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.