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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Distance and Belonging

I will be blogging occasional thoughts from a tremendous book gift from Bethany F, entitled Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf.  Let me say this is, so far, a challenging read but well worth the effort, even though I'm only a quarter of the way in.  The themes of culture, conflict, identity, are presented in the context of the author's context of a war-torn Croatia and his wrestling with the theology of the cross as a professor at Yale.   So the quote for today: 

Both distance and belonging are essential. Belonging without distance destroys .. but distance without belonging isolates.  

This applies to us as missionaries.  We do not erase our own background; we live out of who we are.  But we do so in a way that connects us to the culture here.  We look for ways to be authentic and yet to lay down our will  in order to approach others.  Always a dance, a give and take.  Volf points out that in creation God separates and binds:  separates light from dark and land from water, but then binds all of creation together in an interdependent and complex web.  In marriage we leave and cleave.  In parenting we raise children to independence, but we do not cut off relationship.  So much of the task of life is to discover who we have been created to be as separate from others, but also in relation to others.  

In this culture the belonging is protected by an extreme distancing from anything aberrant.  I am humbled by the task of crossing the distance without erasing it, of belonging without completely assimilating.  And as a parent of teens I want to help them develop a healthy sense of distance, of identity . . while giving them the solid foundation of ever-belonging to our family.  When these two forces proceed imbalanced, we can see the wreckage for years down the road.  And when it works, it is beautiful, such as the dreaded reality of boarding school turning into a strengthened loyalty.  Lord, have mercy.

1 comment:

Greenbrier Escape said...

I got about half way through exclusion and embrace, reading it around Sept 11. (Volf was at the UN in NY that morning giving an address at a prayer breakfast(?))
Glad you are assimilating the dance of life there well.
Mary Ann