Halloween – Christmas’s sinister twin, or so it has seemed to me. On the one hand, we have a celebration of light, life, joy, hope, and on the other, a carnival centred on darkness, doom, despair, death. Surely I am too sensible to be disconcerted by the spray-on cobwebs, the scary masks, the face paint – they’re just kids in costumes, right? What should be my response be as a Christian, a city on a hill, a child of the Most High, the light of the world? The answer is obvious.
Batten down the hatches! Draw the curtains! Make sure the light in the front hall is off and above all, ignore the doorbell. Huddling under the covers with a nightlight is a very sensible policy. Retreating to a friend’s house and letting them answer the door while you eat the Halloween candy is an even better one. Both have been tried and tested by yours truly.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
The experience of being a mum would seem to belie this verse. I’ve never loved anyone like I love my kids. And I’ve never been more afraid. All of a sudden there are these little extensions of myself learning, growing, exploring, enjoying nothing more than teetering on the edge of every boundary on two toes. A friend of mine put it this way: ‘It’s like they’re your heart running around without a brain!’ I fall asleep almost every night incoherently muttering prayers for their protection, hoping that I can prevent them from ever having to experience anything bad, scary, or hard. But apparently that wasn’t Jesus’ prayer for the ones he loved.
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
Interesting. ‘You’, i.e. our Father in heaven, is capitalised, but ‘the evil one’ is not. Perhaps that the best thing for my children is not that I create a bubble for them to live in, but that I tell them the truth and teach them not to be afraid.
Anu: Are zombies real, Mummy? Me: Nope, because zombies are people that have come back from the dead, and nobody has ever done that, except for one person – do you remember who it is? Isaac: JESUS! Anu: But on TV I saw some zombies wearing dirty bandages and walking around making noises. Me: Well, that’s only in the pretend world. But when Jesus rose from the dead, he certainly didn’t go around in dirty bandages – he even folded his facecloth neatly! And he didn’t groan – he went up to his friends and said, “Hello! I’m hungry! Do you have any fish?” They were surprised, to say the least! Anu: Ooh, I like fish too!
Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
So this Halloween, we decided to engage redemptively.
We dressed up as ‘good monsters’ – Mike and Sully, Charmander and Tigger! Terrifyingly cute. We gave out bags of candy – with gospel bracelets and glow sticks inside too! We feasted on pumpkin pie to celebrate that Jesus is not a zombie and He certainly isn’t scary – except to those who absolutely reject him. We ate popcorn and watched ‘Monsters, Inc.’ because just as Sully breaks into the secret room and destroys the Scream Extractor machine, Jesus breaks into the secret place of our hearts and destroys the very machinery of fear.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (Psalm 91:5-6)
The other night, Isaac had a bad dream. Sleepily, I whispered truth over him as I tucked him back into bed. ‘God is here with you, darling, He loves you so, so much. You are safe. Jesus is so strong and so good, everything that’s scary is scared of Him, and He lives in you. Just say His name and every scary thing runs away!’ Isaac was smiling broadly as he fell asleep, but the slight disturbance had woken Anu up. No problem, I was in the zone. I put my arms around her, and started the speech again: ‘Darling girl – God is with you, He loves you so much…’
‘Gerroff me,’ she said in no uncertain terms, rolled over, and went back to sleep. I grinned. She knows it already.