These are the final words of the chapter entitled Do You Believe in Divine Intervention? in Robert Thompson’s concisely wise book for which this blog is named

Once we know.  It’s just that part that gets in the way.  Or: We’re not alone.  That part, too.  Or: ever…yeah, that gets me going.  And then the kicker: There is nothing left to fear.  Actually, that last bit is barely imaginable.

The obituary section of the New York Times has been for me for many years a source of edification and aquisitive learning.  There are tremendous people dying every day!  And the Times smartly assigns some of the best of their stable of writers to pen these paeans to minute greatness.  I learned of the mystic Ralph Harper in those pages whose book Presence has had a profound influence on my life these fifteen or so years since his death.  I had never before heard his name. Similarly, recently, Chad Varah died. I never heard of Chad.  But he knew of what Robert was speaking in the aforementioned quote.  Chad was an Anglican priest who in 1935, as a 23 year old deacon, brooded bitterly over the first burial service he conducted, for a (thirteen year old) girl.  She had killed herself because she wrongly feared that the onset of menstruation meant she had a venereal disease.” 

Alas.  The obit goes on to say: “As he moved from parish to parish, Father Varah found that many people he helped with sexual problems, his emerging interest, were suicidal.”

And so he slowly began to devote himself to “the parish of despair.”  He in turn founded what would become the world’s first suicide hotline.  Its name: Samaritans.  The writer concludes he started the hotline after concluding that loneliness is the most heart-rending anguish.

When I got to the final words of that fifth chapter of Bob’s book, I circled those words several times, a cyclone of ink highlighting their importance.  I was reading as the psychotherapist I am and the minister I work to be, but mainly, I was reading just as me, a human being working through the complexity of living a human life, studded with all the moral and psychological ambiguity and persistent memory and complicated feeling a human life holds. 

I hear similar cries everyday to those Chad Varah heard, articulated in contemporary American cultural slang but telegraphing the same despair that nameless thirteen year old in London, circa 1935, felt.  And they often start with sexual binding, someone placing unreal and constricted tethers on another, always with the highest of moral purposes, don’t you know, but nonetheless, so constricting.  And those thin straps, if placed early enough in life, can lead to further constrictions, not of a sexual nature, but something even more primal, constrictions of the soul, in which finally the body and the soul and the psyche are so bound up that despair in the only rational response, and hence, a retreat to some crampedly spacious place in the dark interior where the binding voices are somewhat muffled, where the scarred wretch that one has become is left alone.  Perhaps a wretch like me.     

We see evidence of this everyday, don’t we?  We see it everywhere in the culture, somewhere in our families, sometimes at work, in every newspaper everyday.  On some days, we see it in the mirror, and on some days in those we love the most.  We are all adept at hiding: smart, articulate, with ample means, psychologically astute, wittingly defended.  And if we were actually alone, we would be sunk.  Chad Varagh knew that, way before family systems therapy explained it all.  What Chad knew, what Bob Thompson knows, what actually you and I bank on is this simple truth: We need each other.

When I was a Jesuit several eons ago, I often was reminded of the maxim that my face was the only Bible some folks would ever read.  Wow!  That felt powerful.  Now it feels humbling, and because that is likewise true of your face, I am appreciating those reading this blog are now members of some virtual Gideon society of desirous, loneliness-confronting folks for whom Chad Varagh is yet another saint sent to us to teach us how to become one, too.  But we can only become one together, the I necessarily becomes the We in order to be a true I.  As with most truths, paradoxical.

So whether reading the New York Times or my already-tattered copy of A Voluptuous God or the faces of those placed in front of me each day, I am given the profound reminder of the often-given reminder that once we know we’re not alone, ever, there is nothing left to fear.  Presence slowly changes our unknowing to a knowing beyond knowing,  one stirred in some final way by the sight of the Grand Canyon or by the bitter experience of burying a thirteen year old girl, or by glancing in the mirror and noticing the face of God present there, too.  We are given these experiences today, and as we forget, more will come tomorrow. For the Divine, unlike us, never forgets, and unlike us, sees in our face that Divine image.

There is a another thirteen year old girl, or a forty nine year old man or someone of indeterminate age but still breathing who needs to read your visaged Scripture before this day ends.

Of course, it will redound to you.  And have a happy Thanksgiving.