by Aprille

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.

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. @beautyinhistime

 

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

21 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this article! You have no idea how it has comforted my bruised, and wandering heart. Thank the Lord, for not making our hearts out of construction paper! Thank the Lord, for the restoration he gives us, and how he lovingly restores us. Thank you Lord!

  2. Thank you for this post! I’m so thankful that God heals, restores and redeems!

  3. Aprille,

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post – I needed this reminder today! I married the knight in shining armor straight out of Christian college, with the blessing of our Christian parents and grandparents and friends and professors. It turned out that shining armor can be a really nice sparkly cover for quite a lot of unhappiness and badness, though, and I have spent the year and a half since my divorce feeling understandably wounded and broken.

    It is good to be reminded that brokenness need not be permanent – that God DOES heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, and that when those breaks and wounds look like they’re too bad to be healed, then it means we’re getting to the stuff God’s really good at.

    Bee

  4. I love that rays of grace are starting to peek through clouds of judgement. I am thrilled that vulnerability and open honesty are being encouraged over emotional suppression and secret shame. I stand up and clap at the voices of my generation who are bold enough to write their stories and their experiences and the lessons they learned. We need more stories, not more self help books.

  5. I agree, mostly. But not entirely; from the number of (married) friends who facebook-stalk ex-boyfriends (either for “I hope his life SUCKS now” or for “what-if” reasons; I see both as harmful in different ways), I think romantic relationships do leave a dent of some kind. Non-consensual sexual stuff or experiencing other forms of violence often does as well; it’s not fair, it’s not the victim’s fault, but it can leave some junk behind. There is redemption and healing, but everything we do and go through impacts our future relationships and all the rest of it. Had a boss betray you? That will influence your relationships with future employers, maybe positively (read *all* that contract!), maybe negatively.

    I’m not sure how to phrase this. Maybe that relationships that grow and then die are like branches pruned off a tree – sometimes they leave things a bit lopsided, usually there’s a bit of a scar (sometimes a big scar, and sometimes there’s infection or beetles). So it’s good to be careful when growing and closing relationships (not on full-massive-never-let-emotion-out lockdown, but also dodging full-obsessive mode, both for growing and closing relationships), and you will learn from everything (some good habits, some bad habits, try to keep the good habits and ditch the bad ones) and you will live through it? But things aren’t as tidy as the construction-paper heart analogy.

    1. You definitely bring up some great points, and I definitely agree. I could write another whole post about how that relationship did affect my current one and my life in general. I didn’t get out without scars for sure, but I still found healing. One of my favorite songs is “Heal the wound, but leave the scar…” by Point of Grace.

      I’m definitely not saying that a previous relationship will have no impact on a future, and when there is sexuality involved, there is much more to deal with. But it’s not something you cannot overcome with God’s grace and help.

      1. Thanks for your kind reply!

        My question underneath is: how do we communicate the way these things really are to teens, so they can be educated and hopefully wise in their decisions, *without* leaving them with unnecessary excess baggage?

        (I also have this question about communicating about alcohol use, since, seriously, a half beer is not going to kill a teenager, but 11 shots of tequila might, and getting mildly intoxicated in a totally safe environment isn’t really a huge problem, but getting mildly intoxicated in an environment where people will take bad advantage of your impaired decisions *is* a huge problem – but it’s so much easier to communicate hard lines and “always” than squishy lines and “it depends” and “sometimes”.)

        (and then there’s the question of 10 teens hearing exactly the same thing and coming away with 10 different messages. Oy.)

        1. I honestly don’t have advice. It’s one of those parenting questions I’m already terrified to face and I only have a two year old. All I can do is pray for wisdom when the time comes to answer those hard questions.

  6. Yes, yes, YES! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been there and it hurts. Though I’m not in another relationship after my last one, I do know my heart has healed and there isn’t pieces of it straggling around! 🙂

  7. YESYESYES

    Our hearts can divide, multiple, and heal. Also, the bunch about how we have to “protect” our own hearts isn’t even from scripture. The Bible says God protects our hearts!

  8. Wow, I wished I had read this article as a teen too, because I bought into that idea. I refused to make eye contact or show any interest with any guys. But it simply isn’t true. And yes, I have had those thoughts of feeling less because I liked a guy that at one time I thought was the one, there were beginnings there that turned into nothing. It was a dream I put back on the altar and gave back over to God. And yet, I still thought my heart was less than what is was. To love means to be vulnerable. And sometimes being vulnerable brings pain, but it doesn’t mean our hearts are any less or that the Lord views us as less because we chose to love.

  9. OHHH!!!!! I am so excited I’m shaking! Yes, yes, yes! I was taught this same analogy, and I lived by it, then I married a wonderful, godly man, and discovered that he had previously “given his heart away”.
    Talk about crushed? I was more like DEVASTATED!
    Then God yanked me through a crash course in how that “construction paper heart” is a soulish, well-meant teaching that is based in fear. Not love… FEAR.
    No heart is too broken to love again. At the root, that is selfishness, that is fear, that is not love. My husband and I love each other more each day we’re together. My heart is not divided between him and my two lovely children. With each addition to my family, my heart grows BIGGER and BIGGER! It doesn’t split into smaller and smaller pieces.
    Thank you so much for articulating this! I know so many girls I’m going to be sharing this with.
    Much Love!

    1. Jessiqua, I am so glad that together, you and your husband have found TRUTH and healing in your relationship…and that your love has grown because of it. God bless you!

  10. Wow! This is exactly what I have been thinking lately! Girls like me really need to hear this and remember it!

    And I’d just like to add something… I’ve been in only 2 serious relationships. The first one was a mess, and I regret some of the decisions I made, but at the same time, I am so glad I went through that because it has helped me to appreciate the guy I am in a committed relationship with now! I don’t think it would have meant much without the heartbreak and hurt and healing in my past!

    Learn from the past! Don’t relive it, but also don’t forget what it taught you!

    1. I too feel that my first relationship brought me a wealth of life experience. I learned so much about myself, my family…my God through it! And there were things that happened in that relationship to prepare me to be with my husband and appreciate him more. To read more of the story behind this post, you can find it here: http://beautifulinhistime.com/our-love-story/

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