“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
A short, simple statement that is very powerful in its message. To “keep” our heart means to guard. We are to do so with all “diligence”. Diligence being defined as applying careful, cautious and persistent effort. And, we are told why. For out of the heart flows the “issues” of life. Literally the outpouring, overflow or spring of life. If we were to simply take a moment to look around at the issues that plague us, our society and the world-at-large, we would soon discover that the reason for much of the problems we face is directly connected to the heart condition. The heart is often referred to as the center, or core of our being. It is from here that we are moved with compassion, filled with courage and with feelings that sway and move us through life. Providing us the motivation and the will to act upon them.
Jesus made several profound statements concerning the heart. He said that, “a good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, brings forth good things, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of the heart, brings forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:35). He later added that, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” (Matt. 15:19-20).
This helps explain why we need to guard our heart, for whatever the heart holds as treasure is what will influence our thoughts, words, and our actions. If we allow our heart to be tainted, polluted, hardened, filled with self, lust, greed and anything else that would be contrary to those “things that are good”, it is only logical that those are the things that will shape the type of person we become. To guard against such things is a constant, ongoing effort for all of us.
When it comes to relationships, and in particular marriage, we each need to take on the responsibility of rejecting the continual onslaught of external influences that do not help support, encourage, promote, strengthen and enrich our lives, our home, and our relationships. Whatever we allow to be rooted in our heart will eventually manifest itself in some way. From a seed planted to a thought that begins to obsess, sooner or later, this will transform into an action.
Bitter people are bitter because their heart became infected with it. A lustful heart produces adultery. A heart of greed will stop at nothing to get what it craves. These are examples to demonstrate that whatever is rooted in the heart will eventually bear like fruit. Keep your heart with all diligence for the sake of your marriage!
Let me ask you a question. When you fell in love with the one you are with, did they not win your heart? The heart represents in a sense, all that we have of ourselves to give to another person. And only one person can truly have our heart at one time. Here is where trust is placed and why it is so hard to trust again if a spouse has cheated on their mate. It goes beyond the act itself to the fact that some other person stole something from within that marriage. Not only was trust taken away, but the realization that the heart that was once given to them was stolen by another person. And with it the affections, attention and interest of their spouse. When we hear people say, “I fell out of love”, what they are revealing is that their spouse no longer possess their heart, and with it the affections and feelings they once had. That has now been given to someone else, or something else. A mistress comes in many forms. Not only can it be a person, it can be a career, a ministry, money, fame or power to name a few. Wherever our treasure is, there is where our heart will be also. And, wherever the heart is, so is our time and energies. Your greatest earthly treasures should be right there in your home. This is where a balanced life is so important in being able to maintain a healthy, vibrant marriage. It is amazing that no matter how busy our lives are we always seem to be able to make time for the things that are important to us.
When we find that “passion” has been languishing, it is a signal that the heart and soul have been starved. A couple will need to discover together what will re-ignite, or feed that aspect of their relationship once again. This can vary over time as we ourselves change with age, along with our interests and desires. What fed the “fire” when we were young will most likely not be what will maintain it over coming decades. Real love is what remains when our feelings ebb and flow, or our youthfulness is spent. It is by choice.
Where is your heart today?
If you are struggling with issues in your relationship, it may quite possibly be that it is an issue of the heart: yours, your spouse, or both of you. Chances are something of influence has changed the heart condition toward the other. Other interests have taken your attention and time. Or, finding satisfaction in some other distraction.
What are some simple things to help get back on track?
Take personal inventory. How’s your attitude? The way you are communicating? Is there something that you are doing that has gotten in the way? Or possibly not doing that you need to get back to, or incorporate into your relationship? Taking personal inventory on a regular basis helps us from drifting into an unbalanced life and marriage. It helps us to re-focus on our priorities.
Identify those things that are taking up your time. Prioritize them and either get rid of those things that are not really a priority, or shouldn’t be, and reduce the time you commit to those things lower on the list so that you can free up time to allocate instead to your spouse. A marriage relationship is only as good as the amount of time and attention we invest in it.
I suspect there may be those that will want to push back on this one. Chances are they are the very ones this topic is especially for. When it comes to children, just remember that they are temporary residents in your home. They will grow up and leave to live their own lives. And once again it will just be the two of you. It will be a mistake to shift from your spouse being the center of your universe to your children once they come into the picture. Many parents get so busy focused on their kids that they no longer notice the subtle changes in each other as they unknowingly start to live separated lives. Sometimes living their own And once the kids are gone they realize they are now strangers living in the same house. It all happens one small step at a time. This is one reason that it is not unusual to find middle-aged couples divorcing once they become empty nesters. Or, a spouse having an affair with someone who does make them the center of their world. With six kids, my parents learned early to say “no” more often than saying “yes” to everything we asked or wanted to do growing up. This is key. The home centers around Mom and Dad, not the children. Kids will survive not being able to play in every sport or being able to try out for every event. What they may not survive unscathed is a home filled with fighting, separation, divorce, yelling, violence and all the other things that come with a marriage on the rocks. Most of what children will learn about being a husband, a wife, mother, father, a man or woman is from what they will witness firsthand in the home. When it comes to their understanding about love and relationships, it will be by the examples their parents’ display. How kids approach marriage when they become adults themselves will be impacted by what they have learned at home. This is of more value than anything else a parent can do for their children. Provide a home where they can feel and see love, peace, stability, and security. Your marriage comes first. Kids come second. Capiche?
Remind yourself often. Remind yourself how fortunate you are. Out of over 6 billion people on the planet, your spouse CHOSE to love you. Cherish that love and appreciate what you have. The moment you start to take it for granted is the moment you begin to settle for less.
The 80/20 factor. It is said that on average the most a person is able to fulfill is 80% of what the other is seeking in a relationship. For most this is enough that the other 20% is not a factor. However, infidelity often is the result of someone seeking and then chasing after the other 20%. In the end, they come to realize too late that the other 20% was not worth losing the other 80% they already had. Don’t go after the 20% you think you need. You will end up with nothing but misery. And the person that was fulfilling the 80% will find someone else that appreciates what they can give. No one can satisfy on all levels all the time. Just be thankful for what you got. After all, you’re not all that either. And, keep in mind that your only supplying up to 80% yourself. That thought should make us all try a little harder.
Let the past go! There are those that enter into a new relationship still holding on to the pains and wrongs of a previous one. These unresolved issues and feelings will only bring problems to any new relationship. Projecting the wrongs from some “ex” onto the person you are now with is unfair, unreasonable and creates issues. We cannot drag the baggage of the past into the present and expect a new, fresh start. Chances are we will only repeat the past. Resolve those things that hold you back. Be free to start a new beginning without the reflections of the past. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch. You deserve happiness in life.
Recognize the differences between men and women and let us not pretend in this PC society that it does not exist. The sexes generally approach many things from different perspectives. Men and women are wired differently. What may not be a big deal to you may be a big deal to your husband or wife. If it is important to them, make it important to you as well.
8. Don’t forget to keep dating. Be sure to plan on a regular basis time to go out and have some fun. It is important to still enjoy each others company, break away from the mundane things of life and for just the two of you to spend invested time with each other. Try something new. You don’t have to always spend money. Look for things that one can do for free such as local art in the park, town festivals, a drive to some natural attraction in your area. Or, simply go sit by the water and talk about the future. Whatever it is, just keep dating.
Until next time we wish you LOVE, JOY & PEACE!