Dear Single Girl,
You're familiar with Proverbs 4:23 aren't you? You know the one, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." OK, so maybe, like me, you're OVERLY familiar with it. If you were raised in a Christian home, spent any period of time faithfully attending church, or were involved in a women's Bible study at some point in your life, you probably were told to guard your heart. For someone like me, someone prone to anxiety and fear, the advice to hunker down and protect was more than welcomed. I took it as an excuse to build up PLENTY of walls around my heart to keep myself safe, to keep my heart from being broken. When someone said, "guard your heart", I heard "you can't trust God with your longing in this area". So up went the walls. Because I couldn't trust Him to fulfill a longing He gave me, I did a lot of protecting and very little preparing.
The truth was, I had already developed a very real longing for a lasting relationship, for marriage, for a husband, for a love story, for a family, and all the protecting in the world couldn't kill that longing. I know why now, I see it clear as day NOW, but I couldn't then. I almost protected my heart to its' death. I couldn't trust that He had good things in store for me. I pushed those longing as far away as I could. I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T. My themesong. I could do it alone and I would do it alone. So, I went about life, not trusting in God, preparing for a life of singleness, that I did not want.
SPOILER ALERT: I'm not alone. Not in the least. God knew who Matthew was the whole time. He knew why it was good for us to find each other and commit to marriage together. Even when I wasn't trusting Him, He was still being faithful to me. Tears come to my eyes just thinking about that!! The truth is, the many different longings God puts in our hearts are 100% on purpose. The lessons they teach us are two fold: We cling to Him in our unmet longings and we glorify Him in our met longings. Either way, met or unmet, He is faithful. Isn't it obvious? I wish I would have realized that earlier. Why? Because I wasted lots of time PROTECTING my heart when I could've been, and should've been, PREPARING my heart.
So the advice I give you, dear single friend, is to trust God, fully, with all of your longings. Trust that He is good, that His plan for you is good, and that He will 100% fulfill the longings He has created in your heart.
Matthew and I recently bought ourselves ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bibles and mine has been a GREAT help to me ever since. I looked up Proverbs 4:23 to see what the notes were and WOW, what clarity it gave me. Let me start off by sharing with you a major vocab difference in the ESV version of this verse. Instead of using the verb "guard", the ESV uses the phrase "keep your heart with all vigilance". What a difference that makes in my brain! Before I expound, listen to what the commentator had to say about verses 20-23:
The commands in v.20-21 all encourage internalizing wisdom. Heart in Proverbs regularly refers to the center of one's inner life and orientation to God, from which a person does all the thinking, feeling, and choosing. Taking words of wisdom to the heart is vital (they are life, v.22) and wisdom's presence in the heart is worth guarding because out of the heart flow all the thoughts and words and choices of a person's life (from it flow the springs of live, v.23).
To me, the notes on this verse paired with the different use of vocabulary, help me see its' true meaning:
We are not to lock our hearts up like they are the bad guys out to hurt us, we are to feed our hearts with the wisdom God's Word provides, so that we are prepared for the life He calls us to.
Read that sentence again.
How do we feed and prepare our hearts? By turning to His Word. It's all there! Paul gives us more than enough direction about how to make the most of our singleness and of our marriages (Ephesians 5; 1 Corinthians 7; Colossians 3; Hebrews 13). Those references are just a start. The food for our starving hearts is there! We just have to do the work of harvesting it. This is what I was NOT doing as a single woman that I so wish I had. This is why I write to you now. The use of the word "guard" and my refusal to trust God with my longings led me to protect my heart, as I said, almost to its' death.
Y'all know how much I love CS Lewis. In fact, my whole blog could just be posts saying, "I wanted to write about (fill in the blank), but Lewis said it so much better so just go read his book (fill in the blank)". However, that wouldn't make for a very relatable blog, so I share my own heart and my own words instead. Anyway, as I wrote this letter to you, I thought of these poignant words Lewis penned in his book, The Four Loves:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love, is to be vulnerable."
Oh friends, how sad it makes me to think of what state my heart was in when I held it prisoner. What damage I did. Yes, God is faithful through my failure and He has redeemed me, but I am learning many hard lessons now as a married woman that I may have learned earlier if I had better understood the direction in this verse. Had I spent more time PREPARING instead of PROTECTING, I would have saved Matthew and I some pain. I am using many resources now to undo some of the bad theology that make up my walls. I am just now learning what it looks like to be a the wife that Christ has called me to be, when I should have been preparing for that all along.
You can start NOW. You can begin the hard process of handing over your longings to God, trusting Him to meet them, and tearing down your walls. Am I promising that your husband is just around the corner? No. Honestly, I am not promising he exists. God does not promise to meet our every desire just as we wish He would, but He does promise to meet them. (Side Note: I do believe that singleness is a gift and if you have that gift, you know it, and if you don't know, you probably don't have it. Matt Chandler speaks more on this here.)
Start filling your heart with real wisdom. Not the so called wisdom from Cosmo, or your horoscope, or Oprah, or even your friends, no matter how genuine their intentions are. Take yourself to His word, pray that the Holy Spirit unpacks it for you, and fill your heart with the only wisdom that really matters. Be smart about dating, you won't have to barricade your heart against the world if you follow the guidelines you find in The Word.
Friends, I would LOVE to talk about this over coffee with you. I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does and I can talk to you about Him, about your heart, about my heart, about boys, about whatever you want to talk about. Why do I care so much? Well, that's a different post for a different day, but the short of it is that one of the longings Christ has planted in my heart is to help women through life as I have been helped. I have absolutely not gotten through it alone. If He can use me and my story to shine His light in any way, I want Him to do so. And, I'm not so far removed from singleness! I didn't date seriously till after college and I didn't get married until I was 27 (did I mention all those BIG walls?)! So I can relate to you. Truly.
Dear single girl, it is my prayer that you trust God with your longings, that you seek His wisdom, and that you are brave enough to be vulnerable in love.
Loving you dearly,
Here are my favorite relationship resources:
A Beautiful Design a sermon series from The Village Church in Texas (start with the sermon "In the Beginning" at the bottom of the page then work your way back up the page)
One a sermon series from Grace Church in Greenville, SC
The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood a sermon from John Piper
50 Crucial Questions by John Piper and Wayne Grudem
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Lehman
The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler