Monday, October 24, 2011

Letting Thoughts Run Wild (How Not to Guard a Heart)

{Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.} Proverbs 4.23

I love this verse. You do, too. You've heard it, I've heard it, we've all heard it.

Guard your heart.

When Rob and I face a situation at work in which one of us may be alone with a person of the opposite sex, we take steps to prevent that, in order to "protect our virtue." It's a little joke for us, but it's true.

Guard it, protect it, defend it.

It's a verse that I didn't necessarily set out to memorize, I just heard it so many times that it stuck around. But what does it mean?

The word "guard" has a couple definitions that explain pretty clearly what it means to protect something:
1. to keep safe from harm or danger; protect; watch over.
2. to keep under control or restraint as a matter of caution or prudence
3. to provide or equip with some safeguard or protective appliance, as to prevent loss, injury, etc.

When I think of the word "guard," my mind immediately goes to the first definition, but I believe the second definition is much more relevant and helpful when it comes to understanding how to guard a heart, which is unlike guarding anything else.

This weekend, Rob and I had what we are calling an iPhone debacle. It was a big mess involving lots of wasted hours and no purchasing of phones. I'll spare you all the details (but I will say, I love Apple and their associates. It was a network problem).

Through that process, I experienced a lot of unhappy, negative, frustrated thoughts. More than experiencing them, I invited them in.

When I start forming negative thoughts, it is very easy for them to grow and fester and become worse. One negative remark in my head can turn into an entire afternoon wallowing and complaining. At times, it seems so much easier for me to focus on all the things I perceive as "bad" rather than really see all the good in my life.

The problem with being slack here is that there is so much danger in letting your thoughts run wild. 

What comes into the mind starts traveling. It flows down and comes out through the mouth. It seeps through the veins and eventually settles into the heart. And the more that comes into the heart, the harder it is to extract it. So the heart hardens, and it settles, and it finds itself without love or mercy or grace, only bitterness and cynicism.

When I find myself letting my thoughts run wild, my entire demeanor changes and eventually my heart is deeply affected. So I understand how important it is to act with caution; to guard my heart and keep it under control.

There's a difference, though, in seeing a problem and fixing it.
How do I fix this?

[see part 2 next week]

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