Also known as: On the heart being stronger and braver than we expect
I was reading some of my recent entries and I had to chuckle at how much I was a mess when I wrote them. I don’t think it’s really obvious except if you knew me personally and you knew the reasons why I wrote those entries back then. It’s just funny how different things are now, and it’s not even that long after. But I guess that’s life.
So I started praying the rosary again. I prayed the rosary everyday last Lent, and then I stopped because Lent was over, but I pray it every now and then, especially when I’m having a hard time staying still. Or when I’m panicking. Especially when I’m panicking. And then some things happened in the past weeks that made me start praying the rosary again every night, and it’s actually nice to take some time off and do that. My concentration is often shot, but the effort is there, and I think that counts. :)
I was praying the rosary last week before I slept, and one of the Luminous Mystery reflections talked about spiritual courage. I offered the mystery for several intentions and I started thinking about what the reflection said about spiritual courage. Then I found myself saying: Lord, teach me how to love and how to be brave.
And then I got the good shivers.
I read this post from Prodigal Magazine a few days ago. I was immediately attracted to the title of the post: “I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago“. I thought it was one of those posts where the author turns things around from the title to make a point, but I was
surprised shocked to read what she wrote about how and why she stopped guarding her heart. It was almost radical, especially since I also grew up in that environment where I was always told to guard my heart. I always thought that I couldn’t trust my heart, because it doesn’t know what it wants. It’s selfish, I thought. It wants what it wants without regard to anyone else, or even God. You must guard it at all times lest you fall to sin, or you get hurt. Then I learned that I can find God’s will deep in my heart, and for me to find it, I have to seek God’s will. That changed my perception of guarding my heart, so while I started to trust my heart a little as I searched for His will, I still guarded my heart — fiercely.
And then I read that blog post, and I was surprised at how much I actually agreed with her.
A part of me wondered first if I am really agreeing with her as an excuse to act the way I want to, to say things I want to say without you know, worrying about my heart. But thinking about the past weeks and months that has gone by, I realized that it’s not just that. I actually, really believed what the blog author said, especially this part:
…you can’t shut down part of your heart and not shut down all of it. You can’t block all the negative emotions and still have enough space for the positive ones. It’s impossible to have a life overflowing with love in all areas when your heart is blocked up with fear and shame.
Thinking about it, I realize that maybe…my idea of guarding my heart is sometimes selfish. I’m guarding my heart because I was told to guard it so I can save myself from pain. Sure, it may be to save my heart for someone, whoever it is in the future. Perfectly valid, right? While I do kind of agree with that, I realize that when I guard my heart, I also tend to stop myself from loving. And not just the romantic love, of course, but all kinds. The premise of guarding your heart lies in the idea that you guard it so you won’t get hurt, so you won’t feel the pain of disappointment, of heartache. So you can spare yourself from it. But because we live in a broken world, living life free from pain or loving without heartache is quite impossible. The more I guard myself, the more I withhold my love from the people that I can and should love because I don’t want to get hurt. I stop myself from receiving the love that they want to give me, too. My idea of guarding my heart is not letting emotions show, not being the first one to make a move, not being the first person to give in and show affection because what if it doesn’t get reciprocated? So I keep everything in check. Guarding your heart is not like closing one door and opening the windows thing where you can still let love out or in, but not let fear or hurt or anger in. Being too guarded shuts you off from all the opportunities that love opens, because you’re afraid to get hurt. You’re afraid that your expectations will not be met, or you will not be able to live up to others’ expectations. And in the process of guarding yourself, you stop all the other good things that come, too.
These realizations got me thinking about all my prayers of guarding my heart. Everyday I pray that God to guard my heart. Every time I feel troubled or when I know I am at the verge of disappointment or hurt, my first prayer is always, always to guard my heart. After reflecting on spiritual courage and reading that post, I find my prayers changing. Instead of simply saying, Lord, guard my heart, I say this instead: Lord, please guard my heart from the things that would steal Your peace and my love and my trust in You. The Bible did say that we should guard our hearts, but I don’t think it meant guarding our hearts from giving love or receiving love, but guarding ourselves from the things that would stop us from giving and receiving love.
I wrote this line in my journal last year: Fight for your heart, because the world has nothing against the strength that the heart can wield. The world lies. But the heart is stronger. I have learned in the past months that my heart is stronger than I thought it is, that its capacity to give and receive love is huge and can still grow. Getting hurt and disappointed is a reality, but it shouldn’t make me curl into myself and guard my heart from all the badness of the world. Instead, I have believe that love will also be able to heal from that. Because that’s what love does, right?
My heart is braver and stronger than I know. If I let it, it might even surprise me sometimes. I love what one of my favorite bloggers said: The heart is not made of glass. The heart is a damn diamond.
So my prayer remains: Lord, open my heart so I can be brave enough to love and receive love, and guard my heart from the things that will keep me away from You.
Here’s to our brave hearts. :)
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin 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. (The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)