I remember her now. Her body was stiff in my arms and I held her while I prayed with her family, her father and mother distraught and terrified at what they saw. Her father explained to me again and again: I found her dead, I tried to do CPR, she was blue. Meanwhile, I held her and prayed. Her hair, if I recall correctly, was in little pony tails. Her mouth was crusted with dried sputum around the tube that they had inserted to try and force air into her small, dead body. The women cried, falling to the floor. My eyes were dry and I prayed. My hands were heavy with her weight and I comforted her heartbroken parents just as I had comforted parents before and since.
Until today I had forgotten her. There were two deaths simultaneously that day and dozens since. But today, I opened the paper and saw her name. The autopsy and coroner had completed their work and deemed her death murder. She had not died during the night, she had died the day before, after ingesting nicotine and cocaine. The police are in search of her father and mother and I pray. I pray for her senseless death and for all who die at the hands of violence and beneath the feet of injustice. I wondered for a brief moment if there was something I should have known, if knowing would have changed my prayers. But no, I prayed the prayers that I knew and left the rest to God to know. It was not my role, and is not my role to judge--and as I read the words I am reminded that again and again we are called to "forgive them for they know not what they do."
Before I left seminary and took a call as a pediatric chaplain a colleague of my wife's, another physician, told her that he thought that the moment I saw my first child die I would lose my faith. It had happened to him, and he no longer believed in God--because no God would allow such a thing to happen. No God, would forsake an innocent such as these.
But, God did not abandon them. God accompanied them, feeling every convulsion every blow, every laceration. God was forsaken at the same moment that they were and died with their death--whatever you do to the least of these, my children, you do to me. This is why Jesus died on the cross for me...so that when I face the nightmare of senseless violence I know that I serve a God who does not leave when we grow fearful, I serve a God who understands and has experienced the depth of human depravity, I serve a God who fills the nothingness with love. I serve a God who knows what it is to feel forsaken and knows what it is to die. This is my comfort, and this is my faith.
In The Crucified God, Jurgens Moltmann writes: “Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.”
So today, on this Good day, on this day where Golgotha blots out the sun. Today, what kind of God do you serve? Where do you find faith and comfort in the midst of nothingness?