As October 31st approaches, I know some of my friends out there have mixed feelings. Some people decorate their yards and throw parties; others hide in their homes with the lights off. As with many topics these days, everyone has their own opinions and they are all unique.
I grew up with a mixed bag. My parents were divorced, which meant that whatever my dad didn’t let me do, I did at my mom’s house, and vice versa. I will say my mom was pretty lenient – there weren’t many things she didn’t let us do.
My mom LOVED to celebrate Halloween. There were always elaborate parties with haunted crawl spaces full of spooky music, smoke machines, and tunnels to crawl through. At my dad’s, on the other hand, we usually turned the lights out and hoped no one would come knocking. Other times, my Dad would take us out shopping for something special since we weren’t getting candy. (One year we went to the Christian book store and I got my very own first cassette tape: DC Talk – Free at Last. Definitely the right choice to buy on Halloween.) Something funny about my dad that I love is that he has very strong convictions, but when they mix with his kids, he always ends up bending the rules a little.
As you can see, I grew up with some pretty mixed messages. That’s okay though. It just meant that Justin and I got to decide what was important to us and what we were going to bring into our family. Our first Halloween as a family of 3, with Chai in my belly, was definitely one to remember! I was around 8 months pregnant and I’m not ashamed to say that my convictions may have been overruled by candy cravings. When my favorite sister Jaimy arrived for a visit after work wearing a costume, we hashed out a plan that ended in one of the funnest nights I’ve ever had with my sister. I wore some lovely Nigerian garb and tied a baby doll on my back and Jaimy was dressed as a girl scout. We headed out on a mission to haul in the most candy we possibly could.
Thank God for darkness, because we looked like sweet little teenagers as we went door to door laughing and joking all night. It was all fun and games till Jaimy ended up coming home wearing only one of my new cowboy boots that I so generously lent her for her costume. Good thing I love her… but I will probably never let her live that down. How do you come home wearing only one boot? That I’ll never know.
You can see that I have some very fond memories of Halloween, but there were also many years that I lived in confusion and fear. How can I celebrate something that goes against everything I believe in? I’ve grown so much since the years I used to live in fear. My trepidation around Halloween used to be all too tangible. Having a much deeper understanding of who God is has been key. When we know how big He is, how much He loves us, and how his heart is for freedom, there is just no room for fear anymore.
When I think about Jesus and who He chose to hang out with, it is clear to me that He would not be hiding in His house on Halloween. The most lavishly generous, loving person would not miss an opportunity to be around people. Because everything for me comes down to relationship, I decided that I could not let this holiday go by without using it to be kind and loving, and to get to know my neighbors. Ever since we moved into our neighborhood, I had been planning and dreaming of creative ways to shed a little light on the day, but unfortunately the weather was pretty uncooperative the last few years. Last year though, last year was amazing!
We set up a table out front with crock pots full of warm apple cider and hot chocolate. Then we filled up a big barrel full of water and apples for apple bobbing, and put on some great techno worship music. I should also mention that Justin is the master of lighting and made sure our front house lights would draw people in. I put a challenge out to the trick-or-treaters that whoever bobbed for apples and got one would win a full sized candy bar, but if they weren’t up for it they still walked away with candy. It was such a great opportunity to hang out with the kids because large groups would congregate to watch the kids bobbing and the parents stood around thankful for something warm in their cup and good conversation. It was like a party for every person that came by and my goal was that every person left feeling loved.
I could have stayed in my house with the light off because “Christians don’t celebrate Halloween”, but I’m thinking I experienced more of Jesus in my yard than I would have in my house. I wasn’t necessarily celebrating Halloween, but I was sure having a blast loving on each person that came through my yard.
It’s time to live in the freedom we’ve been given. There is SO much freedom for us. Freedom to love and not be afraid. Freedom to do things differently than you did growing up. Freedom to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. This year I challenge you to step out – see Halloween as a opportunity to love the world rather than shut it out. They are literally coming to your door. Who will they find?