I have the most trouble explaining to people that I like being single.
I like being able to go see whatever movie I want and sit where I want in the theater. I enjoy driving alone, singing loudly to the music that I get to pick and turn the heat or air conditioning up as I please. I love being able to wear whatever clothes and make up I want without worrying about if anyone else likes it. I like cooking for one. I love being able to go to concerts, hang out and take selfies with cute band members afterwards without anyone getting clingy or jealous. I enjoy my space and freedom and being able to do what I like with the energy and time both of those allow me.
Until a guy comes along who compensates for all of that and truly adds even more joy to my life and feels the same about me, I’m not giving up the freedom I get from being single.
The problem with all of this is that we’re taught from a very early age by people – be it society or the media or even family members – that our happiness cannot begin until we’re in a romantic relationship that’s headed for marriage. So when I tell people that I’m happy being single, a lot of them either think I’m crazy or don’t believe me.
Listening to someone talk about a breakup they’re going through always seems to validate my singleness. If I’m not terribly close to the person or the situation, I sometimes internally smirk and pat myself on the back for not putting myself in a position to maybe end up a ball of emotion or a bitter wreck. I’ve done well to guard myself and my heart.
And to demonstrate just how much emphasis our society places on romance, we take spiritual advice and turn it into romantic advice.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NRSV)
Pretty, isn’t it? Not terrible dating advice either. Guard your heart because it’s valuable and important and bad people will corrupt it in some form. Wise. Practical.
And not at all what the author’s getting at.
Let’s read around it. “My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:20-27, NRSV).
The author, presumably Solomon, is telling his kid to listen to him and remember his words because they are helpful, healing words. He says to keep them in the heart and then to guard the heart because it gives life.
Then Solomon says to get rid of “crooked speech” and “devious talk,” and this is incredible spiritual advice. I’m not going to get into what qualifies as bad language or lecture you on what words you should or shouldn’t say, and I don’t fully believe that’s what Solomon means here either. I believe that Solomon is referencing the power of our words and what our words say of us as people. It’s less about the actual words we speak and more about how we mean them. Do I mean to insult someone? Am I speaking kindness into someone’s life? Am I talking about someone, and if so, am I being hurtful?
I believe Solomon is addressing two problems with communication here that affect us spiritually. One is gossip and lies. Gossip and lies profit no one. Spreading things, churning speculation and rumor so much that people believe them as fact just hurt people. It makes them feel judged and devalued, and anyone who generates that isn’t being very loving and peaceful. Two is using language with intent to hurt people. Do we insult people or put them down all the time? Do we say things that drain their self-confidence or dull their self-view? Are we giving them life to give to others or taking what they have of it? Doing such things doesn’t point back to the God of love.
Solomon tells us to keep our eyes looking forward and to keep on the path. But what do the two have to do with each other?
In basketball, it’s easy to fall victim to a trick play. A lot of times defenders look silly because someone will give a no-look pass and that team will score. If you watch, this is because the offensive player is looking one way and is passing another. Usually the body goes where the eyes go. If a player is looking at a teammate, it’s a safe bet he or she will pass to said teammate. If the player looks at the basket, the player will likely shoot. So the defensive player prepares for the ordinary, the way the eyes are looking, and is tricked when the body doesn’t go where the eyes go.
The same applies to our spiritual lives. If our eyes linger on sin, our hearts will take interest in it and we will turn to it. By looking forward on our straight path, we see only the beauty and promise of our straight path. Not looking around us and focusing on where all the sin and masquerading pain exist. Not looking behind us and focusing on our dark and rocky past where we see imperfections or maybe even fun times. Looking forward to hope and countless blessings and focusing on God.
Our focus is what it all comes down to. Are we focused on God, on serving Him, on loving others like He does, on keeping our hearts and lives on the path He has us on? Or are we letting corruption enter our hearts and exit our mouths through a turnstile while looking for something we think will be better but will leave us empty?
Look at your heart. Where is its guard? Where are your eyes looking, and where are your feet turned to? I encourage you to remove anything that’s causing your heart to harden or turn from God. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding. And fill those empty spaces by letting God in. It’ll make your heart feel so full that you won’t hesitate to guard it anymore.
By Carrie Prevette
P.S. – I wrote another blog post that heavily involved Proverbs 4:23 earlier this year. At the risk of sounding super conceited, I’ve got to say that I really like that post. It’s probably one of my favorites that I’ve ever written, and I think it’s a more in depth post about the function of the verse in our lives than this post. You can read it here if you’re interested.