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Disheveled Theologian: The Spirit I want to hang out with

Before the days of Trunk-or-Treats, before the days of churches sponsoring “dress like a Bible character” night instead of trick-or-treating, before anyone ever worried about finding razorblades in their chocolate bars, I roamed my neighborhood on Halloween night with my next-door-neighbor entirely confident, entirely innocent, entirely safe.

Gretchen and I — yes, my neighbor’s name was Gretchen — would go trick-or-treating together every year. We were pretty much the only kids in the neighborhood, so the getting was pretty good except for the fact that sometimes the neighbors forgot it was Halloween. We’d knock on their doors and they’d look so surprised when they found us standing there, decked out in our costumed finery. Sometimes they’d raid the pantry and come back with an apple. That was always, admittedly, a little disappointing. But most of them had candy. Even if it was just a few Starlight Mints.

I remember one Halloween when Mom suggested that my sister Jenny go trick-or-treating with us. I think she was suddenly worried that we’d get lost or something. As if. But Jenny refused, despite Mom’s assurances that no one would recognize her if she dressed as the Headless Horseman and buttoned a coat up over her head and held a pumpkin in her arms. Jenny didn’t buy that, and neither did I. We didn’t want her with us, anyway.

We trotted off alone, just the two Gretchens, knocking on all the neighbor’s doors, even the ones we didn’t know from a couple blocks away. We walked with flashlights (there were no streetlights in our area and there were many, many trees), petted strange dogs and walked without reflective gear and somehow we survived just fine.

I do have a vague memory of one year when I was quite small — probably only 3 or 4 — when I was a bunny for Halloween. I had one of those brittle plastic masks, and when it covered my face I couldn’t really breathe very well and the mask got all clammy inside. For some reason Mom drove us around the neighborhood that year and just as we stopped to trick-or-treat at one neighbor’s, the elastic on my mask broke. I was devastated. Mom said I could just hold it up in front of my face, but I refused. How could I hold up my mask with one hand and hold my candy bag with the other and my flashlight, all at once? I was fed up and worn out, and not even candy could induce me to cooperate.

I am pretty sure I sulked in the car while my sisters knocked on the neighbor’s door. I don’t remember if they asked for candy for their sad little sister in the car. Probably not. I think they were fed up with me by then, too.

I know that there are bad aspects to Halloween, spiritually speaking, but we never saw any of that when I was a kid. I did see some of that when I was in college, though. My sophomore year, a guy dressed as Freddy Krueger, complete with knives soldered onto his glove, broke into my dorm and knocked on my door. I opened it without thinking and found him standing there, wiggling those knives in my face. Somehow God gave me strength because I managed to shove the door shut with him pushing against it, my only fear in the moment being that he’d wake up my roommate with all the noise.

He was arrested for assault later that night.

Yes, Halloween can be scary, full of evil spirits and evil-minded people, which makes me sad.

To me it was always just a chance to dress up silly and get a little candy.

Or a few apples, as the case may be.

I am thankful that my kids have grown up in Worthington where they are safe. And I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit — the only Spirit I want to have anything to do with — is with us whatever we do and wherever we go.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23 NIV

That’s the fruit I’d be glad to find in my trick-or-treat bag. That’s the Spirit I want to hang out with this Halloween.

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.