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.