I like Halloween. I like seeing children dressed in outlandish costumes scampering from door to door. I like hearing their little voices as they squeal “trick or treat,” hoping for some sugary morsel to be placed in their paper bag or pillow case or whatever they might be carrying.
I like the extroverted children who volunteer that they are skeletons -as if one could not tell -or princesses or football players. I don’t like the ugly rubber masks that some of the older children wear. Maybe I feel there is enough ugliness in the world without adding to it with grotesque masks.
Watching the hurried steps of the children as they approach our door is a joy in itself We always have a jack-o’-lantern on the landing with a candle burning through the slits we dare to call eyes and mouth. And there are baskets of treats, the kind I would like to receive if I were a child again.
What is really fun is figuring out who it is behind the masks and makeup. Is that cowboy the boy from across the street? Does that princess live in the comer house? Is that clown the child of a co-worker who drove all the way here so we could see her on her first Halloween? Halloween is about pretending, for a few hours a year pretending to be something or someone that a person really isn’t.
Gordon Kingsley, former president of William Jewell College, once observed that Halloween is a parable. He pointed out how college students sometimes take on new identities when they go to college, pretending to be something they aren’t for a period of time. Truthfully, pretending to be something we are not isn’t limited to Halloween or to college years. Some struggle throughout life with pretending to be something they are not.
Images vary. Some people try to be what movies and television tell them they are supposed to be. They are trendy and hip. Clothes tell you so and so do their lives.
Others try to be what the family expects. “Dad wanted me to be an engineer and the Bible says ‘honor your father and mother’ so I became an engineer.” Later the young man confessed that what he wanted to be was a lawyer but he had resigned himself to being what his family expected.
Some pretend to be what the boss wants them to be. Everything from outlook on life to the way one dresses reflects whatever the boss wants. It is important to dress right, to drive the right car, to live in the right place, to be seen in the right places, to say the right things. Some pretend to be whatever the latest idea in their mind says they should be. If liberation is their latest idea, liberation is acted out in every direction. If authority and control is the new controlling concept, life is redirected to evidence these qualities in every relationship.
Some people pretend to be what their emotions demand. One facing the unfamiliar instinctively resists change. It is easier to pretend to be content with what one knows about the present circumstances than to face the unknown which change brings.
Pretending sometimes brings one face to face with the darker side of the human spirit, just as Halloween has its darker side, too. Wrestling with the moral ghosts and goblins of exploitation, greed, selfishness, hate, sexism, racism, fear and many, many more causes one to weigh out the values that really matter -values that relate to who we really are and what we are to be about.
.The Bible gives us guidance. Who are we? We are human beings created in the image of God. We are people so loved by God that Jesus died for our sins. Through faith in Christ, we have been made heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
What are we about? We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. We are to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. The words may not help us know if we should be bankers or bakers, but they do help us understand our core values, who we really, really are on the inside. They help us know when we are just pretending or living true to ourselves.
Halloween is followed by a not-so-popular day. It is called All Saints Day on the Christian calendar. It is a high spiritual day, a day of celebration. When we know who we are in Jesus Christ and what we are about as God’s children, every day can be a day of high spiritual celebration. We can live as mature men and women who no longer hide behind the childlike masks of Halloween. When we know who we are in Jesus Christ, we can leave the pretending to the children at Halloween.