Who are you hiding from?
Friends, family, yourself, God, nobody, everybody? I have a tendency to hide from everything and everybody. It’s a natural instinct but an unhealthy one.
My problem: I crave intimacy and lack trust.
It is an interesting place to be but I have a feeling I’m not alone. Both of these things are pretty natural human emotions – one is from God; the other is from the enemy.
We are designed to be intimate with God. We are created in his image and his image is relational. However, we are also created to be intimate with one another. This is not just physical intimacy. We are designed to know one another deep enough that we can share not only our strengths but also our struggles. Even the most independent, single person has weaknesses. We are all created to function in community; to build one another up and to fill the gaps in the people around us. Unfortunately, this is pretty hard to do if we are hiding from the people around us.
We are all sinful and damaged humans built upon broken relationships and hurt.
We come into this world having to rely fully on other people to take care of us and there isn’t a question in a newborn’s mind that this will happen. It is expected and it is self-preservation – I cry, you answer. As we grow, we learn distrust through hurt and disappointment, some much sooner than others, and the concept of self-preservation that is within us begins to define who we are and who we let in.
The result – walls
Some people hide behind a façade only showing parts of who they really are. Some people hide behind a callous exterior pushing away anybody who gets too close. Some people hide behind denial, blocking out what emotions are rising up. Whatever it may be, we all hide behind some wall or another. These walls are designed to protect ourselves and like any wall, it fulfills two purposes – it keeps others out but it also keeps us in, separated from the intimate community that can be found in the body of Christ.
So what is the answer?
How do we build trust not barriers? How do we conquer the enemy and prevent him from robbing us of the deep, intimate relationships we were created to function in while not setting ourselves up to be utterly wrecked by a sinful world? How do we protect ourselves from the hurt of this world while letting others in? How do we guard our hearts without building walls?
I’ve heard this “guard your heart” warning many times within Christian community, mostly in the context of girl-guy relationships, but does anybody know what the heck it actually means? If anything, the concept always encouraged me to build walls. Don’t let people get too close – guard your heart. Don’t let people see the real you – guard your heart. For the love of God, never, ever let a guy in to the deep parts of your life who isn’t your husband – guard your heart.
However, I’m starting to think the whole concept is BS, so here are my two cents (and a slight detour) on the phrase “guard your heart” and some uses of it in Scripture…
Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
I would like to argue that in this context, a believer is guarding his heart from Satan by not giving the enemy a foothold through sinful thoughts and actions. We are to guard our hearts by protecting ourselves and abstaining from the things of this world. Nowhere does this imply putting up walls to keep other people out or ourselves in.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
While in Proverbs, Solomon instructs us to guard our own heart against things of this world in order to prevent sin and death, here, Paul teaches that in matters concerning the soul – the deep anxieties of life which trouble us and keep us up at night – in these times, we are to bring the concerns to God and let his peace guard our hearts.
I still struggle to find the balance between vulnerability and being shielded, intimacy and distrust, but I have realized that it isn’t necessarily my responsibility. “The peace of God…will guard [my] heart…in Christ Jesus.” When life is chaotic and people are getting to know me in ways that scare the bejeezus out of me, I am not responsible for guarding my heart. Neither am I supposed to build walls and push people back out or run away screaming and hide behind the last fragments of a barricade that are still standing. I am asked to give my heart to God and his peace will guard it.
The peace of God will guard your freaking heart.
Peace – this is the very opposite than hiding scared behind a wall.
I’m not saying I know how to do this or that it is easy. Submitting my deepest fears and anxieties to God while letting other people into my life and trusting him to protect me is a lot easier said than done.
I like control. I like to be the one who lets people in or forces them out but maybe surrendering my heart to God and allowing him to guard it will work better. He designed us to function in intimate community, orchestrated and ordained by him (our heavenly Father) who will protect us in the midst of the hurt, discouragement and disappointment by giving us his peace.
By this truth, I think if relationships are built on honesty and trust, in Christ, and we take the anxieties that come with these relationships to him, he will guard our hearts with his peace. This is not to say that there will no longer be hurt; we are, after all, still living in a broken world but these relationships, no matter how painful, are from God and he will use them to better us.
I have started to let more people in and sometimes I still get wrecked, but in the process I can claim the fact that these relationships are a gift from my Father and if my heart is truly in him, he will give me peace and protection through the discomfort. I can live in the truth that these people who made it past the walls have helped me grow and have filled the gaps in my life. I can live in the truth that this is a picture of the body of Christ and know that one day, we will function in intimate community without the hurt but until that day, there is peace in Christ.