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Stop Guarding Your Heart And Kiss Dating Hello: Part 2

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Last week I talked about my issues with the “guard your heart” theology of dating in Stop Guarding Your Heart And Kiss Dating Hello: Part 1. I’d like to start off with a story this time.

This is not a Love Story:

Over a year ago I fell in love with one of my best friends, but because I’ve been rejected by every woman I’ve pursued (sometimes multiple times by the same woman…I can be stubborn), I was hesitant to act on these feelings. Understandably, I didn’t want to be hurt again so I thought about ignoring those feelings. In my past, every time my affections grew for a woman, one of the first thoughts that went through my head was “oh no, here it goes again.” And the subtext to that thought goes something like “Anthony, get ready to be shattered.” This time, however, I was excited. I was excited because I asked myself a question that I had never asked myself before: “Anthony, knowing who she is and who you are, is the potential of having a relationship with her worth risking your heart getting broken?”

Through past heartbreaks, God comforted and met me. He became my Greatest Joy, my home. Heartbreak didn’t scare me anymore. In fact, it was from going through heartbreak that I overcame the fear of it. I faced my fear, and I was dominated by it, but I came out on the other side realizing one main thing: God brings us through those awful times because we become like Jesus through suffering in ways that only suffering can produce.

So my answer to the question I posed to myself was this: “Heck yes. And it doesn’t matter how it turns out between us. She is worth the effort, and heartbreak won’t break me.”

Risk in Romance:

As Christians, we are called to a lifestyle of risk. We are called to listen and obey the voice of God even if it seems dangerous.  We are called to a lifestyle of holy adventure, ready to leave at a moment, never sure of what will come, but always confident in the one who sends it.  Pick up your cross, be willing to die, leave everything you have. This is what Jesus demands of those who love him. This is the way of the Kingdom.

Of all the words to describe the Christian life, “safe” would not be one of them.

But in this “Guard your heart” philosophy, “safe” is the name of the game. “Don’t get too vulnerable. Don’t get too close. Watch out! You’re heart could break!” Jesus tells me to empty my wallet, go to a strange land, and to follow him to the point of death… and I’m supposed to protect my feelings from being hurt? Really? Now I know I’m exaggerating a bit here. We’re still called to be good stuarts of our belongings and our lives, and we’re not all called to literally move and sell everything we have and physically die for Jesus, but there’s no denying the element of risk in Jesus’s teachings.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

-Ephesians 5:25

What does Paul say about marriage in this passage? Men, love your wives in a way that looks like Jesus dying on the cross for you. Die to save her. Every part of her. Every day. Care for her soul the way Jesus cares for yours. Now how am I supposed to go from a self-preserving stoic to a passionate lover who is willing to give his life for his bride? Answer: very awkwardly. And I won’t fool myself: I will become a self-preserving stoic if my main concern in any relationship is to protect my emotions in the name of Jesus.

Pursuit as Worship:

After deciding to pursue a relationship with this friend, she invited me to a worship gathering. I don’t know if I had plans that night, but I know that I didn’t have any plans after her offer. As I walked to the worship gathering, an awful feeling came upon me that I couldn’t shake. My motives weren’t pure: I wasn’t going there to worship, I was going there because she was there, and I felt like a hypocrite for it.  All of a sudden I stopped on the sidewalk as I heard the Spirit speak to my heart. “Why don’t you make your pursuit of this woman an act of worship to me?”

I love when God gets to me through questions. This “guard your heart” philosophy taught me to be suspicious of my feelings for a woman because they were, or were most likely, idolatrous. They’d always draw me away from God. But through this question God showed me that this perspective is a false dichotomy: a heart for God and a heart for a woman (or man) are not opposing things, but they are complementary. He showed me that, if I am called to love my wife like Jesus loved the Church, then I better pursue my wife like Christ pursued his Church: He left Heaven to find her. I don’t fully know what that looks like, but I know that it doesn’t mean protecting my precious little heart from harm. It means leaving security and pursuing something risky. Something like love. I don’t know how it’ll end up, but I know it’s worth the risk, and I’ll grow either way it turns out. I don’t fully know what this looks like, but I know it looks like something that my Dad in heaven would be proud of. Something that would show his love to the world. What could I possibly regret?

Closing Thoughts:

So here’s the question you have to answer: Is she worth risking your heart? Is the potential to have a beautiful relationship with this special friend worth the risk of getting your heart broken? Are you willing to pursue her as an act of worship to her Father and your Father? If yes, then saddle up!

Men: you have permission to win her over, or at least try. You have permission to break yourself trying. And you don’t have to be ashamed for failing. You’re in good company. You’re brokenness is a living metaphor of Jesus sacrifice. And your joy in the midst of it is contagious.

Women: you have permission to fall in love again. You really do.

To finish this up, here’s a three-minute message from Matt Chandler on dating.

What is your “Maker’s Mark”

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This is mine. If I ever made swords or furniture or anything tangible, I would put this mark on it.

What would yours be?

Stop Guarding Your Heart And Kiss Dating Hello: Part 1

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Foreword: Christian dating is a topic that turn some pretty intelligent people into little, bitter, angsty messes. I’ve had my share, and I’ll aim to not fall into that. Also, this may be more applicable to men than to women (at least part 2).

This verse sums up the way I’ve been taught to view relationships.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23.

From this verse, we can conclude that we should be extremely careful with our relationships with the opposite sex.  People get so close in their relationships that it becomes the emotional equivalent of divorce if they break it off at some point in the future. Solution: don’t get your heart emotionally invested in the other person until marriage. Trust that the feelings will come in full when the commitment comes in full.  Get to know them (but be careful! only engage in group interactions until you’re engaged), and get mature advice on your compatibility from older believers.  If you follow this process, you’ll have a mostly-baggage-free life, which is fair to you and your future spouse. After all, you don’t want to stand at the alter knowing you can’t give you’re whole heart away to the woman/man in front of you because you gave part of it to someone else a few years ago. This idea is expanded on in the popular book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” by Joshua Harris.

Two years ago this sounded great to me. I had just gotten my heartbroken by a girl I was really close to (it was actually a series of breakings that took place over a period of more than a year, but it’s a long and boring story), and I cut off our friendship. I made an unspoken vow in my heart to never let myself get that close to a woman again.

Fast forward two years later and I’m in a similar situation: heartbroken from a woman I was close to, from a friend I’d hoped to progress with (so much for that unspoken vow). But my history has not repeated itself completely. This time I made no silent vows, and I carried no regret of how deep I let my heart go. You see, I don’t buy into the “guard your heart” theology of dating anymore. Mainly for two reasons.

(1) It reeks of self-preservation, and (2) it’s incongruent with the way we view other relationships.

I’ll start with the second part of that statement.

(1) According to the “guard your heart” philosophy of dating, getting heartbroken is a really bad thing. A morally bad thing. This is what I felt after reading “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” On some level, getting heartbroken is a symptom of idolatry: you’ve put too much in a person that should have gone to God.

But do we ever think in these terms with other relationships? When you go to a funeral and see a family member mourning their loss, does the thought ever cross your mind to go up to them and tell them to “guard your heart” better next time? Do you even think like that? Heck no. Why? Because love doesn’t need fixing.

Do we analyze the way we love our parents, friends, or siblings in the same way we’re told to analyze our love for a romantic interest? Of course not. It doesn’t even cross our mind. Ironically, all of us are in for a lifetime of heartbreak, even if you somehow never fall in love. It comes most consistently through death. Everyone you love is going to die. Forgive me for being so morbid, but let’s be honest. We’re all going to die, so why love if you’re going to be heartbroken?

Because there is life in love. Love is vulnerable. Love is risky. There’s no getting around that. But love is powerful. Love may bring about the greatest sorrow, but it also brings about the greatest joy. It really does. Love makes life worth living, and it arouses the power in a person to live abundantly. Love saves souls, and it redeems what would otherwise be wasted. Love is deep magic. It’s never something you should be ashamed to have. And most times we aren’t.

So why do we have to watch out and make sure we don’t fall in love too soon? We’ve got to “guard our hearts.” Because falling in love is not worth the risk of getting your heart broken.

What a load.

We’re so careful to protect our hearts from idolatry to a person that we make idols out of our emotional safety. But that’s for part 2.

I’ll touch on the second part later. Too many words makes jack a dull boy.

Part 2 is about the Christian perspective of risk and how it correlates with romantic pursuit. Track with me on the next part to see where I’m going with this. The next part really nails it in for me.

“Your Love is Better Than Life”

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I wrote this in January 2012 as something sweet and tender to my God. I have written songs about love (mostly lost love) and struggle, but I had never written anything to God from the position of total confidence and satisfaction (well, nothing I am happy with at least). I find it easier to write songs and poems about hardship and heartbreak than about joy, but I did get this out there.

Sonship, Identity, and The Fall

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So here I am writing my first post for my first blog…and it’s my thoughts on the beginning of Genesis.

Cliché, right? Right.

Ever since I graduated college in May, my life has been a contemplative one. The theme of “identity” has bubbled to the surface of my thought life.  It is really no surprise that it has: I just graduated college, I’m working my first salaried job (though I had no job lined up when I first graduated), I’m away from the community I grew to love over the past four years, living in a new town, and living there alone. Yep, there was certainly time to think, especially about my self, who I am. “Now we can find out who the real Anthony Donovan is” was a thought I had as I transitioned to St. Augustine.

I was afraid I wouldn’t like what I found. I was scared that the man I became in college was a fraud, and soon enough I’d revert back to the awkward boy I was in High School. But I’ve learned that God loves to affirm his sons and daughters in who He’s made them to be. After a month or so, and through a handful of experiences, I realized that the changes God made in my life were real, and geography couldn’t steal them away.

All of that to say that “identity” has been a big theme in my life recently. So has “sonship,” but I won’t go into that here. Because of all that, it didn’t surprise me that this thought popped into my head as I was out running tonight: maybe Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden has to do with identity and sonship more than anything else.

Let me explain.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3:2-5)

What have we all been taught about this passage? What is the issue? The issue is this: Satan told Adam and Eve the biggest lie in history. “If you want, you can be like God, and all you need to do is eat that fruit.” And it turns out that Adam and Eve actually wanted that. In fact, they wanted to be like God so bad that they were willing to disobey God himself to attain that state of being. It seems like they forgot one thing: God is holy, so there is none beside him in any arena. Adam and Eve’s fundamental desire to be like God is misplaced at best and damning at worst. Isn’t this what we’re taught about The Fall? In one form or another, you and I are told that “Satan’s greatest lie is that you can be like God…(depending on the length of the conversation, it usually digresses into talk about Mormons thinking they’ll create their own universes or something of the like).”

I’d like to offer another take on this, because I think there’s something deeper going on here.

I think Satan’s “great lie” was not a lie at all, but an attack on Adam and Eve’s identity. The fact is, they were like God:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

In the beginning, mankind was in the image and likeness of God. And what was their goal? To expand and reign over all creation. They were made to be kings like God is king, and regardless of what you may think “image” and “likeness” refer to, I think it’s clear that, whatever they mean, the intent of this passage is to say that Adam was like God. That was his identity. What would he be if he wasn’t like God? What would separate him from all the rest of creation. He had no human father. But God was his papa, and Adam was made to be just like him.

And, when we get down to it, don’t we want the same? Don’t we long to be more like Jesus every day? Doesn’t God’s mission go beyond getting us out of Hell? Doesn’t it involve making us co-heirs with Christ? Think about that: co-heirs with Christ. Are you kidding me? We literally get to reign over all creation with Jesus. If being with Jesus for all eternity, ruling the universe together, isn’t being “like God,” then I don’t know what being “like God” could even look like. Add that onto the crazy promise Jesus makes that we will do the works that he does, and even greater! (John 14:12). We were made to be like God. Of course Adam wanted that! And if we don’t, then we desire too little from our God.

So when the serpent comes up to Eve (I’m assuming Adam is nearby) and says, “eat this fruit and you’ll be just like God.” The lie isn’t that they can become like God. The lie is in the Devil’s implication that they aren’t. Listen to the subtext of what Satan is saying here: “If you eat this fruit, you’ll become like God. Because right now you’re nothing like him and you’ll never be, unless…”

Every boy wants to make his father proud of him. Until he receives affirmation from his dad or gives up on it, I think he wants it more than nearly anything. So what a sting it must have been for Adam to hear those words, words that communicate, “Adam, you only thought your were your father’s son, but you’re not. In fact, you’ll never be like him. You think you are, but there is one thing you’re missing. If you only eat this fruit, then you’re really be like him.”

And since then, God has been on mission for our souls and our identities, ready to win us back with a whisper: “You are my son (or daughter), and I am so darn proud of you.”