Chandler and I donned our best zombie make up last weekend and joined about a dozen other walking dead for a running event called the Zombie Buffet 5K. I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, and it turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So with far more joy than was probably appropriate, we chased unsuspecting runners through the autumnal hills and valleys of Nashville, gleefully eating their brains (okay, stealing their flags). When it was all done, we walked back toward our car, a cold breeze at our back, still winded from the run. Chandler put her arm around my shoulder and said, “This was so much fun, Dad!” My zombie heart melted.
I’m not sure how I became so enamored with horror books and movies, but I suspect it is partly my mother’s fault. She left Stephen King novels lying around the house when I was growing up. I don’t know that she ever suspected I was taking them to my room at night, turning on a flashlight under the covers, and shivering with delight at vampires much scarier than anything the Twilight series has conjured, possessed St. Bernards, and a prom queen to die for (literally). Images that would have sent most children my age screaming in fear for the light switch only drew me in deeper.
Halloween is a night when Christians traditionally took death less seriously. At various times in the history of the church, the world that surrounded them was full of uncertainty, insecurity, sickness, oppression, and the ever lingering threat of death. The roots of All Hallow’s Eve – the night before All Saints Day – was among a people who believed that even in the teeth of death they could live with abundant joy, because Christ had defeated death. The next day they would remember their loved ones and friends who had died; but on the night before, in deepest darkness, they shook their fists at death, dared to laugh at death, dressed up and dance and sang and ate and drank in defiance of death.
I’m glad Chandler and I share this love of scary things. It’s a special father-daughter bond, to be sure. But it will also serve us well on those days when the monsters are not so imaginary and the darkness is real. On those days, may the joy we shared together remind us that darkness and death are scary indeed, but they never get the last word. The last word belongs to God.
Such good news should send us out in joy. So why not don a costume, eat some candy, tell a spooky story, and laugh it up? God’s life is stronger than death; God’s light illumines the darkest night.