Guarding your Heart...
I'm 17, and I need some advice, mainly on how to follow in Kyle's footsteps from "Surrender". He did a very good job of hiding his feelings for Amie, and I was very impressed. BUT now I find myself in a similar situation. Only similar, because "my friend" knows me way too well and knows exactly what's going through my mind. How do we guard our hearts until we are ready for more, when we know each other almost better than ourselves?
Guarding my heart!
Dear "Guarding my heart",
That's a great question. Learning to guard our hearts is such an important life skill ... one that we need to use at every stage in life, so I applaud you for your desire to grow in this way. And I encourage you ... for the lessons you learn now in guarding your heart, you will certainly benefit from over the course of your life!
I think it is very important that you guard your conversations and interactions with each other closely, since your relationship is not ready to move to the next level.
One young couple I know was in that situation for over a year before they began an actual courtship. One way they guarded each other's heart was to communicate to each other in a way that anyone else could have listened in on their conversations or read their emails back and forth with each other.
Certainly they were aware of a growing attraction ... but they did not openly discuss it with each other for a long time. In this way, they guarded their hearts and preserved the emotional chastity of their relationship.
Of course, since they couldn't talk about their feelings openly with each other, they had to just trust God during this time of waiting. If their relationship was meant to be ... it would be in God's time. But they did have others in their lives with whom they could talk about their feelings ... and these people helped to hold them accountable to keep their relationship pure!
(And sometimes they had to hold their friends "accountable" to not push the relationship ahead, before it's time! Sometimes your friends are so excited for you to "enjoy" romance, that they push you ahead before you are ready. So you do have to be prayerful about that discerning ... and honestly assess your situation in light of God's will for your life, inspite of what others say!)
So this couple waited a long time before openly discussing their feelings with each other ... but even after that, they waited several months before they acted on it ... because, as the young man indicated, he did not want to start something he could not finish ... and other things needed to be in place in their lives first. Suddenly they found themselves in that "in-between" stage: more than friends, but not yet committed in a courtship relationship.
In the meantime, they had to continue to keep their time alone together limited; although, by that point in time, they did begin talking more openly about the possibility of a courtship. Still, they had to respect the fact that they were not yet courting, and to keep distinct their friendship and what would later be courtship "privileges" such as holding hands and going out on dates together and such. Prayerful discernment and self-control was more important than ever, once they found themselves "in-between".
Couples who find themselves in this "in-between time" can tell you that this is probably the hardest time of all. Once you've opened up feelings, a relationship can move at a pace faster than what you are ready to handle. It takes a lot of self-control to hold on to it not getting out of hand. You need boundaries firmly set and accountability partners during this time, more than ever!
My advice to you ... spend time enjoying friendship and guard yourselves from taking your relationship to the next level until you are really ready to enjoy the fullness of a courtship relationship! Don't cheat yourself out of the pleasure of courtship, by stealing "privileges" ahead of time. Make sure there is a difference between your friendship now and your courtship later on.
Also, bear in mind that you might NOT end up together someday. In which case, you'll be extra glad you guarded your hearts and did not disclose your feelings openly to each other!
Guarding your heart does not mean you'll never suffer hurt or disappointment. It sounds as though you might really be disappointed if it didn't work out someday for you and "your friend". That's life! And you cannot always prevent "hurt". You see, we cannot always prevent the fact that we will have feelings for someone.
But we can control how we ACT on those feelings and in that way, we can guard our hearts, because guarding your heart means to protect yourselves from "regrets"! And you can easily avoid "regrets" by the self-control you practice now ... emotionally and obviously physically as well. Don't give parts of your heart or physical signs of affection away in a relationship that you are not yet certain of. And mind that you hold off on courtship until you have a fair bit of certainty of the relationship.
And when that time comes, remember that a courtship is a time of discernment ... there are no guarantees! So, keep that self-control in good practice and set good boundaries and guidelines, have someone hold you each accountable, pray and discern, and be open to God's will. A "successful" courtship is the one that discerns God's will ... even when it ends in a break-up. But to reduce the chances of that ... weigh out the relationship as best you can, before you begin!
And because of your age it is very important for you to really stop and consider what your goals and ambitions in life are! Judge your readiness for a courtship not on an age or number ... but on when YOU are personally ready to consider marriage as a course of action within a year or two. Don't allow yourself to get into a long-term courtship that runs for 3 or 4 years (or more). I've often seen those relationships, though physically pure, fail ... and the couple is left devastated, after having invested so much of their youth on each other.
If you are NOT ready to consider marriage in a year or two ... because you have education goals or travel plans, or whatever it may be ... then hold off and stay friends. God may have someone else in mind for you, and a courtship – when you are not yet ready – can blind you to God's will for marriage with someone else.
I know it is hard to wait ... very hard ... but it is even harder to gain back years of your life that have been given to someone who will not be your future husband!
Things to consider while you wait:
Remember during this time of "guarding your hearts" to guard your communication with each other. The time you spend together should be comfortable enough for anyone to be present with you. What you say and write to each other (in emails and such) should be so open that anyone could listen in on your conversations or read your emails.
Choose someone as an accountability partner (your mother, a sister, a friend) who actually reads those emails and with whom you share your conversations. In this way, you'll be held accountable for keeping your relationship pure and at a level of friendship ... and you will be able to guard both your hearts from regrets!
Don't cross the line of talking openly about your attraction until you have discerned God is calling you to that. If "your friend" brings it up ... then respond to the issue in a way that is appropriate to the stage you are at in your relationship. If you feel you are still needing to remain friends – because of your goals in life and the time you need before you are ready to consider marriage – then let him know up front, you need to preserve your friendship in purity.
If you want to share with him that you do have feelings for him – remember you take the risk of moving your friendship along at a faster rate than what you might be prepared to handle. So, if it starts to move along faster than what your stage in life is ready for – put on the brakes! Back it up! And go back to the initial advice of keeping your conversations pure and open to anyone. And keep your accountability partners involved.
Remember, Kyle, in my book Surrender, had his parents and brother as accountability partners. You need someone to help keep you on track! So find that person (or persons) in your life right away – and enlist their support!
I wish you every blessing in this time of prayer and discernment ... and much strength to persevere in purity!
Please keep me, my family, and this ministry in your prayers. We struggle very much to provide for all the financial needs of a large family and to keep doing this kind of work – but we do it because we believe our world needs this message and they need to hear it from someone! So, please pray for us ... as we lay our lives in God's providence!
Blessings in the Purity of Christ's Love!