But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

God chose Saul, a tall good-looking man to lead the country of Israel. But his heart wasn’t in the right place. His leadership eventually ended, his death gruesome.

Saul proved how quickly pride can replace humility. Even though Saul had looks and leadership skills, the easier, softer life swayed his heart. God gave him plenty of chances, but Saul didn’t appreciate God’s wisdom and he couldn’t key into an intimate spiritual relationship with his Creator. His downfall was self-centeredness. When it was the right time, God introduced a new leader for His pivotal mission.

The heart of a King needs to be tender and compassionate, the character humble but confident, the mind wise but shrewd, the body strong and fast. The nation relies on a leader who can keep the country safe and prosperous. Looks alone do not qualify a leader.

Israel needed a new leader with a pure heart. God selected an obscure shepherd boy—the youngest and least important in his family and community—a dirty, smelly boy who slept in the open fields and stunk like sheep oil.

Shepherding is a lonely and physically difficult task. With only animals for companionship, conversation becomes one-sided. Loneliness is exacerbated when your own flesh and blood dismisses you as unimportant. David probably felt invalidated, unwanted and unworthy. But during those formative years, God quietly nurtured him, feeding him love, wisdom and knowledge. David eagerly ate from the Father’s hand. Their intimate relationship blossomed. The result was a man with a tender, loving heart. A willing vessel for the kingdom.

A tender, loving heart comes from years of practice in quality intimate relationships. Many non-Christians purposely work at fostering goodness because they’re aware of their own imperfections. As Christians, we, too, struggle with narcissism. Our base nature is selfishness. We gravitate to looking after our own needs first. Pride needs acclamation and approval. Both Christians and non-believers tackle this evil. As Christians, we know we must extinguish it daily.

Back in the 60s, my family was part of a church that condemned all displays of pompousness. My dad only drove a black car, because a colored car would draw attention and thereby increase pride. My clothes were homemade or hand-me-downs. According to my parents, this would help keep me humble. I was to “expect nothing and desire less.” Meanwhile, my secular friends purchased new store-bought-clothes, lived in nicely decorated houses, had salon haircuts, and their daddies drove cool cars. Instead of squashing my pride, I felt unworthy and undesirable. I became envious and developed a rebellious heart. This impaired my relationships.

It’s impossible to have a sensitive, loving heart when one is resentful and selfish. It took half a lifetime to undo my dysfunctional perspectives and discover my inheritance as a King’s daughter. Developing a loving, tender heart required plenty of alone-time with The Father in the rough and wild wilderness. It surprised me to learn God doesn’t ask me to give up stuff. He wants the best for me. All he desires in return is my heart. Complete intimacy requires total commitment.

A tender, loving heart yearns to be so connected. When we develop this unique closeness with God, we naturally want this in our physical relationships. In the unequally yoked marriage, this ideal is difficult to achieve. Since our marriage partner doesn’t know the Lord, their ability to fight selfish tendencies centers on their own will. Without God in the center, each person fights for control and the marriage becomes more and more unbalanced.

It’s easy to fall into the tempting trap of manipulation and control while we try to achieve spiritual intimacy with a physical partner who doesn’t love God. Without this closeness, we feel stuck in the sheep pen—alone, unwanted, abandoned, invalidated and unworthy. We gravitate to selfish measures to be noticed and loved, only to meet with resentment and chaos. We conclude our stink is unwelcome. The treasure in our tender loving hearts is neither seen, valued nor wanted. We try harder, but nothing we do works. If we are to fit neatly into their lives, we need to wash off the smell of Jesus. The enemy waits to kill, steal and destroy.

If the salivating wolf can’t get you to abandon your faith, he finds other tactics. He’ll shoot arrows at your self-esteem. Rejection, unworthiness, invalidation, and minimization are equally damaging as excessive pride. These lead to more feelings of unworthiness which position us into the firing line of depression. It’s natural to react defensively and give legitimacy to the negativity around us and take it into our soul. However, if we allow this to mar our tender hearts, the enemy gets his kill.

If we want truly want to be a practical vessel in the Kingdom, we must guard against the enemy’s tactics. God wants the best of us, but we need to do our part to keep our heart tender. This requires cultivating our relationship with the Lord.

Increasing spiritual intimacy is the best strategy in spiritual warfare. This is as simple as enjoying the companionship of Christian friends, listening to Christian music or podcasts, reading the Bible and good Christian books and, of course, prayer. Sometimes I go for a walk in nature just to talk to him. Loneliness dissipates when I sit at His feet or have communion with God’s family. This is where true intimacy grows.

The secret to true intimacy is a tender, loving heart. It begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you are living in an unequally yoked marriage, there’s a peer support group built just for you. We pray for and encourage each other with Biblically based support. (For Christians only) Check us out https://www.facebook.com/groups/unequallyyokedmarriage

If you haven’t read the book yet, it’s available on all Amazon sites. Check it out on my author page here: https://www.amazon.com/Miranda-J.-Chivers/e/B0791MGZP7

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