning a life together. To ignore that is to miss the point of dating and relationships entirely. However, we guard our hearts by praying about the future and discerning God’s will for our relationship. If we find ourselves getting lost in daydreams about walking down the aisle, buying houses and filling them with babies, but there is no ring on our finger, then we stop and give those daydreams to God. God, this is a beautiful daydream. If it is your will, make it happen. If not, then set me on Your path for my life. If we find ourselves having a conversation with our significant other and we are caught up in the fairy-tale side of the romance, we stop and pray together for God to guard our hearts. We trust the Lord to lead us and to show us the proper time (HIS time) to reveal and share our hearts with each other. We ask Him to open our eyes to see whatever it is that He needs us to see, whether it is a life with the other person or not. By staying close to God through prayer, both individually and as a couple, we open ourselves more fully to His will (not our own!) for our lives, thus guarding our hearts even when we find that certain someone ;-)