Halloween & What's Really Scary

By Matt W. Sandford

Halloween is all about scary stuff. Sure there’s the tame stuff like superheroes and princesses, just so commercialism can make sure everyone is included. But monsters, ghosts and blood, gore, horror and death – that’s what Halloween is about. We are strangely drawn to the creepy, the weird, and the bizarre. I remember as a kid tooling around on the TV while visiting my Aunt’s for the weekend. There was always an old time horror movie on Sunday afternoons. The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Man With Two Heads, The Blob. And I remember one time coming across a scene where a can opener was beginning to attach to someone’s neck. I remember being so grossed out and not wanting to watch, but not being able to pull my eyes away.

But I was wondering the other day, are these the things that really scare most people? We hold an odd fascination and curiosity for things mysterious – and death and the spiritual world are certainly that. However, it seems to me that there are many everyday situations that hold much more real scariness to them. I wonder about the people facing financial struggles and job difficulties and the fears and anxieties and the feelings of powerlessness they are wrestling with concerning their tomorrows. I think of those who are struggling in their marriages and are considering divorce. They face a number of very scary realities – of loneliness, regret, damage to their children, financial difficulties, embarrassment and misunderstanding from others. And how about all the rest who are dealing with relationship losses, either due to breakups or death of a loved one. Now let’s include those who are fighting with major illness and disease in themselves or a relative. The daily stress and worry about their prognosis and their treatment, as well as the effects on their reduced functioning and on the toll it all takes on their relationships. Now let’s add to that the adolescent population and the struggles they face concerning the anxieties and fears involving acceptance, achievement, bullying issues, conflicts with parents, developing their moral compass and their direction and hopes for the future. And we haven’t yet even mentioned the realities of abuse in all its forms: sexual, physical and emotional and how so much of this is produced by a child’s own family, gouging deep, profound wounds. Likely, I haven’t covered the half of it.

My point is that it’s life that is really scary. The more I ponder it, I suspect that the scariness of Halloween and horror is really an entertaining escape from the more painful and scary realities of life. That is, that real life is scarier because it is real. And that pretend scares are actually the safe ones, because they aren’t happening to me. What does all that mean for us? I would offer that it can inform us and direct us to a more helpful and meaningful expression of Halloween. I believe that we have lost our moorings in terms of this holiday. Originally, Halloween was associated with the Christian holiday of All Saints Day, which was about remembering and honoring saints. I propose that today we can take a lesson from this celebration that can help us to honor our fears, help us to cope and give us perspective.

What I am suggesting is that just like All Saints Day, we can learn to honor and remember those who have blessed us and seek to bless others. Rather than celebrating things that are bizarre and weird, we could celebrate things that are enriching and satisfying, reminding ourselves that although real life can be full of scary challenges, that there is reason for hope.

Hope is surely what is missing when the world seems a scary place. And it is hope that helps us to face reality. I believe that kind of robust hope only comes through a relationship with God through Jesus. Jesus is no distant God, no soft God. He lived this scary life; dealing with adversaries who eventually tortured and killed him, friends who abandoned him and one who betrayed him, and a public who mostly misunderstood him and in the end cried out for his murder. And Jesus answers the great mysteries of death and the spiritual world. He brings these into our reality and offers the chance for our fears and confusion about them to be assuaged. A relationship with the guy who knows all about your personal story and situation, with all its chaos and bizarreness, is the antidote for denial and escapism. And ironically, the guy who lived a magically supernatural kind of life is The Guy we need to give us perspective on the things beyond our ability to manage and stay grounded in reality. Why is that? Because Jesus showed that he knows what’s behind the curtain, and is in fact the author of reality.

We all need help to hang on to hope. And for those who are running low on hope, there is a real need for others who have an abundance to share some of theirs with others. If you do find hope and strength in your relationship with Christ, then I encourage you to seek out someone in need of sharing in yours so that each may have enough to get through - Acts 4:32.


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