Contests and Disguises


I wasn’t anywhere near this cute. I was nearly six feet tall when I wore my costume.

Acts 15:8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

I don’t know how your family observed Halloween when you were younger. For my brother and me, the thought of going around and receiving candy from strangers made us giddy. Our mom parceled out candy as if it were diamonds, and she wasn’t happy doing it. On Halloween, though, all bets were off, so we raced around our neighborhood and gathered grocery bags full of sweet goodness. Then, of course, it was time to dump it all out of the bags and take inventory of what we got. I didn’t care for gum of any kind, so Ron traded me for chocolate, setting me on a life-long obsession with anything from the coca plant.

Our mom suggested that we save some of our loot for later, and that idea lasted about as long as the candy. We gorged ourselves so badly, we were lucky to have a single piece the next day. Teachers and parents warned us that we would make ourselves sick, but I never was. I wanted even more. It was very sad.

Of course, to trick or treat properly, we had to have our costumes. Mom made them for both of us, sewing them carefully after making sure what we would be willing to wear. I was a ghost when I was five or six, which was a simple costume for me to wear. All she had to do was cut eyeholes and I was off. The costumes because more complicated as we grew older. I was a black cat one Halloween, a pirate the next, and then a French Impressionist painter the last time I went trick or treating. I think I was about fourteen.

Fairfax had a costume contest at that time, with judges and prizes and everything. I was crazy to win a prize since I never won anything. So, we paraded by the judges in a shopping center parking lot. Mom suggested I twirl my tail when I was a cat, ostensibly to attract the judges’ attention and favor. Well, if I had twirled that thing any harder I would have lifted off the ground. Even with that, I didn’t win. I was disappointed, but resolved to try harder the next year.

My Impressionist painter costumes consisted of a blue smock much like French tradespeople wear, a beret (of course), a burnt-cork mustache that looked like I had rubbed some dirt below my nose, a cardboard palette with spots of crayon on it for paint, some French-looking pants and wooden shoes, or sabots. I wasn’t sure where they came from. I think my mom got them at a local thrift shop.

The evening of the contest, Mom told me to pretend that I was sketching the judges. This was guaranteed to win their favor, but it didn’t. First prize went to some little kid in a fairy outfit. How lame can you get? I thought, and gave up on wearing costumes, being in contests and Halloween in general. It was a bitter pill, and I was never quite the same afterwards.

The spiritual application of all this is that just as the judges could see right through my disguises and knew that I wasn’t a cat or an Impressionist painter, God is not fooled by our disguises, and we don’t have to impress God. God knows our hearts, and part of the Good News is that God accepts us for who we are and how we are. And God’s reward which is given to us is far, far better than all the candy in the universe. Praise God for God’s love and forgiveness. Amen.


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