I was raised by my grandmother as my mother died when I was very young and my father got married immediately after then. I can’t recall how my mother looked like and have always looked at my grandmother as a mirror of my mother – God-serving, beautiful, graceful, elegant, kind and loving. Every single day I guarded my heart not to be reminded that my mother is with the Lord. Every time I saw my grandmother, I convinced myself that my mother was living inside of her. All of the characteristics of a woman of virtue (Proverbs 31:10-31) I saw in my grandmother were to me those of my mother – so, I never called her grandmother but mother. So, everything I am sharing here is how my mother taught me on guarding my heart.

What is guarding your heart?

Guarding is like securing or protecting something just like we have security guards at work or home or even police or soldiers protecting our communities or countries. We guard our lives by being careful how we live, what we eat, do or even say. We protect ourselves by putting security measures around our homes or offices to ensure that we are safe. We feel safe when we know every aspects of our lives are covered and safe proofed as much as possible. These things we do because we action them out ourselves with the support of others. The big question is “how do we guard [secure or protect] our hearts?” –  How possible is this? What are the things that we can put in place to guard our hearts? Where on earth do we get such from? Is it possible to guard our hearts? I can hear you say ‘impossible’ and someone reading this may say ‘easy’. Is it indeed impossible to guard our hearts? Or is it really easy? Someone out there might say ‘guard our hearts from what?’ All these are important questions.

Guarding your heart from what?

Firstly let me upfront declare I am not a medical doctor nor cardiologist – so this blog does not talk medical stuff. I am neither a nutritionist – so nothing in this blog covers what you should eat or not eat to guard your heart. All I am talking about here is guarding your heart from emotional pain. Having been a practicing social worker thus counseling clients, and a client myself counselled by professionals during my emotional journey, I know what I am talking about. I believe I have the qualifications, experience and calling to share my lessons learnt of ‘guarding our hearts’. Not guarding our hearts has become one of the leading causes of emotional trauma on the globe. A lot of books have been written about friendship, love relationships, and marriage and what these are and how they should be managed. There are also biblical explanations and perspectives on how to guard our hearts. So, in this blog I am going to share with you how to guard your heart in difficult family relations not love relationships, friendships, nor marriage. ‘Wooo… Snowy, we thought this is where you were going!’ No my friend, there is a lot already written about friendships, love and marriage relations.

Why focus on family relations? Every individual comes from a family unit and relations are what build our characters as young people and we become who we are because of those relations. So my relational focus is in a family. Why is a family unit so important that it would be the foundation for building a great heart? How does a family help you to guard your heart? Who in the family is a critical guiding angel or glue that binds the hearts of individuals in the family together to help you become the best you can be in life? Allow me to unpack this by giving you my short life story on guarding my heart and then share with you some of the lessons I have learnt from my home raised in a poor family by my mother [remember my mother is my grandmother]. I believe because I guarded my heart shielded and protected by my mother I became who I am today.

My family relations

I grew up in Hammanskraal in a three roomed [fifteen square meter] house, living there with three uncles, my mother and three siblings. With my mother opening doors to many other relatives, often we were more than ten people in my home sleeping on the floor. We would share the little food amongst all of us as such most of us were malnourished. Anyway that’s not the story. The story is the amazing relations we had amongst all these people around us. For example, my uncles’ wages and my mother’s pension provided for everything even though it was far from being enough. The overcrowding left us with no space to study and the lack of electricity and ‘expensive’ candles forced my mother to sit with us outside the house under a street light at night to study. While I coped ending up with Matric university entrance, my sister and brother sacrificed their education to find work to help support my family. Sad as it was, two things I have learnt in my family relations are true sacrifice and strong coping mechanisms as ways to guard my heart. I was not a happy person because I did not understand why my mother died so early and my grandmother had to be my mother. I did not understand why my father neglected us. I was amazed by the sacrifice of my grandmother, uncles and aunts made to raise us. I was shocked by my sister and brother’s sacrifises and willingness to give up their dreams to study and become leaders in society. All of these things made me to ask God why? I was really heart broken yet still loved the Lord because of my mother’s faith in Him and what she taught me to love Jesus Christ to fully guard my heart.

How to guard your heart

From my short story here are few points of reflection for you:

Sacrificing – How can you sacrifice? My family sacrificed everything for me to guard my heart and focus on my studies…

  • Not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewal of your mind, … You may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect [Romans 12:2]
  • Knowing that the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good… for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks [Luke 6:45]
  • Giving God your heart and letting your eyes observe His ways [Proverbs 23:26]
  • Putting to death what is earthly in you: immorality, imputrity, and idolatory [Colossians 3:5]
  • Asking the Lord to search and test your mind… [Jeremiah 17:10]
  • Storing up God’s Word in your heart, that you may not sin against Him [Psalm 119:11]

Coping – How do you cope? My sister and brother did not cope (yet sacrifed for me) and I coped. You can cope by:

  • Keeping your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life [Proverbs 4:23]
  • Not being anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, leting your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding your heart and mind in Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:6-7]
  • Allowing God to create in you a clean heart and renewing a right spirit within you [Psalm 51:10]
  • Knowing that your flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of your heart and portion forever [Psalm 73:26]
  • Delighting yourself in the Lord to give you the desires of your heart [Psalm 37:4].

Let me stop here. I will continue with part two of this in the next blog. In the meantime reflect on sacrificing and coping and what you have been sacrificed for by others or you sacrificed to be where you are today. How did you cope? How can you help others in your family to cope so as to guard their hearts. How do you guard your heart from a family unit perspective? Please share with us your best lessons learnt. May we continue to guard our hearts! Part 2 coming soon…

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