"At one time or another, we've all been hurt in love relationships. But if we cease to exercise our hearts by loving God and loving others, getting involved and taking risks, our hearts will become diseased and hardened." -Beth Moore
Tonight, this quote by Beth Moore has me thinking. We have all been hurt.. whether by a friend, parent, child, or significant other. When we open our hearts to love, we open it to a lot of other things as well - the risk of hurt, pain, and loss. When we allow another person to enter into our lives, we run the risk of losing them. And the closer they get and the more they know about us and our hurts and struggles and secrets and heart, the more vulnerable we are and the deeper the cut will be if they should decide to leave or if the Lord should suddenly allow them to be taken away.
By all means, then, we must guard our hearts. Barricade them with high, steel walls that nothing can penetrate. Surround them with the rocks of cynicism, sarcasm, and stubbornness. Never allow anyone through, never let anyone see past, never let anyone step foot within a hundred feet of the walls.
We can easily justify these walls with the idea of "guarding our hearts." Yes, the Lord does command us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). This idea of "guarding your heart" refers to every area of our lives - what we allow to flow into it from media, from sources of entertainment, from conversations, from friends. "For from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23). May we keep our hearts pure for this very reason. May we do all that we can to keep our hearts pure before our holy God. With all vigilance, may we guard our hearts from all that is unclean and impure. In that sense, by all means let's guard our hearts. We are commanded to do so. No less is expected of us. "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
The question that is piercing my heart tonight, convicting and challenging me, is what have I found so selfless about guarding my heart from love and loving others? What have I found so valiant, so courageous, so heroic about hiding behind the barricade I have so carefully surrounded my heart with? What good do I see in the cynicism, in the sarcasm, in the stubbornness that have sometimes become my "cop-out" from facing what is behind the walls, underneath the rubbish, hidden deep within my heart? Is it not a selfish thing to guard my heart from loving others?
Yes, it is a risk to love. I am not even solely talking about the love that is found between a couple, although that is part of it. I am talking about the risk that it is to love the little girl who is a challenge to work with, the teenager who cuts you deep with his harsh words against you, the old person who has stubbornly decided their own way. What about the outcasts in society, or the AIDS orphans that no one else wants to hold, or the employee that everyone constantly complains about and no one likes? Or the parents who you never see and who have done nothing but hurt you all of your life? What about the church member who sits in the back of the building every week as an outcast because of the smell of smoke and alcohol that often permeate from her?
Church, are we loving? Love is a verb. Are we loving those around us? Do we risk our own hurt and pain in order to love others? Why? Why would we ever risk our own hurt and pain to love those around us who do not deserve any love at all? I guess a better question would be, why did Christ risk His own hurt and pain and suffering to love us, who do not deserve any love at all? We are to love as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35) and that means unconditionally, without reserve, without favoritism, and without looking to our own needs and interests before the needs and interests of others. It's what He did for me and for you, and that is why we have no reason - no excuse whatsoever - to not do the same. We will love imperfectly, yes, but we must still love. For it is through our imperfections that the Lord's glory shines (2 Corinthians 12:9). And it is for His glory that we live and love.
So as for guarding my heart, yes, I will guard my heart with all vigilance. With all of my ability, I will do my part to keep my heart guarded from all that is impure and unclean. But I will not tolerate these walls any longer. These walls are my enemy, dressed as my friend. They are keeping my heart safe from hurt and pain and suffering and the admittance of all of these things in my life. They are keeping me safe from the risk of loss. Yet they are paralyzing me in my ability to love. Behind these walls, I cannot love. These walls may help me to look perfect, spiritual, cleaned up, and pure. Yet they are only there so that no one can see what lies behind them... the coward who refuses to love out of fear of rejection, of pain, of loss. What selfishness. What joy we often forfeit all because we do not know the reward of loving others the way that the Lord has loved us - unconditionally, undeservingly, unwaveringly. The Lord has placed those whom He has placed in my life to love, in the truest meaning of the word. This means that I will love my parents, I will love my brother and my sister and my friends and my boyfriend and my co-workers.
Will I get hurt? Yes, because no one is perfect and therefore no one loves perfectly. In my vulnerability, do I run the risk of rejection and pain? No doubt. Yet Christ, naked and broken and bleeding on the cross, is a picture of the most vulnerable love has ever been. And that love was for me and for you, and therefore I have no excuse to love any less than He has shown His love to me.
Let's love, Church. Let's break down these walls and allow ourselves to love as Christ has first loved us.