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I’m currently a 25-year-old married woman and mother of one. This morning my son woke up at 5:45, but was scared to enter the hallway because the hall night-light was broken. He crawled back in bed and went to sleep. Unfortunately for me, I have a touch of a cold and cough and as much as I wanted to go back to sleep, all I could do was toss and turn and try to go get the annoying Taylor Swift version of the song “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart” out of my head.
I was unsuccessful.
Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
I thought to myself…Man, she’s so stupid. What’s she doing going and giving her heart away like that anyway?
Immediately my train of thought stopped as I came face to face with a popular conservative Christian teaching about relationships. I stared it down with new eyes and evaluated it’s validity.
The teaching goes something like this, normally along with use of a visual aid, a heart made out of red construction paper:
“When you are in a dating relationship, you are giving yourself wholeheartedly to that person–you are giving away a piece of your heart to them.”
(The top corner of the heart is then torn off and given to someone in the audience.)
“Then if that relationship doesn’t work out, and you get into another relationship, you give them a piece of your heart too.”
(Another portion is then torn off and given to someone in the audience.)
“This is repeated over and over as you go from relationship to relationship giving pieces of your heart to all these different people, and by the time you actually meet “the one” that God has created for you…you have nothing left to give that person. This, teenagers, is why dating is so dangerous.”
As a good Christian girl who didn’t date because she was “saving her heart” for her future husband, this sounded great. Because I was going to have my WHOLE heart to give to him, bless God!
Until “the one” turned into “the wrong one.”
I entered a psuedo-“courtship” with a young man when I was 18. It was a “courtship” in the sense that our parents were heavily involved in and approved of our relationship from the start, and we entered our relationship with the understanding that our marriage was definitely going to be the result of the relationship. We “broke” some of the other “courtship rules” like the ones about physical touch, as we held hands a half-dozen times and hugged once or twice. After two brief months, the relationship ended. It just wasn’t meant to be for many reasons.
But I realized this morning that part of the reason that I was so incredibly devastated by the loss of that relationship was that I thought I had lost a part of myself.
I was left feeling damaged and unfixable.
I remember thinking and sobbing things like “I’ll never be able to love anyone again! I held his hand!!!!!! How will I ever hold anyone’s hand again without thinking of him? How will anyone else love me after I’ve given my heart away?”
I viewed myself as broken and less of a person. Even if I could tape the pieces back together, I was still going to be damaged–you can’t hide a rip in construction paper no matter how much you try.
But this idea…it’s just. not. true.
As human beings, we are meant to love and to give. That’s what a relationship–ANY relationship–is all about! You cannot interact with another human being and care about that person at all without there being some “giving of your heart.” It’s just impossible.
But that’s what is so great about the human heart–It’s not made out of construction paper.
If it were true, how could a loving mother of one child go on to become a loving mother of two, three, or even twelve children? Every time she nurses that baby, kisses away a boo-boo, reads a bedtime story, loves away elementary school drama, or has a loving talk with a hurting teenager–she is giving a piece of her heart away! Oh no! What’s going to be left for her other children?!?!
Or what about friendship? You better beware because the next time you vent or spill out your guts in conversation with your bestie you might be sharing too much! You might be robbing all your other friends (and future friends you might every have) of the ability to share your heart too!
Or what about hobbies? Don’t put too much of your heart into your music, your photography, your baking, your blogging!!! You could be giving away your heart and then you will never be able to get it back to invest in another hobby!
Or, most dangerously…what about God?
If you give your heart over to sin, to lust, to pride…you are giving a piece of your heart to the Devil. Then you have less to give to God! Eventually, you will just be too far gone to ever return to Him or have him love you.
What’s missing in this picture is life, grace, and restoration.
Our hearts are alive. Ever-growing. Ever-changing. Ever-expanding. Every day there is the potential in each of our relationships for there to be pain, hurt, tension…even rejection, brokenness, and sin. But there is also the potential for more love, sweeter love, and greater depth…for grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. That’s how God created our hearts and our relationships to be.
It’s not something to be scared of.
A broken relationship can leave you with a broken heart, but it can’t leave you with less of a heart. It’s still yours. And you can choose what you do with it. Mr. Knight-In-Shining-Armor-Who-Fell-Off-His-White-Horse doesn’t carry around that piece in a box somewhere…it’s not collecting dust on his shelf. It’s where it’s always been. Within you.
God promises that He can provide healing and restoration:
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
And once He does, you still have it all. You still have all of your heart to give to someone else…to your future spouse, to your children, to your friends, to your neighbors.
Our hearts aren’t made out of construction paper.
I wish I could travel back in time and talk to her, that girl sobbing over “giving her heart away to some guy who didn’t deserve it.” I wish I could tell her that it’s okay. That loving someone, even the wrong someone, is a normal part of life. The fact that it didn’t work out doesn’t mean that she’s damaged, or worthless, or has less to give to someone else.
I wish I could tell her that she will find healing, restoration, and peace.
I wish I could tell her that she will go on to hold another man’s hand countless times a day and never once thing about that other guy when she’s doing it.
I wish I could tell her that she will sing to him “I love you my babeh with all of my HEART!” daily and that she will mean it every time.
I wish I could tell her that her love will grow and change to include love for a child who will change her in more ways that she could ever imagine.
I wish I could tell her that her heart isn’t made out of construction paper.
But I can’t tell her.
So I’m telling you.
I’m telling you…teenage girl who is afraid to look at a guy as more than a friend because you might be giving your heart away. You’re not.
I’m telling you…freshman college girl who is at the brink of a relationship and is afraid you might be making a mistake. I can’t promise that he isn’t a total jerk and that you aren’t making a mistake. But I can promise that no matter what the outcome, you can find grace, healing, and restoration.
I’m telling you…broken-hearted girl crying because your perfect little world and courtship came crashing down around you and now you feel damaged beyond repair. You aren’t.
I’m telling you…young woman who wonders if you have fallen away from God so much that you have nothing left to give Him. You are the most special of all. Because let me tell you this secret about God. He loves you whether you have a perfect or a sinful heart. He loves you whether that heart is broken or has never known pain. He loves you whether your life is put together or not. He loves you because He made you and wants to be with you. No matter how much sin or hurt there is in your life, it’s never too late to love God completely.
Because your heart isn’t made out of construction paper.