In gospel lessons on morality (particularly sexual morality) we sometimes hear "don't play with fire," and "stay as far away from the edge as possible." I think there are places for those analogies, physically, spiritually and practically speaking. Yet I would like to offer an additional way of looking at it. There is another analogy that was initiated by a friend and has been passed around quite a bit among people with whom I am acquainted. It's been incredibly helpful in navigating my journey, and I invite you to apply it to whatever your journey brings you to.
We need the warmth of the fire.
Don't worry. I've already run scenarios through my head of what this might look like: rationalization. That has been heard and understood. And sure, someone can rationalize and get too close to the fire if he or she chooses to do so. This could possibly include knowingly trying to skirt around the commandments or undermining the line of authority given by God. I think it's safe to say that no one wants to get burned, so therefore, don't play with the fire or get too close.
On the flip side, if you get too far away from the fire, you get cold (let's assume this is in somewhat chilly weather). One would think it's always safe to stay as far away from the fire as possible. Yet that can turn into isolation, denial and unhealthy habits. I've been in this situation at various parts of my life path, probably more often than not. It's a place where I seclude myself from others like me, out of fear that I'll fall in love with someone, become codependent or act out sexually. It's a place to go out of fear of what others think...that it might look like I'm doing something immoral. It's a place that breeds a whole other set of issues, like overeating, pornography, loneliness, depression, anxiety and possibly anger and regret. But hey, at least there isn't a direct violation of the law of chastity, right? That's all that matters, right?
The warmth of the fire seems to be the place of vulnerability and where shame dissipates. It's where relationships are built and progress is made. It's where boundaries are set and respected. It's where mistakes are made and learned from. It's where the Atonement and the Light of Christ is utilized. For me, this has included vulnerability and exploration, finding out who I am and what I am to be about. It's involved figuring out how to set boundaries and how to love. There's been trial and error, heartache and joy. Ultimately, though, it's where I can find acceptance of myself, resist nothing and lay everything out before the Lord.
A word about what the warmth looks like for each individual, where that proverbial line is between warm and cold, warm and burning...that's going to have to be determined by individuals, ecclesiastical leaders and possibly close loved ones...no one else.
It's been interesting to see how often I move away from the fire. It's where I start going through the motions, doing what I think I should do. It's where I start living in denial and pretending everything is OK or that I have it all figured out. And in the process, I move away from God. Thankfully, time and again He brings me back to reality and truth...the truths that comprise His gospel and the truths He wants me to see in myself. I have hopes and desires that sometimes might lie outside of the gospel. I can't fight them anymore. I can, however, accept them, sit with them and let the Savior take the wheel, resting in the warmth of His perfect love.