October scares the be jeepers out of me! Like an army of zombies in search of a brain this month marches on assailing us with constant reminders of all things scary.
Huge, unstoppable NFL players wearing pink armbands to highlight the terror of breast cancer, front yards adorned with all sorts of fright inducing lawn ornaments from bleach white skeletons to blood stained machetes attacking our senses as we drive down the street, temperatures that steadily decrease, occasionally teasing us with warm days, then plummeting to death cold nights never letting us forget that a long, cold winter is blowing our way (at least if you live in New England).
For me October is a reminder that life is short and death is near. My favorite day of the year is November 1, the day when we can begin celebrating the “good” fall holidays.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I was one of THOSE Parents, the ones in the 90’s who forbade their children from trick or treating, refusing to acknowledge Halloween as a legitimate fall holiday. To be fair we improvised with some fun substitutions: Chuck E. Cheese, going to the movies, bowling and my personal favorite, a portrait session at Sears for our family Christmas photo!
What I have come to admit, now that my children are grown, is that I boycotted Halloween not only because of my religious convictions but also because I just don’t like to be scared!
Why do people like to be scared?! What thrill comes from monsters and ghouls jumping at you leaving you quaking in your boots? Why do people pay money to scream in fright?
Entrepreneur Jacob Eugster, the creator of Screamin’ Acres in Wisconsin, gleefully pays off his college education from the profits of folks’ fascination with fear. I just didn’t get it so I went searching for answers. It seems that Dr. Margee Kerr, an expert in the science of fear, in her article A Fondness for fear offers a convincing explanation.
“To really enjoy a scary situation, we have to know we're in a safe environment.”
“As soon as we realize that we’re not in fact going to die we can enjoy the arousal response — that's when fear can be fun. You’re in the moment, and afterwards you feel like you overcame a challenge, so you feel more confident about the real, not ‘scary fun’ threats that await you in the future. It feels like a sense of accomplishment, like running a marathon or rock climbing.”
Children fearlessly stride up a walkway lined with skeletons and bloody corpses safely escorted by parents they fully believe will protect them.
Teenagers enter a dark, cavernous unknown house of horrors guarded by stitch faced monsters and wicked witches because their brains assure them “it isn’t real”! The scare is real but the consequences are harmless.
But what about every day fear? The kind we can't control.
The apostle John tells us in I John 4: 18 that “perfect love casts out fear”. Perfect Love is the kind that knows it’s safe, a love that doesn’t fear punishment, a love that is sure, the kind of love God offers His children. John was a man who knew firsthand the fears associated with following Jesus.
Have you ever wondered how the disciples’ courage multiplied like the emboldened Wizard of Oz scarecrow AFTER they saw their leader tortured and killed? I don’t know about you but that would have sent me running in the other direction.
Maybe it’s because the perfect love of Christ overshadowed the fear of man.
I love this quote from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Lucy asks Mr. Beaver about Aslan,
“Is he-quite safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, …. course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Some days, following Jesus may feel like entering a haunted house, dark, unknown and terrifying but like the child who knows he is protected or the teenager who knows the situation is controlled we can enjoy the scare (or at least trust in the outcome) knowing God, our Father, the creator of the World is our protector.
How would your life be different if you embraced the scare by resting in the protector?
If you entered the dark with anticipation of seeing God’s power overcome the danger?
The scare is real but the consequences are safe.
That walkway you are entering might look like a murder crime scene but walk on fearlessly knowing the Father walking beside you protects you from harm.
For me the fearless path looks like opening my front door in the dark and handing out candy to all the ghosts and goblins of my neighborhood then in the light of coming days inviting their families in to hear their story over dessert and coffee. It means embracing the uncertain winds of a cold, dark winter grasping the warmth of my Father's protective hand tightly closed on mine.