Each year we host a huge Fall Festival around Halloween. We provide the hot dogs for roasting, smore’s, a bon fire, games, a devotional and a haunted trail. It is a joy to see the faces of the little ones who have never cooked their own hot dog over an open fire, never roasted a marshmallow or sat around a fire and sang worship songs. It is intended to be a night of great fun and fellowship. Each year my husband, some of the men in the congregation and friends work for weeks deciding on just the right scary set-ups for the haunted trail while others prepare crock pots full of chili, cookies, and help prepare games for the kids. This year the “festival” was extra good. The games were outstanding (egg toss, diving for gummy worms in whipped cream, zombie guts, pumpkin painting, bowling, etc!) and the “trail” was “the BOMB!”…literally…yep…there was a bomb…a real bomb…(my husband received texts from over 1/2 mile away from friends who felt the tremors.) We have had anywhere from 50 to well over 100 people attend, and I believe I am safe in saying all have a good time.
While everyone had a great time, thanked us for the invite and hosting, assured us that we could “host every night and charge admission and make a mint”(….yeah…um..no) there was one little girl that I continue to think about. She was a little girl about ten years old that was from a neighboring congregation and was about as cute as could be. She played all the games with enthusiasm, laughed and giggled throughout and always had a sweet smile on her little freckled face….until…the trail. She returned with red eyes and trembling. The lady that accompanied the group of little girls on the trail told me how she started crying just a few feet in and never stopped; she begged for someone to take her home. I hugged her and held her for a while as the tears continued to fall. I asked her if she would come back next year. She said she had a great time, but “please never make me go on the trail again!” I assured her that she could come back, play the games and stay at the house with me. I hugged her a lot, but I don’t believe she ever stopped crying before she left for home. I felt bad…but kept telling myself, she had been warned. After the devotional when everyone was waiting for the main event: the “Trail,” my husband prepares people for the possibilities of what they could find there…just to increase the tension, you know. But, he also warns them that if they scare easily, they should sit it out. He warns them strongly to “stay on the trail! Never get off the trail… and to always…ALWAYS follow the ‘bright eyes’ or they will get lost in the woods. To make sure everyone focuses on these little reflectors he calls ‘bright eyes’ he says he will give a prize to the group that can give him the closest number that are posted on the path. Everyone laughs and some children even squeal in delight. The thrill of danger is just too much to pass up and usually those who thought it might be lame, start signing up.
It is a thrill for many people, but not for me. I am not the kind of person that likes to be scared or frightened…startled…or even surprised. But, as I thought of this little girl, I considered how some of us crave that adrenaline and love living on the “edge” excited with not knowing what will come next even in our spiritual lives. Or perhaps we risk unnecessarily and think we’ll repent later …you know…knowing something is wrong, but thinking we will escape death….punishment…torture...perhaps that isn’t real either?
The trail is lined with dads who have volunteered to thrill the kids with a great, scary evening; the witch is a mom who loves to tease the kids that she needs little children for her stew. All of it is in good fun, but the little girl that left the trail in tears didn’t see it that way. She saw the possibilities that were out there, she didn’t like being in danger, having to constantly escape something trying to harm her. Sounds like everyday life, doesn’t it? Sounds like each time we turn on our tv, or step out of our house into work…school…grocery store…. Some said they weren’t scared by the trail, some said it wasn’t scary at all. That’s fine, it wasn’t real. But we cannot forget that each and every day we are vulnerable to a very real demon, a very real Satan that seeks to devour and torture our soul for all of eternity.
God has done the same kindness to us, warned about the demon waiting for us, who disguising himself as something good, blending into the background: I Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Job 1:7: “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Job 1:7. II Corinthians 2:11: “ lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” James 4:7: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” John 8:44:” You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
But, the good news is we don’t have to live in fear, live on the edge, or worried at the temptations/demons that jump out as us every day as that little girl at our party was. God the Father and His son, or Savior provided direction, or “bright eyes,” for our path: I Cor 10:13 . He shows us where to get on the path: Mark 16:16 , Acts 2:38, is kind and gives us direction for safety on our path: I John 2:2, John 10:18, but, only if we will remain on it, or return to it when we lose our way: John 10:27-28. But we must always…always keep our focus on the bright eyes: Rev. 2:10: “Be faithful until death and I will give you a crown of life.”