Is Guarding Your Heart for Girls?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”- Proverbs 4:23 (NIV 1984)

As a single woman, I recently reflected on this verse which I have often heard used in the context of dating relationships. It is usually addressed to young women in purity talks as a kind of feminine counterpart to telling young men to guard their eyes.

However, Solomon wrote this passage, not to women, but specifically to his son. Maybe we need to look at this passage a little closer before applying it to modern situations. In the ancient Hebrew context, the heart was not just the seat of emotions, it was the very being of a person, the source of emotion, will, character, etc. Solomon says that the instruction to guard your heart is “above all else”. This is not a gentle encouragement to be careful about emotional intimacy; this is a vital command. How can we effectively guard our heart (being)?

Wisdom– Looking at the context, Solomon is talking about the importance of wisdom. He also gives specific instructions to his son for avoiding what is evil and doing what is good. Following these wise instructions will protect us. Note that in other passages in Proverbs (7:25 and 23:26), the son is warned not to let his heart be inclined toward an adulteress. This is technically a relationship, but I do not think Solomon is forbidding his son from feeling affection for a woman. He clearly wants him to stand firm against temptation (sexual temptation being a good example because it is so powerful).

Armor– I have recently been studying the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6. Which part of the armor covers the heart (your being)? The breastplate of righteousness. Doing what is right will guard our character and our conscience. How can we do what is right and keep a pure heart? By guarding it according to the Word of God (Psalm 119). Notice again the imagery of guarding or protecting. We can only effectively guard something when we are alert to what is attacking it. Ephesians tells us we are fighting against (and guarding against) the spiritual forces of evil. Be prepared!

Prayer– Philippians 4:7 tells us that when we pray, the peace of God will guard our hearts (and minds). We can seek God’s help in living a pure life.  We can pray for wisdom, we can pray for a better understanding of the Word and the battle we are facing, and we can pray for spiritual protection.

Repentance– Even when we have not kept a good guard up, and the enemy has broken in, God is able to restore our hearts.  After David committed adultery and murder, he wrote Psalm 51 and prays to God to give him a clean heart. We know God answered this prayer and David was still called a man after God’s own heart.

As a single woman, I do want to guard my heart, not against emotional attachment, but against sin. (And yes, for those considering the typical interpretation of this passage, I do see the wisdom in being careful in intimacy and I do want to have self-control over my emotions. I simply do not want to limit the passage.) I definitely want the men around me to be guarding their hearts. I want it to be said of the man I marry “young man, … you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:14) Stand strong, brothers and sisters in Christ. Put a vigilant guard over your heart, that the enemy cannot sneak in and destroy you.

 

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

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In Which I Use Bad Words and Am Almost a Feminist

There are many wonderful words and phrases in the English language, including slang words and expressions which are still evolving and adapting with time even as we speak (pun intended =). Even though I teach grammar and I love studying much older forms of English literature, I get that language is evolving and that meanings and connotations of words can change over time. For example, to us the word “fond” means “affectionate”. It used to mean “foolish”. To be fond of someone was to be affectionate to the point of foolishness. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fond Now, I like knowing the history of the word and it helps me understand older texts, but I am going to use the modern understanding in daily conversation (most of the time ;).

However, the modern usage of one word in particular really grates on me and I especially cringe when I hear it used to apply to brothers in Christ. I do not know how many times I have heard people joking around or complementing each other in a fond way and say, “You are such a stud” or “That boy is such a stud”. Because I went to a Christian college, most of the times I heard it used was when Christians were referring to other Christians. Have you stopped to think about what that means? The slang term refers to a man who is very sexually active and promiscuous. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stud Do you really want to describe your Christian brother, boyfriend, or friend as being very sexually active? Now this is probably about when you are thinking, “Wait, you just admitted that meanings and connotations of words evolve. So, calling them a stud really just means I think they are cool or attractive.” Well, in a way, that is true. Urban Dictionary has mixed results with some definitions specifying sexual activity and some based more on the “cool” factor. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Stud And yeah, there is some language in that link if you choose to follow it.

But here is what really infuriates me, the double standard. Think about it. A stud is defined as a guy who sleeps around, but if you take that part out of the definition, what connotations are left? He is also considered attractive, charismatic, handsome, datable, popular, etc. with possibly a slight negative connotation of not being very smart. What would people call a girl who sleeps around? … A slut. What if someone called your sister, girlfriend, or friend a slut? If you confronted them and they said they don’t really think the girl in question sleeps around, but were referring to her overall personality, would you be appeased and let it go? If you take away that main part of the definition, what subtle meanings or connotations are left? The person is saying the girl is immoral, unfaithful, trashy, cheap, desperate, and with low standards. I don’t even want to include the link to that Urban Dictionary definition. In short, the word defining a sexually active man has several positive connotations, implying it is okay and even good for men to be sexually promiscuous while the connotations for the word defining a sexually active female imply that it is wrong and shameful for a woman to be sexually active. No matter what your view on sexual behavior is, you have to acknowledge that this is a double standard. Unfortunately, our words are indicative of what our culture feels or thinks way down deep, even if they would not express it openly or in more blunt terms. I would urge you to consider this degrading double standard and not perpetuate it by the flippant use of words.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/12608598@N02/8681213555″>NYC Subway Shoes</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;