The Three Levels of a Woman’s Heart
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).
It seems that in recent times, guarding my heart is something I’ve had to learn a lot about, and I am realizing how very much I still have to learn.
For a single female who desires to be married, it is extremely easy to let emotions run away with themselves. My years of singleness have included unmet expectations and hard lessons on dashed hopes and disappointment. Yet God has also taken me to many wonderful and unexpected places. He has taken me into some of the most heart-wrenching corners of the world and used me in ways beyond my wildest imagination.
The culmination of these experiences have brought me to the powerful realization time and again that this life is not my own. I feel as though God has powerfully and continuously been placing two things on my heart: surrender and faithfulness. Can I learn to believe that He is good right in the middle of the life I didn’t expect? Can I learn to love and adore Him for simply who He is and not just the gifts that He gives? I want to love Him because He is God of the universe, the One who created my inmost being, not because He is the God of my agenda.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has on occasion told God how He, in His infinite power, can organize the events of my life so they include the things I desire. Even if those things are God-honoring requests, surrender means holding my hand out wide and offering myself with no strings attached. Even if that means I don’t have someone to have and to hold today or forever. I want to choose to offer myself to God every single day. And to find ways to unclench my fist on those days I find myself under the illusion that my life is under my own control.
My struggle is in figuring out how to graciously live this out in the midst of my everyday life. Among the friendships and the guys I have deemed potential dating material, how do I guard my heart and surrender my life? I ask myself the same questions that every single person asks: Can guys and girls really be “just friends?” As someone who is single, how do I guard my heart in a way that honors and respects the man I will someday marry yet without isolating the single men in my life?
In her book Revelations of a Single Woman, Connally Gilliam equates a woman’s heart to a garden with three distinct areas. There is the public area, where anyone can traverse. Then there is an inner sanctum that is reserved for the man a woman will someday marry. The murky part, however, is that there is what Gilliam refers to as an “in-between place.” People who are welcome to wander around in this in-between space include close female friends, male family members, or perhaps other father-like figures. To quote Gilliam directly: “The problem…is that once a guy whom I like…decides he’s not particularly interested in long-term inner sanctum husbandry, I can’t let him wander all around the middle ground anymore. If I do, then he inevitably crosses lines he doesn’t know he’s crossing, and I inevitably try to pull him into the center.”
I admit to have letting guys who had no business in the “in-between” area roam freely about. It seems utterly impossible to guard my heart, respect both the guys I’m friends with as well as the one I will someday marry, be kind and friendly enough to encourage men to pursue me, and set boundaries to keep my own emotions in check without getting attached to a guy that either has no intentions to pursue me, doesn’t share my faith, or isn’t compatible for some other reason. I am learning to heavily lean into Jesus both in my friendships, potential relationships, and every other area of my life. Because the foot of the cross is where peace is found.