Support & Assurance

Nick Thasarathar, St James’s Chief Operating Officer reflects from personal experience on the meaning of “Support and Assurance”, the name of St James’s site and support staff team.

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“Fear Where You Hope/Hope Where You Fear”, it’s an odd mantra, “Fear Where You Hope/Hope Where You Fear”; think about it….repeat it….think about it some more.

I remember the mantra because I remember the fear; a suffocating night in a broken city, caught in the open, cruelly exposed on a beige billiard table of wasteland as the snap and zip of tracer rounds, arcing like a line of angry hornets, rent the air and spat up the earth around me. On my belly, burrowing into a shallow scrape in the sand like a rabid turtle; trying to put a few precious inches of earth between my fragile flesh and the relentless stream of molten violence being directed towards it. Hoping that would be enough to protect me but, fearing the increasing inevitability of impact. Feeling my luck leaking away into the ground as each interminable second stretched out and the incoming rounds closed in; an arms-length away, a foot, a finger – feeling my trouser leg ripple as the next bullet stroked it on its trajectory towards oblivion.

I remember the mantra because I remember the hope too; the moment of release. The moment when I let go of the rope of reason and plunged headfirst towards uncertainty; standing up, pushing forward into the maelstrom, blissfully and briefly unencumbered by survival instincts; released from the paralysis of fear by a heady cocktail of faith, fatalism, adrenalin and the overwhelming desire not to let the young men who depended on me down.

“Fear Where You Hope/Hope Where You Fear”; I carried a rifle with me, I carried faith with me, I carried contradiction with me. This was my coping mechanism on many such nights; nights where the veneer of human control was at its thinnest and the fragility of life at its zenith.

In later years, I have come to question whether the mantra, and my coping mechanism, was really a contradiction at all:

“Fear Where You Hope” speaks to the human aspect of the mantra. It implies that we cannot adopt blind optimism as an approach to succeeding in any of our endeavours; there are efforts we should make, things we should do, in order to support the possibility of such success. In my example, “Fear Where You Hope” is illustrated by the seconds spent in a shallow scrape; hoping that it would protect me from fire but, realising with rightful fear that such an outcome was unlikely.

“Hope Where You Fear” implies that ultimately, things beyond our control will determine the success of our endeavours because humanity cannot foresee everything, nor does it have the power to do everything. It speaks to the influence of the divine in providing us with hope in times of great fear. If we are to progress when we are afraid, we need to take a leap of faith, trusting that the outcome will be for the best in the end. Faith liberates us from fear, empowering us to act with an assurance that what we hope for will eventually be delivered.

That is not to say fear should not exist. To be afraid is to be human as much as it is to have hope. Nor is it to say we should not try to support our endeavours with hard work and effort, rather I believe it says that true assurance is divine, not human, and faith is our means to accessing it. The wonderful can happen when both sides of the mantra come together.

As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”