When I was living in Poland, everyone would gather on all Saints Eve and walk through the tombstones of their past relatives who had died to remember their stories and to celebrate their lives. I know that many in my audience have a variety of views on the subject of Halloween. I am not here to tell you mine and do not want to offend anyone. But, Joy, my 20 year old daughter, was remembering a Halloween night at Awana that she never forgot. It was a night when the gospel made sense to her. I hope you will enjoy her story.
Jack-o-Lantern Hearts by Joy Clarkson
For a ten year old, I was pretty competent at life.
I planned my outfit every day, down to the hair style and pink choker necklaces (all the rage in the early 2000’s).
I earned stickers from my piano teacher with “excellent!” and puppy dogs on all of my newly memorized pieces.
I actually liked school, and on occasion would insist that my mother give me more work.
I wrote weekly magazines (with ads and everything) cleverly named “The Joynal.” (I must note: Gwennie, my adopted Aunt came up with name. I hadn’t quite mastered the pun at that age).
One of the ways I exercised my overgrown sense of drivenness was through AWANA. Somewhere along the way, I learned that my sister Sarah (11 years my senior) had won the prestigious Timothy award (4 Bible memorization books in two years). Being, as I’ve said, a competent child, and not wanting to be beaten, I took it upon myself to get the Timothy award. And I did!
Truth be told, I don’t really remember much about AWANA, except a great host of memorized Bible verses that still come back to me and that I loved the running games, even though I never won them. I do, however, have one very specific memory that returns me occasionally. A Halloween memory.
It was the Wednesday before Halloween. I was going to dress up as Anastasia. I had a pretty blue dress with gold trimming, and was planning around my coat as Halloween night was predicted to be the first snow fall, as it is predicted to be this year.
We we are all a tizzy, and most of the leaders had given up trying to make us recite our weekly verses, and were instead wearily trying to chorale us little whirlwinds of destruction without much success. That is, until the speaker came.
It’s odd, but I can’t remember the gender of the speaker. All I remember was this persons hands and words.
With deftness and an air of secret knowledge, the speaker walked to the center of the room and plunked a large, well rounded pumpkin on the table. As it landed on the table, it made a hollow echoey plop, and all at once, our squirmy limbs were still and we all turned towards the center of the classroom.
“Our hearts are like pumpkins.”
We giggled which I believe was the desired outcome of these words.
“I think pumpkins are beautiful. They are round and lovely… what a pretty vegetable. God thinks you are beautiful.”
With a dramatic flair, the hands revealed a small knife. Gently but with great purpose, the hands began to cut a neat circle around the stem. We all suppressed little gasps of horror.
“But inside all of our hearts, there is a mess.”
The hands neatly pop off the top.
“We have hurts.”
The bare right hand reached inside.
“We have selfishness.”
A sloshing, squishing noise emanated from the basso profundo pumpkin.
“We have anger.”
The began to raise, and with it came the sound of the moist snapping of the pumpkins innards.
“We have sin.”
With almost a flourish the hand emerged from the belly of the beast, carrying with it seeds and slosh and funny smells.
Ewwww!!! We all screamed squeamed.
“Sometimes our insides are embarrassing and ugly, and we wish that no one else would see us. But God sees us. He sees our ugly.”
May your day be a beautiful day, whatever it holds.