How could I have known all that was to come?
It is no secret to my friends that Halloween is my least favorite holiday. I grumble and complain about having to scrounge up outfits, the evil feel of it all, and then needing to figure out what to do with all of the awful candy that ends up in our home . . . yet each time we near the end of October, my heart is stirred as I remember the Halloween of 2012.
On that Halloween morning, we hadn’t yet made plans, and the kids were talking about what to wear. A family from our church had invited us to drive up to the “nice” part of town to trick-or-treat and walk around with them. Instead, the thought came to mind that we should invite the new family across the street to walk around our neighborhood. At that point, our interaction had merely been some tentative waves, learning first names, and saying we should get our kids together to play sometime. Monica was a single mom of three kids who had moved there with her boyfriend, who was one of the roughest men I had ever met. I knew very little about her except what we often overheard from across the street—that she and her kids endured much drunkenness, angry yelling, and hurt. Hanging out with them honestly did not sound appealing, so I pushed the thought away. However, it continued to come back, so I told my husband I thought the Spirit had different plans for us that day.
She said yes, and we spent the evening together. It was kind of an awkward time as two very different families tried to make conversation and haltingly learned a few things about each other, one being the fact that our 9-year-old sons were the exact same age, born just a few hours apart. So our friendship began that night.
How could I have known that her precious 9-year-old boy would die in a tragic car accident just five months later? And that she would reach out to me in the last hours of his life because she knew I was a “praying person”? And that God would ask us to walk the arduous path of grief with her family? And that we would spend many afternoons in the following months in our backyard, crying and talking about her son and all she loved about him? And that she would knock on my door one day with tears streaming down her face, holding the jeans he died in sealed in a Ziploc and ask me to keep them in a safe place for the next couple of years?
On that ordinary Halloween day, I never would have guessed she would come to miraculous saving faith in our living room the following year and that my husband and I would baptize her at our church picnic . . . and that her sweet daughter would pray to trust Jesus with me and my daughter at Bible camp.
This is one of the most beautiful and freeing things about life on mission: We do not need to plan out or know the end results of our days. We get to ask the Holy Spirit of God how to spend our time and who to spend it with—and then simply obey, trusting Him with the fruit of it all. As Ephesians tells us, these good works are planned out long ago. We get merely to hold His hand and follow His lead trustingly.
As Halloween draws close each year, I am often brought to tears. I cry because my dear friend is now a new creation who is defined by her Jesus, not her past. I cry because I am still moved that our family was entrusted by God with the honor of grieving with one of His dear children. I cry in gratitude that by the grace of God, we were obedient that day. I also cry in sheer awe of the fact that He uses us, mere fragile clay jars, to bring about His beautiful purposes in this world.
When I remember this whole story began with such an ordinary day, I am reminded every single day we live on this earth, each of our lives carries immense potential to bring Jesus to this aching planet. What hope and purpose we have as His children!
Who are you spending Halloween with?
How might you connect with your neighbors intentionally and begin building relationships with them this Halloween?
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Hannah, Thank you for the beautiful story. I wonder how many of us are asking the Holy Spirit those kinds of questions. We assume our schedules are our own, our plans are our own, and then ask God to bless us.
Thank you Hannah. This story of obedience has reverberations all over Europe – so your simple act of crossing the street that day is challenging many disciples of Jesus to peel their eyes for opportunities to live out the Gospel toward their not yet disciples of Jesus acquaintances and friends.
Sorin, so glad this story is encouraging others. Praying now for you, Naomi, your family and the city of Bucharest – our hearts are still so close to Romania!