Today, on Halloween, we celebrate “things that go bump in the night.” If you’re like me, though, every day is a battle with fears.
I’ve been anxious since I can remember. As a child, I thought it was how everyone felt. I thought that everyone lay awake at night, gripped with a sick cold fear, tugging at the corners. A whisper that got louder as the lights got dimmer, “There’s a bad thing about to happen and it’s going to get you and everyone you love.”
Sometimes I knew what it was:
My parents dying and not knowing Jesus.
Bullies at school.
Safety advertisements about children being electrocuted.
Bombs and armoured checkpoints.
Needing to grow up and not knowing how.
Most often, though, I had no idea where my fears came from. They seemed to rise up before any reasons could be found. But I soon found words to fill the gaps: This is too much. X hates me. I’ve done it wrong. I should never have said ‘Yes.’ I’m dull. I’m ugly. I’m fat. I’m useless.
I thought I’d grow out of it. Adults weren’t scared of anything. Then I became one – and the fear remained. I had more sophisticated labels for it. But underneath, it was just the same.
We act like we’re strong and safe and civilised. Inside, we’re full of the same fear, anger, loneliness and pain. Today we may dress up like ghouls carrying axes; but the real horror is what we do in our pinstripes and platforms. What’s scary are the fears that remain long after October 31st ends.
I’m not scared of Halloween or clowns. I’m scared of what’s in me – and you. A world where bad things happen to good people. A world where even good people are bad.
But fear does not have the last word. It’s Halloween; but today is also Reformation Day. On this day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed the truths of the gospel to a church door, truths that say: Jesus paid it all; grace does everything; and faint-hearted desperation (aka “faith”) is all you need. As this reformation took hold of the medieval church, transformation happened. For instance the city of Geneva changed its motto from “After the darkness I hope for light” to “After the darkness there is light.” The Christian hope is certain and sure: and the gospel guarantees it.
Because the Light of the world has risen, and because He is given to us for free, death does not have the last word. Fear and guilt are defeated. Life, love and light wins. This is the ultimate truth and as we allow it to be true in our own lives, fears – like shadows – begin to be chased away.