I just had to share these thoughts from an umarried female friend (who is a therapist) with her permission regarding the contrast between external rules of self-protection and love. This is the deep contrast we all have to wrestle with as we become friends with one another--but especially the opposite sex.
Growing in deep cross-sex friendship is not opening oneself to anything goes. But the evangelical world presents us with all these external rules on language, proximity, and intimacy which keeps us protected, distant, immature, and staying in the same rut of disconnection when love summons us to life, risk, and beauty.
This is the challenge for unmarried individuals who have been taught to set up all these external rules to save and guard their hearts for marriage. Romantic constructs about what marriage ought to be and friendship ought to be encourages them to not engage in friendships with the fullness of their hearts.
Likewise, it applies to married individuals who are told they must have all these external rules to protect their hearts from entering into deep love with an opposite sex friend.
External rules keep the veneer that the only true and real love in this world is romantic love. We settle for superficial friendships which gives the appearance of niceness but never summon us to fully engage our hearts into deep connection with one another.
Ponder these points of wrestling with external rules or love.
1. We all have to confront the external "rules" we create in an attempt to avoid having to learn how to steward our hearts and deal with the inevitable ways in which we will be misunderstood and misdefined by the world around us if we live from our heart instead of living bound by external "rules."
2. We don't really know what those external "rules" are until we somehow cross them. We construct them in order to deal with hurt, broken, or immature parts of ourselves.
3. These "rules" just cut us off from those parts of ourselves. They don't grow those parts of us. Our hearts can't be truly alive if they are governed by "rules" but only when they are governed by love and are submitted into the Source of all love.
4. If I am not assessing the ways in which I am choosing back into the "safety" of externals over being fully alive to love I quit growing and maturing!
5. People will need safe ways to look at what gets raised for them when they choose into this process and validation of what they find because it is messy and wonderful and growing all at the same time.