Halfway through our hayride, around the second bend into the woods, two of our fellow riders—the clown and the guy with the Scream mask propped on top of his head—jumped out. Unlike the rest of us, who had taken the hayride for fall family fun, these guys took it as a ride to work. After the sun went down, they were to jump out from behind or swing down from trees to terrify folks riding the haunted version of our sweet hayride.
The woman next to me said that at the end of the haunted version, a horse with a headless rider charges out of the woods. My eyes widened. I leaned across my daughter to tell my husband, "We have to come back without the kids."
My husband—a perfectly brave man—rolled his eyes, not sharing my enthusiasm for haunted houses or hayrides. When my daughter asked, "Mama, why do you like being scared so much?" he laughed. And waited for my answer.
"I don't like being scared," I told them. "I like being spooked. Big difference."
And there is. I'm not a fan of the heart-sink that happens when my 3-year-old darts across the street. I don't like the raccoon that pops out from behind our garbage cans at night. Goodness, it took three tries and practically being pushed by the guy behind me for me to jump off the high dive. This summer.
But my love of the creepy and ooky-spooky is altogether different. It's a love I've had for as long as I can remember. When I was 6 and my cousins tried to torment me with ghost stories about their creeky house in Louisville, far from not being able to sleep, I wanted to explore it.
My penchant for all things creepy fuels my love of Halloween as well. It's why I congratulate neighbors on their fog machines and eerie playlists and animatronic monsters. It's also why I've expanded the treat-or-treat rules that I grew up with: While my mother allowed us to dress only as cute and nice things, my kids are allowed to dress as pretend scary things. Vampires, ghost-brides, and swamp creatures have all gotten nods from me. (Costumes that mock others, that objectify their bodies, or that represent actual killers will never.)
I might be embarrassed to admit all this if it weren't for one thing: Whatever it is that draws me to the creepy is what initially drew me to God, and still does.
Whatever compelled me to explore my cousins' attic, pressing my hands on every wall, hoping a secret door would give way, was the same impulse that compelled me to look for signs of the God I kept hearing about. It was, at age 7, the terrifying yet comforting realization that God on high heard me, way down below, that made me believe in him.
And it was God's mystery, his invisibility, his at-once immanence and transcendence that made me long to know him more, to search, to discover.
Liturgical churches "proclaim the mystery of our faith," as "Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again." Indeed. Yet there is more to that mystery.
In his great beckoning and rescue of us, God not only sent his Son to die a gruesome death; he not only raised Jesus from the dead, terrifying those who saw him risen. He not only will send his Son again, in what seems will be a mysterious and frightening time; but God sends his Holy Spirit to live within us. To grant us peace and comfort, at times. At others, to fuel us to fight battles, to seek justice, to dole out mercy.
We Christians profess a belief in an almighty, invisible God, in his risen, flesh-and-blood Son, and in a Holy Ghost, who works in us, not to mention a world full of battling angels and demons and futures that include eternal bliss or eternal fire.
What we believe as Christians is nothing short of, well, creepy—as something that causes us to shiver in fear or revulsion yet pique our curiosity. When we take time to think of the price that's been paid for the grace and love God offers us, we should all shiver, in both fear and revulsion for what our Jesus endured. The grace and love we cherish, that draw us irresistibly to God, are born right out of blood and terror.
Of course, the creepiness of a worldly Halloween holiday is meant to draw us to the dark. I get that. It's why I don't think Halloween should be a high holy day, and why I understand my friends who choose to opt out or tame it way down.
However, I'd love to leave room to celebrate Halloween as a day when Christians can at once embrace the call to live without fear and to consider the mysteries, even the creepiness, of our faith. Of things we don't understand and yet are so drawn to. Recognizing these mysteries as part of the wonder and glory of how God chooses to reveal himself to us as light on the most dark and stormy nights.
Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer, speaker, and mother of three, and the author of Mama's Got a Fake I.D. as well as a book forthcoming from Tyndale House. She has written for Her.meneutics on burqas, fathers, Mother's Day, spanking, happiness, and pregnant Olympians.