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Just dropping by ... Halloween and fear

Yevet Crandell Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 19 October 2021

I was no stranger to terror when I was a child. I remember shivering in my bed watching the curtains billow into the room under the breath of the night wind.

Terror gripped every muscle and nerve in my body. It took the courage of a trained soldier to slip out of bed and rush to the next room to snuggle next to my older sister, Margaret Ann. Her soft voice comforted me and made me unafraid.

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When we traveled around canyon roads on family vacations, I would crouch between the seats of the car and scream out my trauma until we reached the flat ground again. Once I watched a horror movie where a pair of hands were disconnected from the body and came alive. Even today, visions of those eerie hands creeping up the wall or across the windshield of a car sometimes steal into my mind to shiver my spine with icy chills.

As an adult, I can trace those fears to an incident or multiple incidents that happened in my childhood. The fear of canyons came from a car accident when I was no more than a toddler. My dad was driving around a canyon road with a load of wood. He lost control, and we went off into the canyon. The angels were with us because the pickup he was driving didn’t roll. It simply sat down in the bottom of the canyon. Not one stick of wood flew from the back. Miraculously, no one was physically hurt. My teeth chumped down in my sister’s head, and she bled for a while, but nothing serious – but the mental hurt lasted for years.

When I became an adult, I finally sorted out the reason for the fear and was able to overcome it by logical reasoning and turning my life over to God. I had to ask myself over and over, “How many accidents happen daily versus how many people drive on the canyon roads?” The stats were staggeringly in favor of safety. I also comforted myself by saying, “The Lord will protect me until it is my time to go, and if it is my time, then it doesn’t matter how I go.”

I hated to hear stories of murder or accidents. The details might be sketchy when I first heard them, but before I could quit thinking about them, I would see the whole scene in vivid detail. It was as if I were right there on the scene when it happened. Those thoughts would sicken me to the very center of my being.

As years sped by, I overcame my fears, and I learned to turn off the video camera of my imagination. It wasn’t an easy task. It took constant monitoring of my mind. I quit watching scary movies. I didn’t spend too much time watching the news. I heard about crime and violence secondhand. I took the attitude: If something dreadful happened, someone would tell me. They always did, sometimes with more detail than I could handle. When I heard the news, I didn’t pass it on unless it was necessary. I thought everyone was as sickened by the horrible information as I was. It took days of prayer and kicking the thoughts out of my mind to erase the sickness in my heart.

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When we adopted our son Paul, I had conquered my fears so well that I had almost forgotten what it was like to be afraid. Paul, a Bulgarian orphan, came to us when he was 10. He was so small and emaciated that he resembled a dark-eyed, dark-haired 6-year-old. He had a magnificent command of the language for only having been in the U.S. for six months. We learned that Paul had been raised on the street in Bulgaria as a gypsy until he was 6. Then he was left in an orphanage. Since that time, he had been in three orphanages and in two failed adoptions. It was a sad little story for one so young and sweet. Our hearts wound around his in bands of eternal love. We wanted to make him part of our family.

Later, we learned that Paul was riddled with fears. He was terrified of loud noises, big machinery and the dark. He had imaginary friends who haunted him at night.

After my childhood experience, I could only imagine how vivid those scary friends were. I thought of a little boy shivering with fear on a dark street with no one to slide under the covers with. No one to tell him it is going to be all right. No comforting voice to wipe away the fear. I thought of a little boy being the brunt of big boys’ pranks in an orphanage. I thought of my imagined fears all being a reality to him. No wonder he clung to me like a frightened kitten. For a while, he wouldn’t even go to the bathroom by himself.

To solve the bathroom problem, I sang outside the bathroom door so he would know I was close. One night, he stood at the edge of the dark living room where I was sitting. I could see his fear shaking his inner being as he faltered into the dark to find me. I didn’t say anything, wondering what he would do. In broken English, he sang, “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here.” His fear fell in submission to his newfound faith as he fled into the dark room to find me.

We taught him to pray away his scary imaginary friends. We taught him about Jesus, who loves him. One night, he prayed, “Help me to make good choices so Jesus will like me.” Someday he will understand that Jesus is his friend no matter what kind of choices he makes.

As I think of Paul and the fears that are so hard to erase from a young and tender mind, I wonder about parents who let their children fall prey to horror movies and unedited television. Don’t they know that memories last forever? Don’t they know that what is planted in a child’s mind will grow and flourish in adulthood? Just because a parent knows the difference between real and imaginary, it is no guarantee that the child knows. Real and imaginary were twin sisters when I was a child. I was just as terrified of imaginary things as I was of real things.

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Some parents wouldn’t dream of letting their children climb into a garbage bin for fear they might get soiled or trapped, yet they think nothing of allowing them to soil their minds and be trapped in mind-numbing fear for years to come. They don’t consider that a child’s clean soul is much more valuable than a clean face. They must not know that children belong to a loving God who said, “Suffer the little children … to come unto me” (Matthew 19:14 KJV).

The garbage media writes in children’s minds may darken the path so they will never know that they are children of God. Maybe they will never be able to overcome the shiver of fear we have placed in their minds. My heart goes out to parents who will one day face the God who created them. He will ask, “What have you done with the precious gift I gave when I blessed you with my child?”

In America, Halloween has become a time to celebrate and magnify fear. Horror movies fill the internet while masks and costumes line the racks and shelves of department stores. We dress up as the grotesque, sordid evils of the world. Some even make fear a reality with tricks that can hurt or even kill. We parade the dark streets, even if we must wear gloves and surgical masks, begging for candy door to door, threatening to trick if we don’t receive the treat. We dress our little ones in masks they don’t understand and teach them that Halloween is fun.

I am not suggesting we abandon Halloween and costumes. It is fun to dress up and do things as a family, but we need to explain to our children the difference between fear and fun. Make sure they understand what is real and what is fantasy, so they are not haunted by the ghosts of our excursions. When we celebrate the fear, we need to be as vigilant in teaching children where to look for solutions to their fears as we are in searching for the right mask and the right costume. end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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