Why I’ve Stopped Guarding My Heart

There’s something on the tip of my tongue.

I don’t know what it is but it’s burning in me. I think it could be the thing causing the migraine right now.

I can barely sit still as I think about what I want to say but don’t have language for yet. So here’s to hoping that somehow, as I write this, my words with transform into what has actually been wrestling inside my heart for days.

I wasn’t made for the waiting room. 

For my whole life, as I’ve grown and walked with Jesus, one of the things I’ve been trained in is how to guard my heart. Guard your heart, Courtney. Guard your heart. Guard your heart.

What does this mean?

In my mind it’s meant protect yourself. Keep yourself safe. Don’t give your heart away.

Hear me out – There is validity to this. 

We aren’t called to flippantly throw our hearts towards passions and people that are not from God. Especially when it is the wrong time and they are the wrong things.

But what happens when they are the right things?

What happens when Love begins to beg you to let your heart lead?

I’ve realized lately how risky Love is. And as a woman who struggles with wanting to maintain control over her life, I fear the totality of allowing Love to lead. Who might I be if I wholly surrender to It? What kind of decisions might I make if I let Love lead me instead of my own logic and reasoning? 

This is a terrifying reality to me.

Can’t I trust Love? Can’t I allow It to lead me into the good and pleasing will of God? God who is Love?

I still want control. And I realize it’s because I don’t completely trust my own heart. It has led me astray in moments before. It has been persuaded by beautiful words and empty promises and manipulated by false romance. How, then, can I allow Love… Love that is a matter of the heart and not the mind… to lead me? 

I can’t reason out falling in Love with Jesus. I can’t lay out enough evidence for why I should fall in Love with the Most Holy. I love Him, surely. But have I risked allowing that Love to consume me? To surrender my control and fall hopelessly into Love with Jesus?

When I fall in Love, there won’t be a logical reason for why I follow. I won’t be able to soundly prove why I will follow Him wherever He urges my heart to go. I won’t be able to argue my point for why I will obey His calling no matter what. My heart will be controlled by Love and nothing else. I will have lost control.

But He’s worth my whole heart.

He’s worth the surrender.

He can be trusted to lead and guide me into good and pleasing things.

My heart can be found completely safe within His calling.

Sometimes it feels safer to stay in the waiting room. 

We get into a comfortable place of waiting on a promise – interceding for the breakthrough. We know that we’re kept safe in the waiting room and at the right moment, the promise will come. So we gather in words and visions and promises for what might be on the other side of the waiting room. We develop expectancy. We foster unbreakable hope in the waiting room.

This is all well and good. It’s what we’re supposed to do in that season.

But how will we respond when Love calls our name? 

When He begs us out of the waiting room and into the promise? 

We must risk to believe.

We must risk to let Love lead.

We must risk to follow His calling – that He will keep us safe.

Sometimes, we are no longer called to guard our own hearts. Sometimes, when Love calls, He promises to be the One that guards our hearts instead. Sometimes, we’re supposed to open it up to whole-heartedly believing the fulfillment has arrived.

At the right time, we’re called to step out of the boat. And to maintain focus on the One who called us out of what felt so safe and comfortable. And into the risk.

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The Story of A Hopeless Heart

Hope is one of the most risky things we’re asked to hold on to as Christians. 

That might sound like a bold statement.

But hope is often met by pain and disappointment and it is one of the biggest risk we are asked to consistently take.

So why hope? Why is the Bible filled with both faith and hope; two necessary factors in walking with Jesus? Why must we choose hope time and time again?

My heart has been sick since January. Somewhere in the process, I let go of hope. I stopped believing for the best. I numbed myself to dreaming.

The pain that came from having expectations and hoping only to see them shattered or unmet was too much. And so I retreated back to my own personal limits; my own well-kept yard of not-risking. And my heart began to wither. I let go of dreams, desires, expectations… and the vibrant life in my heart began to dull. I couldn’t feel God. I couldn’t hear Him clearly. I felt abandon, dry… like I would die of hunger for Him. I  became cynical. Practical. I hated love. Didn’t believe in it.

I was physically ill most weekends from February – March; my heart often anxious and unrest in the midst of this.

Hope was too risky. And keeping my heart safe within its walls was surely the way to keep it unharmed. Right?

But God.

God, concerned for the health of my heart, pressed on it, ever-so consistently. I felt everything I didn’t want to feel as He begged my heart to hope again.

Cynical.

I filled my world with busy-ness and activities. I ran myself weak.

He continued to press.

“Why love? Why hope for the impossible best? Why hold on to dreams that are so far out of reach?” my heart fought back to Him.

But God.

Around three weeks ago, He found me at my breaking point, weary, anxious, desperate. And He crawled into the narrow gaps I had left open for Him.

He breathed, “Faith sees, and hope FEELS. And my precious one, when you choose to not hope, you choose to not feel. When you choose to not hope that there is the best in store for you, your heart becomes sick. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, my love. Choose hope. Believe the best. Believe I’m that good.” 

And I gasped for air. Alive. My heart began pumping again.

Undone by my sudden light-ness, I became aware of the necessity of hope.

Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how many times I had been disappointed, regardless of the impossibilities that stood before me or the lack of visible breakthrough, I had to decide to choose hope. 

Hope was better than the outcome. Hope was the thing keeping my heart alive.

So, friends, while hope seems risky, don’t cut it off because you don’t see the breakthrough in the timing you imagined.

God is a God of “And suddenly.” In moments, He changes the course of events. In minutes, He brings the fulfillment. In seconds, He arrives in a better way than you ever thought possible.

Saul became Paul in an instant.

Lazarus was raised from the dead in a single moment.

It only took 3 DAYS for the sins of EVERYONE IN THE WORLD (past, present and future) to be paid for for eternity! 3 Days! 3 Days is not a long time, friends. In 3 days, Jesus was crucified and rose again and EVERYTHING CHANGED. 3 Days!

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Hope paves the way for your breakthrough. You must develop a lifestyle of unbreakable hope in your life. 

Hope that is not swayed by situations or circumstances. But hope that is founded on the truth and goodness of The Most Holy One.

Follow the calling of His voice. Risk when He says risk. Dream when He says dream. Hope when He says hope. It will never be in vain. And you will never be unprotected from His grace.

Why Breaking Up Is Okay

So early writing about this, yes I know.

Wise to post about my dating journey for the world to read? Who knows.

But I hold on to the foundational belief that vulnerability brings freedom. In me… but also in others.

Therefore, I will continue to be vulnerable on this blog. 

I am aware my students read this. It’s frightening and slightly nauseating to write personal revelations and have students approach you about them the next day. But I have nothing to hide. There is no shame in the journey and process. And I don’t just teach with my words… I teach with my life. It holds me to a higher standard but also makes admitting my failures even more important. If I reveal the real me, they will learn how normal they are… that their failures do not define them. If I share my revelations with them now, they could miss entire difficult seasons that I had to walk through because of my choices. It’s why I will talk to them like I’m a person and not just their teacher who they know nothing about. I will be authentic with them. I will answer their questions when they ask them, using discernment and discretion along the way. And I will continue to write.

I am on the other side of a break-up. A very recent, 4 days ago break-up.

And I’m okay.

I really am. I’m not saying that to be in denial or stuff anything down or numb myself. I really am, 150% okay.

This is the most peaceful breakup I have ever experienced in my life. Not pain-less, no. It was painful. It hurt in a deep pain that resonated through my chest as he mustered up an “I’m so sorry” on Monday night; An “I’m sorry” that I was bursting at the seams with as well as I listened to the pain in his voice. I was sorry. It hurt us both and I cried and still do cry about it sometimes. But my spirit is at rest within me. I am full of hope and resolved that this was and is the right thing in this season for both of us.

My plans took a slight detour. They were redirected in a way I didn’t anticipate. Our relationship had the best of intentions but was just not working. And it was no one’s fault. Both of us were giving it our all. But after a weekend of conversations, we realized we were just on two totally different pages. And God was saying “let go.”

This is why breaking up is okay. 

Because the revelation that “all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purposes” means that these past 5 months haven’t been in vain. For either one of us. 

Because obedience to God above all things is what we both value the most.

Because He has our best intentions in mind – He will not leave of forsake us. Breaking up was hard for both of us. But obedience to God is completely worth it.

And the truth that God can be trusted and wants my best in the midst of my pain and risking changes any perspective I might have on this situation. In places where I feel exposed, I am somehow covered and protected by the One who knows my heart best.

There are no disappointments with God. There are things that happen in unexpected or painful ways. But I can choose to grab on to them as a disappointment, or I can choose to believe that it’s just another step – it’s another part of the process. It’s another piece of the journey. It’s another season I get to choose intimacy with God. And it must mean this isn’t the end of the story for me. 

I am taking the time to mourn the things when they come up. Realizing Valentine’s Day is next weekend or that I won’t be getting unexpected flowers or taken on dates for a while is sad and painful in moments. But every time a new memory comes up, I choose to feel it all. To let it bubble to the surface. To mourn it. To cry. And then to release it. And to embrace the new season. There will be days where I’ll miss those things more than others. But that’s just not the season I’m now currently in. I won’t be forever in a season of not being pursued. But for now, I am. And the pain just means that I was actually fully present in that relationship – it means I opened my heart and was giving myself to the thing God had placed in my life. And that, in spite of the pain, is so worth it. And by the grace of God, I am less afraid of pain than I’ve ever been in my life.

So for now, my days will be spent investing in my friendships and lifegroups and students.

Neither the previous season nor current season is better or worse. Neither season is lived in vain. 

A life lived obedient to God will never escape what He has for you in that exact perfect season. He knows you better than you know yourself. Trust Him when it’s painful and uncomfortable. Embrace the fullness of the season He has for you right now.

Disclaimer: This post is probably one of the more vulnerable things I’ve written and I’ve questioned posting it. You should know that I hold my most recent relationship and the guy I was dating in the HIGHEST respect. It was one of the most fun, intentional, and refining seasons of my entire life. I learned a TON. And I still, to this day, think he is an absolutely fantastic man of God who honored and pursued me well and gave our relationship everything he had. We are still friends. There are no hard feelings, no bitterness, no resentment. The reason I chose to post it is because I have been shocked at the process and how peaceful and hopeful it has been. It makes me believe that dating in the Church can survive and withstand breakups and that gets me really excited. 

Whale Watching

This is an old post from almost 2 years ago. I recently found it for a friend and thought it’d be worth a re-post if you find yourself at the beginning of 2015 still waiting for breakthrough. 

Mystery (noun):
– One that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding.
– One who arouses curiosity.
– A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and is knowable only through divine revelation.

God is all that is mysterious.

And that is difficult for someone like me who loves to understand. Because that’s the point of mystery…it’s not supposed to be understood.
Realistically, there is probably more that I don’t understand about God than the amount of things I do understand about Him. And the question I’ve been asking myself lately is “Am I okay with the mystery?”
Am I okay with not having the answers to everything?
Am I okay with not understanding why things happen the way they do?
Bill Johnson says, “In order to have the peace that surpasses all understanding, you have to give up the right to understand.”
That makes my heart ache. I insist on knowing the answers to things more than I accept this peace in the mystery. It’s funny because the verse before that one that talks about this peace starts off with “Do not be anxious about anything.”

Despite our anxious worries, and our vain strife of trying to understand the complexities of His mystery, God pleas with us “Learn to be okay with the mystery. Release your right to understand.

The hardest thing about living in the mysterious is balancing it with expectancy. Believing for big and mighty moves of God, hoping for the impossible, but accepting the mystery when it doesn’t happen like you expect to or it doesn’t happen at all.
This season…actually this past year…has been marked by God pleading with me to maintain expectancy for really big things. That sounds fun. But it’s terrifying. And Proverbs 13:12 has been eating my lunch. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”
Which can only mean one thing. Expectancy makes the heart healthy.

This is hard for me to grasp. God is saying it is better to hope and be expectant than to have no hope whatsoever. He doesn’t say disappointment makes the heart sick. He says a lack of hope does.
But disappointment hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. And I hate pain. Yet I will trust God when He says that not hoping is worse for my heart. And I will relinquish my right to understand.

The picture I keep getting in my head when I talk to God about expectancy is whale watching.

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I’ve never seen a blue whale. The only evidence I have that they actually exist is what I read on the Internet and in books. They are the largest animals on this planet. Yet I’ve never seen them. And for most of their existence, people have known very little about them. The biggest animals on the planet are extremely mysterious.

But how stupid would it be of me to go blue whale watching and not be expectant to see one? How idiotic would it be if I refused to peer off the edge of the boat into the vast spaciousness that is the ocean? How much would it affect my experience and the experience of those around me if I looked at my feet the entire trip, content with what was inside the boat, instead of scanning the horizon in the hopes of seeing even a spout of water?

I would be an idiot to get in that boat without expectancy.

Expectancy allows you to see so much more than your normally would. People who go whale watching and expect to see a whale, jump at any slight wave, any bubbles breaking on the surface, any foam of water. They’re more likely to see everything the ocean has to offer. They see more than people without expectancy.

So maybe that’s the point.

You get to see more.

So I will keep my eyes on the horizon, at the ready for a spout of water. I know there’s a blue whale out there. And I’ll keep watching till I see him.

I’d Rather Be Surprised

4 weeks ago, I sat in my discipleship group… crying.

Pathetic, woah-is-me, sack-cloth-and-ashes tears.

About boys.

And how I had prayed for everyone to start dating and then everyone (well.. a lot of people) had started dating. Just like I prayed for. But I must have been overlooked because there was just no one for me. I must have been exempt from my own prayers. Forgotten. Left behind.

I must have a fatal flaw. I must be too ugly. Too fat. Too emotional. Too… whatever. Because clearly… no one was coming to pursue me.

It was a low… being a 24-year-old woman and crying about boys.

“I must have missed it.” I cried to them. “I must be forgotten. It’s like it’s everyone BUT me.”

How many times do we feel like that? “It’s everyone BUT me.” We look around at our group of friends and see movement and provision. But that one tender spot of our own hearts, that place we’ve been believing for for years, is still left as a desire unfulfilled.

So we ache. And groan. And sometimes cry for this thing. Hoping and fighting, but often discouraged by the lack of any forward motion we see in front of us.

One of the biggest desires in my heart over the past 6 years has been to be pursued by a man of God.

Despite sounding superficial, it has been a very significant thing in my heart.

I haven’t dated anyone since I was 18. So for 6 years, it has been pushing in and believing for a man of God to pursue me, often when nothing looked hopeful. It has been filled with liking boys who haven’t liked me in return, boys asking me on dates who I wasn’t interested in, and seasons of God saying “wait.”

Waiting is freaking hard.

And a part of me thought I would be waiting forever.

But God is good and kind.

Waiting is not a forever kind of thing. 

There wasn’t some secret formula to having a desire fulfilled. But there was a release.

After that crying session, I went to a Heidi Baker conference that night. And something shifted during it. Where I looked at my circumstances and had this realization…

I had no idea when things were going to change. 

I became so hopeful that at literally any moment, things could change. Circumstances could shift. A man could come walking out of the wilderness and start pursuing me. I had no idea what my next moments would hold!

That night felt like Christmas Eve. I could hardly sleep. I was on the edge of my seat… thrilled at the potential and hope for every future day of my life.

“I have no idea when things are going to change.” I kept giggling to myself. Today could be the day. TODAY COULD BE THE DAY!

He’s the ultimate surprise artist. It’s the reason we’re not told the date or time He will return. He lives in the unexpected, surprise moments simply to delight us. Sure… He could tell us every detail. But He doesn’t. He doesn’t for the sake of our tender hearts and the magnification of His kindness.

He delights in us. It is His great pleasure to surprise us with good gifts.

So I became thankful for my season – knowing that at any second, things could change.

And three days later, I started talking to this boy. This boy who loves Jesus whole-heartedly. This boy who is Spirit-filled, Spirit-lead, joyful, tender-hearted and compassionate. And a week later he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Friends.

You never know when things are going to change.

He’s the ultimate surprise artist. Give Him a chance to prove it.