What I Learned First
I was 12 years old when a friend walked with me around the corner of our neighborhood, and I first learned about sex. In the months to come, I heard about “bases,” “boundaries,” and the dangers of a bedroom door being closed. I grew up around believers and nonbelievers who all spoke reverently about the physical relationship available between two people.
But I was 22 years old by the time a friend sat me down in her living room, passed me squares of toilet paper to blow my nose into, and I first learned about emotional intimacy. A boy I’d gone out with a few times long-distance had just broken my heart.
“I don’t understand,” I cried, tearing the toilet paper apart. “He wasn’t my boyfriend. Why do I feel so betrayed?”
My friend reached over sympathetically. “Because you gave him your heart.”
Every late-night phone call, Facetime, and text message hit me like a sucker punch, reminding me of the dreams I shared. He joked about marriage and applied to jobs near me, but I handed him my heart’s secrets like they were a plastic silverware.
It is of no surprise that the West is obsessed with sex. The entertainment business is drunk on it, romance literature now reads like erotica, and if we want to croon to a clean love song, you might have to rely on Frank Sinatra.
Interestingly enough, the West also recognizes that deep connection is not established solely on touch. Human beings have a deep desire to know and be known—something intentionally created by God. (Read any Psalm that cries out for His affection).
We celebrate emotional intimacy in close friendships and long-lasting marriages, but we can forget its heavy influence on dating. Our culture is so prioritized with sex that the church has focused its efforts on killing the lies the enemy has orchestrated. When I first entered the dating world, my friends and spiritual mentors went out of their way to counsel me in guarding my body.
No one ever said anything about guarding my heart.
Guard Your Heart
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT). I’ve heard this verse a thousand times and feel that I only understand it most recently.
I have a brown, leather purse I am fiercely protective of in public. It contains my wallet, my car keys, my iPhone, and to-do lists. When I go to a restaurant, I position it by my feet. When I’m in my classroom, I stuff it under my desk. But at home, with my roommates, I often forget where I’ve placed it. If one of us is picking up takeout, I might holler down the stairs, “Just take my Visa. Purse is somewhere in the kitchen!”
If we are conscientious with whom we share the numbers punched on our credit cards, how much more vigilant should we be with the valuables tattooed on our hearts?
The Heart’s Value
Our relationship with the Lord is so intimate because He has unlimited access to our emotions and desires. Another Christian favorite is 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” (ESV). Our Father God knows us so well because He cuts through all defenses and sees our hearts for their truest, most-exposed essence.
This is a beautiful aspect of relationships that we should emulate here on earth. Vulnerability, honesty, accountability— these are all good things. These connections help analyze the soul’s condition. But just like we put up boundaries in dating to protect the sanctity of sex, we must be intentional with setting parameters around the heart.
Above All Else
There is a difference between high-fiving and hand holding. There is a difference between embracing a guy friend and snuggling with him on the couch. In the same way, there is a difference between asking a classmate about his weekend plans and listening to a fiancé unveil his childhood trauma.
At first, this may seem obvious; we build to that level of connection. I mean, I’ve never been on a ski lift and had a stranger ask me about my grandmother’s cancer. But in the same way, one touch can lead to more in a heat of passion, so can our conversations progress beyond our primary expectations in a moment of connection.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT).
Brothers and sisters, our hearts are worthy of such protection— no matter how flattering a tell-me-more text may be.
Featured Image by Johannes Plenio