There he stood in shock; he was stunned and trembling and beyond denial that my friend, George’s newborn child was dead. And yet, yes, his child was indeed dead: dead to the touch, dead to the world and now lay cold and blue and lifeless and pitiful inside the maternity ward of the hospital. Compounding the demanding situation was now, another lady from another room who beckoned George to tend to her plight as her child too was motionless and was presently held by the hysterical mother who begged for God to answer the cry of disbelief.
“Pray for my child.” she sobbed. “At least baptize my infant child so that he might enter heaven with our master.”
Of course, George knew this was ridiculous. There was no need to baptize a dead infant, and no, there was no theology to back it up: In fact,the opposite was true.
But in the wails of the desperate mother this made no difference and in search of anointing oil George made a dash to a nursing station and within seconds, was patting down the dead child with oil and water, even placing some on his own forehead for good measure.
And when it seemed all over, still another lady begged his indulgence and the futile gesture of baptism was repeated for the same reasons. In the end, George found he was praying and praying hard. He knew he wasn’t only short on answers, but overcome by emotion and pain and personal self-doubt.
And now in retrospect, it doesn’t seem to matter that he lacked for theology. All he knew at the time was terror and grief and cries and the urgent need for comfort. And yes, this is the type of stuff that goes beyond textbooks or common sense or theology. He had found others hurting the same as himself and discovered himself answering the only way he knew how.
The most obvious becomes clear: the obvious is in moments like that there are no good answers: there are no points of wisdom: all there is involves the need for presence and the sense of touch.
In moments like these, there is no good theology for we can only surmise no matter what our reply to those occasions is that we simply don’t know far enough. Neither theology nor words of comfort meet the task. In moments like those we are broken, subject to our Lord, weak and above all else, humble and vulnerable to any and all elements of the world. In those times, we are something just a little above and below simple codes of theology.