to my sister with the guarded heart


For Christmas I gave my 15 year old sister an Etsy gift card and she recently spent it on this necklace (above) that boasted lyrics to a famous Johnny Cash song. My mother shared with me last night that she is thrilled that my sister holds the “guard your heart” concept to a high priority, although she was less than thrilled that there was a gun charm on the necklace..

The guarded heart ideal and the purity phenomenon have been under attack in the blogosphere over the past few weeks. I love that rays of grace are starting to peek through clouds of judgement. I am thrilled that vulnerability and open honesty are being encouraged over emotional suppression and secret shame. I stand up and clap at the voices of my generation who are bold enough to write their stories and their experiences and the lessons they learned. We need more stories, not more self help books.

I look at my sister and see a lot of myself in her. However, one way we are complete opposites is our appreciation of books and reading. I’m a reader, a book lover, a collector, and a life-long student. She hates to read, has never in her life voluntarily read a book, only goes to the book store to buy magazines with photos of boy bands, and severely dislikes the educational part of school. And when I was her age was when I would read book after book after book on purity, sacred waiting, godly relationships, biblical womanhood, christian dating, etc. As an avid blogger since the 7th grade (Xanga was the social networking tool of choice among my friends in the pre-Facebook days), I used my online voice to preach the purity ideals to my blog readers. My blogs were reflections and reviews of the books I read. My ambition was to become a Christian book author and conference speaker who would inspire teen girls everywhere to embrace “sacred waiting” (a term I picked up from authors Eric and Leslie Ludy). I was passionate about purity and everyone knew it. And then something happened my senior year of high school…

My best friend got pregnant.

My first reaction was to cry. I had to leave school early because I was so upset. I cried in my mother’s arms as if I had received the news that my best friend had died unexpectedly. It was definitely a grieving process. And it didn’t take long for my sadness to turn into anger.

Why hadn’t she told me she was sleeping with her boyfriend? Why did she hide the truth from me? Why did my mother have to tell me the truth about what happened?

Looking back, I wouldn’t have told me either if I were her. I wasn’t approachable when it came being honest about sin. Especially this kind of sin.

I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t have anything to say to her.

I knew a lot of things–but grace was not one of those things. I went to church three times a week in my first eighteen years of life and I had never heard a sermon preached on grace.

After I read Sarah Bessey’s I Am Damaged Goods post in January, the conviction I had always felt rose above the surface and I knew I needed to share with my former best friend an apology for my coldness, my pride, and my severe lack of grace. I needed more than anything to be forgiven. It has been more than five years and I learn that my dear friend is still struggling with the concept of her being damaged, used, and dirty.

She is quick to accept my apology and shares with my the shame she continues to feel: I’m trying to overcome these spirits of doubt and failure, but it’s just hard when I feel everyone’s eyes on me, judging me.

And I cry. My heart breaks. I feel deep deep regret. I waited five years to step off of my pedestal and approach her at eye-level–gracefully. Five years. And she is still suffocating from her shame. She is still running far from the christian community.

So to my sweet baby sister…

I am thrilled that you have chosen to keep a close watch on that heart of yours. I rejoice in this. As Madea would say: hallelujer!

It’s okay to be guarded, but don’t put walls up. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when walls go up and you become isolated. Don’t lose sight of the heart of Jesus our Lord and Savior who upholds grace and loving our neighbor to the highest degree. There is no greater commandment than loving God and loving our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Remember that. Keep a close eye on your heart, but do not close it. Don’t close it from love. We were created to love each other deeply. Love heals. 1 Peter 4:8 says it beautifully: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You will have friends that do not guard their heart.

And that’s okay. Don’t distance yourself from them. Love them.

And you might, one day, open up your heart to the wrong boy.

And that’s okay too. Because love covers that.

May I emphasize the grace of God that is so central to my faith in every word I speak and in all of my actions. May your grace, Lord, heal the cries of the broken and draw them closer to the heart of your son. Help me to open my heart and love your people better. Because love is enough.

Keep Reading:

Hearts Are Not Construction Paper

I Stopped Guarding My Heart Ten Years Ago

Purity Culture Fallout: “I wanted to die because I had ruined ‘God’s plan for my life’”



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