Saturday, December 12, 2009

Renunciation

Emily Dickinson wrote a dark and pensive poem about renunciation -- the act of giving up a right, relinquishing something precious, choosing voluntarily to let it go.

Renunciation -- is a piercing Virtue --
The letting go
A Presence -- for an Expectation --
Not now --
The putting out of Eyes --
Just Sunrise --
Lest Day --
Day's Great Progenitor --
Outvie
Renunciation -- is the Choosing
Against itself --
Itself to justify
Unto itself --
When larger function --
Make that appear --
Smaller -- that Covered Vision -- Here --

She describes renunciation as a virtue and compares its beauty to that of the sun in the moment of its rising -- something so glorious that it is painful to see. We shut our eyes against its glory. Such is renunciation.

I know that Christ's renunciation of his position in heaven is such a glorious thing. He let go everything, reduced his divinity into a few tiny human cells smaller than the head of a pin, and endured both physical and spiritual torment, for us. What a beautiful act of sacrifice!

Letting go is hard. We've received the news that Adam will not be allowed to candidate at our church; the presbytery committee in charge of such things decided this, in spite of an appeal made by our church's session of elders. We love the church and long to stay and serve. The church loves us and longs for us to stay, and has expressed a desire for Adam to be their pastor. I do not understand such foolishness in the world, that would prevent a church and a pastor from being able to be together. The reasons the committee gives are not convincing, yet this is a policy they have used before, and will use again, I suppose.

So we are called to let go, to renounce the things we cherish. And although all this is brought about by very bad decisions on the part of fallen men, still I know it smacks of the hand of God. He often requires us to let go of what we have grown to love, and to stretch out again (and again) into a new place. I dislike it, and I don't understand it, but I do it anyway. My goal each time I'm asked, is to do it with as little fuss as possible, knowing that fighting against it does no good, does ME no good.

We have lost much over the years -- homes, friends, belonging, joys; ties are loosened, then broken. We have gained much also. Miss Dickinson knew what she wrote of. Renunciation pierces, but it is virtuous, and glorious. She says one can do this hard thing, with expectation ... of something. Christ renounced all that was beautiful, in order to bring us to God and to heaven, and to himself.

When we studied this poem in class the other day, it excited Peter. I asked him the next day if he liked it. He said no, that it reminded him too much of what we're going through right now. It is too piercing to him. For his sake, I will try to see the expectation.

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