The French town of Calais was under siege by King Edward III of England (1348 AD).
Edward offers to spare the starving French village if six of their leaders, the Burghers of Calais, will surrender themselves for execution.
French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, immortalizes the scene …
The Burghers must walk out from Calais bringing the keys to the city and wearing nooses around their necks. This is an Ordeal.
An Ordeal alters the course of our lives. We aren’t sure we will ever live, laugh, or love again.
An Ordeal can last months not minutes.
Ask the patient who has suffered with a long term illness.
An Ordeal doesn’t just shake us to the core. It rips the core from us.
Ask the teenager who saw his friend die.
An Ordeal punches Justice in the face and cracks her jaw.
Ask the mother who must allow the abusive father his visiting rights.
It doesn’t matter we were playing by the rules of the game.
It doesn’t matter we were humble and never taunted the gods.
We drop to our knees realizing our greatest efforts, prayers and plans were not enough to thwart an event that devastates our life.
Deep in this Cave of the Ordeal, Anguish wrenches from us the cry, “That’s not fair.” We hear our words repeat, repeat, repeat.
This is not an echo.
“That’s not fair.” is the howl of previous heroes during their dark night of the soul.
The Ordeal kills our expectations of what life ‘should’ be and takes us to a defining moment in the quest for living.
Being stripped of expectations clears the way for what we are capable of becoming.
This is not the mentality of ‘bad things need to happen to us so we will learn.’ Instead it is recognizing that ‘bad’ things happen regardless of our goodness.
Those of us on the quest of living must decide that we will not surrender our Self, even to circumstances beyond our control.
Walt Whitman explains:
“Either define the moment or the moment will define you.”
P.S. The wife of King Edward III, Philippa of Hainault, intervened and spared the lives of The Burghers of Calais.