Tuesday, October 22, 2013
I didn't have a good answer at the time, but I've thought about it, and now I do.
When I left home, I stepped blindly into a world I knew nothing about. I was instantly confronted with so many views about so many things that were opposite to what I'd been taught, and I wasn't sure what the truth really was. I began, as I imagine any young person on their own for the first time does, to try things out for myself. I couldn't make heads or tails of what everyone was telling me, of what I'd been told my whole life, so I had to have some experiences of my own. I needed to form my own judgments about things, weigh each decision in my own heart and against my own understanding of what God wants from and for me. I came to a lot of conclusions that were different from my mother's, and I think that's alright. That is, after all, the point of growing up.
You see, the reality is that my mother and I have very different experiences in life - particularly in this issue. For my mom, Halloween is a throwback to a religious past she doesn't want to repeat. She's seen a lot of awful things happen in correlation to Halloween, and between that and her current convictions she's decided that it's simply not something she's going to participate in. That's okay. It's her choice and there's nothing wrong with it.
For me, the experience is entirely different. When I decided to try out Halloween shortly after leaving home, I didn't walk in blind. I knew what I'd been told, what I'd been taught my whole life about this pagan holy day. Quite honestly, I was terrified. I'd been raised with the Christian equivalent of ghost stories, fears passed down from perfectly well meaning parents and church leaders about sacrifices, possessions, curses, spells, and demonic strongholds. From a very young age these stories had been the majority of conversation throughout October and into November, and these stories had created in me a spirit of fear. I half believed I would become demon possessed just by walking out of my house that day! Every drunk person became, in my mind, a witch putting a curse on my family line. Every shadow was a demon waiting to devour me and place me irrevocably on the path to hell. Every kid in a costume was a satanist with plans to sacrifice cats and virgins.
For me, that was the breaking point.
I can't reach people if I'm scared. How can I possibly tell people about the all-powerful God that I serve and how he makes it so much easier to get through the challenges of life because of his strength and protection when I really believed that some demonic minion could take over the soul I was claiming God protected? I had to decide in that moment and for myself whether I was going to have faith in God's strength or in the strength of the dark forces around me.
I chose God. It was an easy choice, really. Something in my soul just knows that God is stronger, greater, and more powerful than any enemy I could have. I decided, that day, to be done with my fear.
Do these things still happen? Yes, absolutely. It's unfortunate, but some people really do call on demonic powers in rituals that to me seem strange and a bit frightening. Halloween isn't special here. Darkness and evil will get their feet in whenever and wherever possible. There are still very real demonic strongholds in life that people need serious spiritual warfare to break. The difference is just that now I'm not afraid of those things, and I'm certainly not going to let them ruin my chance to have a little fun.
So now I celebrate a lighthearted Halloween, a day to stay out after dark dressed in some (probably ridiculous) costume, munching on tootsie rolls and smiling at the little princesses and superheroes in my neighborhood. I've decided to use it as a day to have fun, to get out among my neighbors and mingle, and to admire the creativity all around me. It's one day (plus maybe one more of preparation) to just take a chance to be silly. I like being silly.
I celebrate on Halloween, despite my mother's beliefs, because I'm just different than she is. We each choose to accept or avoid things based on our personal experiences and how those things affect us. My mom doesn't celebrate Halloween for her reasons, and I enjoy it as a day of ridiculous fun and a chance to take a break. I don't see it, as the person asking the question seemed to, as an assault on my mom or what she believes in. In fact, I've done exactly what she's taught me to do. I took an objective look at all of the facts available, took my faith into account, took stock of my personal convictions, and made a decision.
Now, if only deciding what costume to buy was that easy! ;-)