One of my children came home last week and told us that he had to come up with an idea for a Halloween story, which he was to write in class the following day. I asked him if he would like to tell a true story. He said, ‘no’. So I thought I’d tell you instead!
First of all, let me premise the story by saying that I like to think of myself as a rational and sane person, perhaps slightly quirky on the edges, but nothing too weird. I have a very high view of things like human reason and science. But I also know that these things sometimes fail us, and they don’t answer every question there is.
Also, I don’t belong to the anti-halloween club, although I’m sympathetic toward them. My children read/watch Harry Potter and Narnia, and so do I! And, yesterday we went trick or treating.
The story took place over a couple of weeks while I was still living in the family home and studying at university. I was 19 or 20 years of age at the time.
One afternoon my Dad came downstairs and walked into the living room. As he turned, he bumped into someone. This wouldn’t normally be odd, given that there were 5 adults living in the house. The problem was, no one was there. He then saw a group of shadow-like figures walk through the house and then disappear.
A few days later, one evening my sister and I were watching television with my parents when someone behind us began talking. We all turned around and no one was there (no, we didn’t have surround sound!).
The following night I was getting ready for bed when I noticed a person walking outside my room along the balcony. I opened the door and stepped outside, but no one was there.
I can appreciate that some people will be sceptical, and that’s fine. But keep in mind that there were 3 separate incidents and there were 4 witnesses.
To this day, I don’t know what or who these figures were, and why they were showing themselves to my family at that time. It is believed that the house was built on a site where a church and cemetery once existed, but I don’t know that for certain, and should that matter? I am pretty sure that these ‘persons’ were not from God, because the incidents don’t shape up with what the Bible teaches us about how God works and ministers to his people. Even angels, whom I believe do exist, appear to people in the Bible, carrying with them the words of God, and speaking these words to the people to whom they appear (the word angel means messenger).
Perhaps the founders of Halloween, the Celts, were closer to the truth than we realise when they believed that the spirits of the departed returned to their homes at that time to visit loved ones. There is, after all, some sort of precedent in 1 Samuel ch.28, which tells the account of when King Saul used a medium to call Samuel from the dead. While I am curious, I am also ok with the idea that I probably won’t understand these events until I reach heaven. I’m reminded of the book of Job and how Job was unaware of the Devil’s involvement in his sufferings, but his lack of knowledge didn’t deter him from trusting God and from being proven right in placing his faith in God.
Here are 4 things to consider about the spiritual world:
1. There is a spiritual world. There are too many personal stories, from history and from today, from different cultures, ages, etc. I too have seen and heard first hand. More than that, the Bible speaks of such a reality, and if you believe in God you do believe in a spiritual realm.
2. Personal experiences (whatever they are) need to be interpreted in light of God’s word. The Bible is the definitive guide to all things spiritual. Don’t guess, and don’t turn to Hollywood or Harry Potter to work out what is what (you’ll be surprised how many people do this). The Bible is God’s true revelation for understanding things spiritual, as well as material things.
3. The incarnation is the definitive expression of God meeting man. God is Spirit, and this eternal Sovereign God, in the second person of the Trinity, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In the person of Jesus Christ we see God; fully man and fully God.
4. The cross is the definitive answer to destroying false spirituality and to granting true and lasting spirituality:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Col 2:8)
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col 2:15)
Children dressing up in costumes for Halloween is about fun and games; and just like spiderman and minions, scary goblins and most ghost-like creatures are inventions of our human imagination. While some people might naively attribute everything with a spiritual explanation, others are naive by attributing everything spiritual to the world of imagination.
I suspect one of the reasons why we have become largely ignorant of spiritual realities is that we are blinded by the arrogance of our materialist beliefs and practices. We look to science for most of our explanations and we look to material comforts for all our satisfactions. Most of us are probably not intellectual materialists, but we are functional materialists, living as though all there is to have and enjoy exists in and for this world. The Bible warns us against such a reductionist worldview.
So this is my true Halloween story. It didn’t actually take place around Halloween, but it is a living reminder to me that the Bible is again true. The Devil’s greatest trick is perhaps to convince us that he is not real, and indeed, that the only real is that which pertains to the universe. And we entreat him by obliging his whim. We can also entertain the Devil by making too much of him and listening to strange teaching on the subject. As Christians know and we need to remember that Jesus is victorious, and we stand firm “against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”, by holding onto the truth of the Gospel (Eph 6:10-20).
The photo is of a really big pumpkin that we saw in Seattle on Halloween in 2013