The Supreme Ordeal

We walk along the ridge in the golden haze of dusk. The rim our neighborhood sits upon, before plunging down to railroad tracks, opens to fields that are beautiful in all seasons. Today the sun paints the tops of wheat grasses and tumbleweed, which sparkle in the dimming light.

We are hand in hand, reminiscing. Specifically, we are recalling the year now named in the thickening chapters of our story: Act Two: Supreme Ordeal. With perspective only time provides, we retell the seemingly never-ending drama of those months.

A season that begins in weariness is not a good place for any sort of ordeal to unfold. We were not yet bone weary, but we had named the fatigue and identified an exit strategy. We had—but our people, our countrymen, had not yet laid eyes upon theirs. None of us knew how to find a way through.

There was so much hatred spewing forth on the news, across social media, and in families. The nation was divided. Racism, genderism, and exploitation were rampant. Political will faltered, and We the People were victims of apparent subterfuge. Unexplained hatred took innocent lives in random places. Flowers filled the gaps and formed a symbolic seal around the spaces in which death won.

In the midst of weariness, perhaps while it started to sink into our bones, Earth herself seemed to break. Death and destruction consumed homes, neighborhoods, and towns. Water came from below and water from above, wind in all directions, and then fires. Death won again.

Long before a lone gunman robbed joy straight from the air, our fatigue at home had given way to a bone-weary soul sadness. Our own domain seemed to break with the Earth’s. First came betrayal in business, which led to financial distress. Bald tires and busted appliances and dental problems with no coverage followed. Low accounts and mismanaged budgets gave way to full blown anxiety. Declining health in loved ones and the death of dear friends came too. Death crouched at our door; the supreme ordeal was in full swing.

Any hope we derived from our exit plan, our way forward, flickered. It struggled to survive. If our people did not know the way through, could we?

Such were the days and the musings of 2017—a year that carries such pain and ruin I can only imagine it in a future tense.

A year teeming with this level of grave struggle will deserve a time in the future when we will say, “Remember?”

Remember 2017? Remember the year the planet went wild? Remember when we thought twice about concerts and flights and stopped feeling safe in our own country? Remember the time we stopped sleeping because we were so racked with worry and despair? Remember when we leaked money as fast as our tires leaked air?

Perhaps it is a sacred command—to remember. Rather than “make sense of” or “bring meaning to” or “rationalize away,” we are exhorted to hold the pain and the crazy. For what purpose, other than God himself tells us to remember? Maybe because he himself does the same? He remembers his covenant. He remembers his people. We are not forgotten, despite how it seems.

So, we walk hand-in-hand in the sun-drenched onset of dusk, and we remember. We pick up a stone and toss it down to the tracks. A chapter—it is, and it was. And, as acts tend to do, the curtain closed, we took an intermission, and then we kept going. Don’t you remember? The year was 2017.

Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at