The original plan had me spending Sunday in an airport terminal. The rearrangement of my return trip gave me an extra two days. I had been invited by one friend to attend a large church in the city, but after last Sunday's experience decided to opt for accompanying my hosts to a smaller, local congregation.
I felt the tears welling up at the first song, and they didn’t stop much for most of the service. The preacher spoke about hope, with reference to the earthquake – what I suspect was a common theme from pulpits across the country. There was nothing much new in what he preached, although there were a few bits I privately disagreed with.
One thing he talked about was the increase in liquor sales after the quake. His comment was that people who don’t have faith don’t have anything else to lean on, they place their sense of security in houses and employment, and lose hope when those things are no longer secure. I felt that was not an accurate picture of what was happening emotionally in people. I think what a lot of people in Christchurch have been feeling is a deep shock and grief: it’s not about the buildings or the jobs, it’s about the loss of lives, the ongoing aftershocks and the uncertainty each time whether this will be another big one. So many of the stories I’ve heard have been people who came close to being a victim. A few meters down the road, or a few minutes before going out to buy a sandwich, or just missing a bus. An overwhelming sense of “it could have been me under that rubble”. Those who were in the suburbs, and not in immediate danger have also found intensity of the shaking was traumatic, even before they were aware of the level of devastation in the CBD. Faith or not has made little difference – everyone has felt their soul ripped out of them.
I believe that God is with us, even in our darkest times, when we can’t feel or sense anything of Him. I may not be able to feel much faith at the moment, but I know it’s there and in some way it’s part of all this, and in time it will return and my spirit will begin to heal.