As an American who was born on the 29th of October, I have always loved Halloween. My Birthday growing up was full of costumes, candy and autumn festivities. I understand that many people do not tolerate the darkness of Halloween and think it is not a Holiday worthy of celebration. I respectfully disagree. Yes, Halloween has Pagan roots, just as many of the ways we mark the seasonal calendar do - Christmas Trees, Easter Eggs, and Yule Logs all have roots deeply intertwined with Pagan ritual. But This post is not about defending Halloween, we will get back to why I think It’s an important part of the calendar later.
I just finished a series on Netflix called The Haunting of Hill House. Warning: Its dark, It’s scary and it’s not for those who hate Horror. Often my evangelical Christian upbringing taught me to stay away from anything deemed “Worldly” by my community. The irony is that as I grew up, traveled and engaged with the world, I found that sometimes the most profound, deep, spiritual truth was embedded deeply in the culture around me.
Some of my most profound spiritual experiences happened in the “World”: dancing barefoot with thousands of people at an Arcade Fire concert in London. Singing in the rain at the top of my lungs at an outdoor Radiohead show in Atlanta, Georgia. Talking, drinking, and singing karaoke late in to the night in bars and Pubs. Deep spiritual truth happens when we are safe, real, honest, and vulnerable.
So back to the series, which is about a “Haunted House” and a family who lies in it. As the series progresses, we see how each member of the family has “ghosts” that they have battled with since childhood. Each monster was individual and had an eerie connection to the family member …addiction, depression, promiscuity, illness… it haunted them and stalked them through life. With each episode we see that horror happens in real life. Darkness. Death. Loss. They are equally a part of life as beauty, love, and community.
The finale of the show (without giving too much away) is actually a very moral and visceral commentary on how we must look the darkness straight in the face. We must confront it. We must never ignore it or pretend it’s not real. True bravery is taking a deep hard look in the face of HORROR and learning the lessons it is desperately trying to teach us.
I have a reoccurring dream. It’s been haunting me for about a year now. In this dream I am back in my family home. I am in a particular moment in time that is the darkest in my whole life. I have flown in from England to spend the last week with my Father. My Daddy, my best friend, one of the most constant and steady threads in a confusing and chaotic childhood. He is dying of cancer. I am in his home.
In the dream, I am doing all the things that I did in real life when I was in that week from hell. There is one difference. I go to the bathroom and it’s flooding. Water is pouring out of taps and sewage is flooding everywhere. Its rising and I cannot stop it. I wake up gasping and scared. Some people would tell me that this dream is evil, others may say that it’s just a dream, that I should ignore it. But I know better. I know that ghosts sometimes are friends. That the things we are disturbed by and even fear are sent to us by God to teach us.
So I talk about this dream with my husband. My deep, analytical, wise, patient, husband holds me in the kitchen as I tell him of my night terror. He listens, and he helps me think about what this dream could mean.
I am reminded that in “real Life” when I was in that last week with my Father I felt so very helpless. I could not stop death; I could not negotiate with it. (God knows I tried) I could not ignore it. I knew down in my guts that death was coming, that I had to say goodbye to my Daddy. I had to tell him all the things I needed to say.
I am reminded of how I felt so helpless that week that I took on menial tasks to feel productive. I cooked meals that my dad never ate, paced around like a silly girl, and one day out of a desperate need to “do something” I cleaned the bathroom. His bathroom. I scrubbed his bathroom floor on my hands and knees.
So this flooding nightmare makes sense. I recognize this dream as an opportunity to go back to the scary dark place. To see the water rising and recognize that was how I was feeling. To understand this tender memory and to submit it to God for healing. God is the keeper of life and the power of death is in His/Her hands. Death is not the end of those we love. I am not powerless.
So I love Halloween. It’s a chance for me to now talk to my children about life, death, about good and evil. About the choices and opportunities we have been given by God to face the terrors of this world with light. With love. With Bravery. We must never turn away from the dark; we must never pretend that it does not exist. We must bravely face it, and learn the lessons our Ghosts are here to teach us.