Vampires, Mummies, and the Holy Ghost
These are the things that terrify me the most…
These two lines are part of the chorus to a Jimmy Buffett song. It’s an oddly upbeat song about phobias – not really a Halloween tune, but the lyrics do fit the season. I always liked the song, and these word have stuck with me. Why put the Holy Ghost in with scary movie monsters? It makes me wonder two things:
Is there a difference between feeling scared to death and scared to life?
What is the church doing wrong if its children mistake the Holy Spirit for a monster?
In a few days, all manner of scary critters will come to my door, threatening mischief if I don’t provide snacks. My house is popular on Halloween – on a downtown side street along with a dozen others whose porch lights will welcome the scary horde. This yearly visitation is one of the reasons I love my home.
The usual assortment will come: babies in strollers, toddlers holding orange jack-o-lanterns in one hand and their parents’ hands in another, batches of elementary schoolers, and the random teen with a pillowcase and a latex zombie mask. No one looks like they usually do, and many have spent hours covering themselves in masks and make-up. Some will even have bloody fingernails and warts. One and all will leave with Twix bars or Nerds. The next day, everyone will be in their usual clothes with their usual faces – scary no longer.
This season makes me wonder what kind of masks we wear every day, hiding our everyday selves, trying to look fierce, asking for what we want with a threat to encourage its granting.
From Ghouls and Ghosties,
And long-legged Beasties,
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us.
Many years ago, I took my young sons Trick-or-Treating. I would take them to the houses with the outside lights on and skip those that weren’t, following the traditional Halloween rules and teaching them to my children. Everything went as it usually does on Halloween – candy and costumes, laughs and glow-in-the-dark bracelets – until we got to the white house with the wrought iron fence. Lights were on, inside and out, so we went up to the door and rang the bell. No one came. After a minute, my son rang the bell again. “I can hear it ringing,” he said, but no one came. “Try knocking,” I said. No one came. After another minute, we walked away. “That’s not fair. They have their lights on,” my other son said. For several Halloweens after, my sons would talk about the rule breakers in the white house; oddly enough, they never said a word about the lights off houses. It was the rule breaking that bothered them, not missing out on treats.
The lights off/lights on Halloween house rule is a great way to know who wants costumed children at the door and who doesn’t. Most people abide by this rule because it’s practical and convenient, not because it has moral weight or importance. Breaking with custom or habit may make things awkward, but unless real harm is intended or inflicted, there is no need to harbor resentment. I suspect the same can be said for many of the social rules I hold dear.
When my sons came home from school today (high school and middle school), I brought up that Halloween incident. It took them a few moments to remember it, and they moved on to another topic within a minute. No negative comments, no judgment, and no interest in past sins. They had moved on. When a social rule I value is disregarded, especially when no harm has come, I hope I can do the same.