Before leaving for Ireland I’d been focused on Solomon’s admonition in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It was that “guard your heart” part that struck a nerve. Whenever I feel pressure in my spirit, I know I’m supposed to let it linger until I see what God’s trying to show me. The deeper the truth He’s trying to reveal, the longer the process. Oh, how I’ve learned the hard way to embrace this grueling process I once hated! I still don’t like this kind of lingering, but I do love the end product.
Unfortunately for all of us, life occasionally hurls some pretty large stones at our hearts. Some bruise. Some cut. But every now and then, life bows up and hoists a boulder gigantic enough to break our hearts and crush our spirits into dust. Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of that blow or feel like the one who had to deliver it, you’re left with a heart barely able to squirt.
That’s where Ireland’s many castles entered into my learning process. We visited three of the most famous ones: Kilkenny, Blarney, and Bunratty. Though each displayed unique characteristics, there were still many similarities that taught me a great deal about guarding my heart.
Castle moats, though not there now, once upon a time encircled the castles to keep the enemy at a distance. It’s hard to tunnel under a castle surrounded by water! Having a moat surround a hilltop castle with its raised drawbridge gave castle-dwellers a bird’s eye view of their enemies’ formations.
Castle walls were built high enough to keep enemies out, and some we saw had walls six feet thick. When it comes to our hearts’ protective walls, Satan will use whatever catapult, flaming arrow, or battering ram he chooses to help him break through. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.
Castles originally had long narrow windows with slanted sides so that archers could have a wider range to aim their arrows without leaving themselves exposed to the enemy. Easy to shoot, but hard to get shot! Satan’s aim is calculated, but never true. He doesn’t have what it takes to keep hitting the marks on our hearts when we narrow our window of opportunity.
As Christians, we strive to keep our walls high against Satan’s attacks by paying attention to the music, movies, substances, and bad company we choose. However, we should be just as intentional about letting down our drawbridges with one another. In the days of kings, queens, ladies, and lords, drawbridges were lowered during peaceful days for great times of feasting, dancing, and entertainment.
Perhaps, by now, you’ve joined me in being a bit confused about the “guard your heart” part of Solomon’s words. Because of your pain, you’ve been guarding your heart by resisting the faithful love of those who would like nothing better than to gain access into your heart and help you turn that hurt and fear into dust. Becoming more transparent scares the living daylights out of you. Hopefully, by now you see that guarding your heart means protecting your heart from Satan’s arsenal. Please don’t let him convince you to build a high wall of hurt or fear and miss God’s blessings.
Perhaps, like me, you may still have some emotions on the mend. There may be some relationships you have to let go for a season and pray God brings them back again when you can be a much better friend. In the meantime, I’m thankful God has worked overtime to bless me with some folks who allow me to readily drop my drawbridge. They meet me where I am and show me that I matter.
I’m sure the desire of my heart is no different from yours. I want to make a difference for the kingdom. Neither of us can do that effectively until our hearts are courageous enough to drop our defenses and allow helpful friends in to join us at our banquet tables.
Thankfully, Jesus leads the parade into my heart daily. He surrounds me with Living Water so that no weapon formed against me will stand. (Isaiah 54:7) Best of all, I know that I know that I know:
The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.(Psalm 62:2)
He will be your mighty fortress too.
Now, go pour some water into your moat, and take a friend swimming!