Lessons from Bryan – Part II

Wall of Thorns“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Christian colloquialisms come and go all the time. Remember WWJD? And the “Relationship, Not Religion” movement? Anyone who has been in a youth group or gone on a Singles’ Retreat in the past decade has probably heard about the importance of Guarding Your Heart. But what does this even mean?

Don’t get me wrong. As a Vulcan-like INTJ who has been wounded and rejected more than I care to remember, I’m all about guarding my heart. Especially if that means not letting people in, not really caring about people and generally being a hermit with barriers so thick and vicious, they put Maleficent’s wall of thorns to shame. I’m all about emotional walls. And physical walls. And avoiding human interaction as much as possible.

Only, I’m pretty sure that’s not what God had in mind with this whole guard your heart thing. A lot of Christians define guarding your heart as being slow to emotionally invest in relationships (particularly romantic relationships) until you know the person really well, some level of commitment has been established, etc. It can be interpreted as suppressing emotions so that one doesn’t get swept away by feelings, which come and go and change. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9) – so don’t trust it. Trust your brain; reason; logic.

Again, as an INTJ, I’m all about discarding my feelings and relying on my mind, especially since I’ve been hurt. But Bryan has been challenging me on this. He recently asked me, “Did Jesus guard his heart in the way you describe it?”

No. No, he didn’t. 

Jesus loved unconditionally. Unreservedly. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes – the perceived scum of society – even though they could offer him nothing in return and rather, this action put him at odds with the influential Pharisees. Jesus healed a group of ten lepers, knowing that only one would even come back to thank him. He invested time and energy and his legacy to a group of disciples who would betray him, abandon him, misunderstand him and deny ever knowing him. Was Jesus foolish and unwise? No, he is omniscient. But he chose to love and serve the unlovely and ungrateful not because of what it would do for him, but because of Who He Is. Because love is the better way.

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul prayed for the church at Philippi, “that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may discern the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10).

When we talk about the intensity of love, we tend to contrast it with intellect; it’s just crazy, indescribable emotions. But this is a naive perspective. Knowledge fuels the affections. Love seeks increased knowledge of the beloved. And Paul prayed that the Philippians would have an informed love – love that would abound more and more with knowledge.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. God wants to simultaneously appeal to our intellect and to engage our emotions. God cares about what we do, based on how we feel. God cares about the motivation behind our actions. Some people would say that love is a verb; love is actions. But these actions are not love; they are simply vehicles through which love is expressed. Love is the motive behind what we do. And the motive matters. Imagine a husband who is faithful out of duty, versus a husband who is faithful out of a passionate love for his wife. This is the difference between suppressing our emotions and engaging them.

So how do we reconcile guarding our hearts and loving unreservedly? In the original Hebrew, the word used for heart (leb – לֵב) actually meant the seat of decision making. This word for heart encompasses all of the inner man: the mind, the will, and the heart. So we are called to love, but to engage in an informed love; to engage our emotions in living out a love that abounds more and more with knowledge.

“I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions… We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue… We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries, and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.” -Jamie Tworkowski

Authentically Aurora

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5 thoughts on “Lessons from Bryan – Part II

  1. Ah beautiful! I don’t understand this whole “guard your heart thing.” I really believe we are called to love, and love can be very painful. Opening your heart up, being vulnerable, is likely to hurt at some point. They like to say, “it’s better to have loved and lost the never to have loved at all.”

    Also our brains, reason, logic, can be quite deceitful. I think it’s a real misnomer to tell people to do the exact opposite of what they feel or that their heart will lead them astray. Computers have no hearts, no feelings, but that doesn’t make them more moral than humans. Reason devoid of empathy can be a bit scary.

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  2. Wow! Another post that I can relate to totally! I am exactly like you! I am friends with many Christians but also secular people who for example, Drink alcohol excessively, do drugs, swear a lot, or do other promiscuous things. I don’t do those things and I never plan on doing those things. I knew people would immediately blame my not-doing those things on my faith but in everything like that, I’ve come up with logical reasons why not to do those things – such as health problems.

    I just hope to be a witness by how I live for those people. Most of the time, I first think of a situation logically with my brain first and it usually agrees with my heart. Some of them have have already told me that they don’t want to hear about my faith and I’ve told them that I won’t do any of those things. Most of them don’t understand why I don’t have “fun” and do those things but they respect my opinion…or at least, they don’t try to force me to do anything. Although, if I think about it, you can’t force me to do anything. As you can imagine, peer pressure doesn’t work on me. 😛

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    • Hey Steve, thanks for your continued readership. 🙂 I’m glad you are firm in your faith and are not easily swayed by peer pressure. You remind me of a younger version of myself. With that said… a bit of guidance from your Future Self (things I wish someone had told this INTJ in my high school years)! 😉

      You consider yourself more mature than most of your peers, and you pride yourself on your purity and righteousness. You think of yourself as above engaging in the sinful behavior of your peers, and one of the things you admire about yourself is your strength to stand up against any potential taunts, persecution or pressure from your peers because you are so firm in your faith.

      All of those things can be good, BUT – as someone who has lived that life – be careful not to fall into patterns of legalism and self-righteousness. Drugs, alcohol and sex aren’t the only sinful behavior. Pride is potentially even more damaging. Jesus was compassionate toward the prostitute but frustrated with the Pharisees. Although I’m sure you know you are saved by grace through faith and not by works of your own, it can be easy to begin to subconsciously believe that you are earning your salvation or at least earning God’s approval of you.

      The best way to win your friends to Christ isn’t to be “above” them or call them out on their sinfulness. It’s to love them unconditionally right where they are, even in their rebellion stemming from their insecurities. After all, we can’t hold people to a standard that they don’t believe in! Hope you find this helpful. God’s got some pretty awesome plans for you!

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      • Well, Duh! How can I not love your posts…I’m honestly very addicted to your writing! 🙂 I hope you don’t me commenting on pretty much all of your posts but my minds just starts to turn and I think of myself when I read your posts. I love when you answer me and, hey, maybe when we both go to Heaven, we can talk a lot more! In Heaven, I plan on talking to many people because I think it would be really cool to learn about other people and how they became a Christian and how they dealt with problems. Note: If you do want to talk to me in Heaven, I’ll be at Jesus’s side, which I’m sure you will be as well 😉 I think their will be a line of people that want to talk to him but I’ve got all eternity to talk to Him and people 😛

        Yes, those are insightful thoughts from my older self and you’re exactly right. I gotta ask you, how old are you and if you don’t wanna say, that’s fine as well. My pride can sometimes get me into trouble. Sometimes I just feel like I got to share all of my solutions to problems and wisdom that I’ve learned because I’m proud that I finally learned that lesson or something like that. I get excited and want others to hear!

        I gave up on works a long time ago. I know I’m not perfect just I don’t do those things because of logical reasons in my opinion. I know, I’m sometimes very dark and maybe I haven’t committed murder but I’ve done some things in the past that makes me extremely guilty and I can’t shake the feeling. If there’s one thing that I’m mad at God at is that he gets to forget my sins but I can’t. I know a lot of people say that INTJ personalities have Asperger’s syndrome and I think I have it in my thoughts. I’ve learned to shut my mouth most of the time but I have many thoughts that just come flying in my mind.

        I have a very close friend who’s an INTJ and who’s not a Christian. She has a lot of pain and anger. We respect each other and I don’t force Christianity on her but we actually do talk about some of those deep topics. One thing I do know is that I can’t make any INTJ believe anything. I’m thinking of myself so all I do is slightly give her information to think about, which is information that is processing in her brain. She also said some very mean things to me at one time and she doesn’t exactly believe in forgiveness but I forgave her. I think that made a profound impact on her.

        Again, if you don’t want me constantly commenting on your posts, please tell me!

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