I was a teenager when I first heard the analogy of the “construction paper heart”.
This analogy, a well-intentioned object lesson, is meant to encourage young people to protect themselves from the dangers of experimental dating. The speaker uses a visual aid, a heart made out of red construction paper:
“When you are in a dating relationship, you are giving away a piece of your heart to that person.”
(A portion of the heart is then torn off and given to someone in the audience.)
“If that relationship doesn’t work out and you get into another relationship, you are giving someone else a piece of your heart too.”
(Another portion of the heart is torn and given away.)
“This is repeated as you go from relationship to relationship, giving pieces of your heart to all these different people. When you actually meet ‘the one’ that God has created for you…you only have a portion left of your heart to give that person.“
As a “good Christian girl” who didn’t date, this sounded great. I was “saving my heart” for my future husband and would have my WHOLE heart to give him!
Until “the one” turned into the wrong one.
I entered a “courtship” with a young man when I was 18. Our parents were involved and approved of our relationship, which was intended for marriage from the beginning. But after two months, the relationship ended for many reasons.
I was devastated because I thought I had lost a part of myself.
I remember thinking and sobbing: “I’ll never be able to love again! How will anyone else love me after I’ve given my heart away?”
I was left feeling broken, damaged, and unfixable. As less of a person.
But this idea…it’s just not true.
As human beings, our hearts are meant to love and to give. That’s what a relationship is all about. You cannot care about another human being without there being some “giving of your heart”.
But that’s what’s so great about the human heart — it’s not made out of construction paper.
What if we were to apply this line of logic to all of our other human relationships? A mother of one child would be incapable of going on to love more children fully and freely. Friendship would be far too risky because sharing deeply with one friend would be giving your heart away and rob others of the ability to share your heart too!
Or what if we applied this logic to our relationship with God? When you choose to sin…you are giving a piece of your heart to the Devil. Then you have less of your heart to give to God! Eventually, you will just be too far gone to ever return to Him or have Him love you!
What’s missing in this picture is grace, healing, and restoration.
Our hearts are alive. Ever-growing and changing. Every day there is potential in each of our relationships for pain, rejection, brokenness, and sin. But there is also potential for more love, sweeter love, and greater depth — for grace, forgiveness, and restoration. That’s how God created our hearts and our relationships to be.
It’s not something to be scared of.
A broken relationship can leave you with a broken heart, but it can’t leave you with less of a heart. Your heart is still yours, and you can choose what you do with it. Mr. Knight-In-Shining-Armor-Who-Fell-Off-His-White-Horse doesn’t carry around that piece of your heart in a box somewhere…it’s not collecting dust on his shelf. It’s where it’s always been. Within you.
God promises that He can provide healing and restoration: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
I wish I could travel back in time and talk to that girl sobbing over “giving her heart away to the wrong guy”. I wish I could tell her that loving someone, even the wrong someone, is a normal part of life. The fact that it didn’t work out doesn’t mean that she’s damaged, worthless, or has less to give to someone else.
I wish I could tell her that she will find healing, restoration, and peace.
I wish I could tell her that she will go on to love again — fully and freely — with all of her heart.
I wish I could tell her that her heart isn’t made out of construction paper.
But I can’t tell her.
So I’m telling you…teenage girl who is afraid to look at a guy as more than a friend because you might be giving your heart away. You’re not.
I’m telling you…young woman who is at the brink of a relationship and afraid that you might be making a mistake. I can’t promise that he is the right person or that you aren’t making a mistake. But I can promise that no matter what the outcome, you can find grace, healing, and restoration in God.
I’m telling you…broken-hearted girl crying over a broken relationship that has left you feeling like you are damaged beyond repair. You aren’t.
I’m telling you…young woman who wonders if you have fallen so far away from God that you have nothing left to give Him.
God loves you whether you have a perfect heart or a sinful heart, whether that heart is broken or has never known pain, whether your life is put together or not. He loves you because He made you and wants to be with you. You were created to love Him. No matter how much sin or hurt there is in your life, it’s never too late to love God with all your heart.
Because your heart isn’t made out of construction paper.
Aprille blogs at Beautiful In His Time, her personal chronicle of finding God’s beauty in the messes of her life: her marriage, her mothering, and her relationship with Him. You can connect with Aprille through her blog, on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
(The original version of this post appeared on Aprille’s blog in January 2013. Click here to read the post and accompanying discussion.)
Photography: JenniMarie Photography