“Nuh-uh. No there’s not.”
“Yeah! For real! Up in the sanctuary.”
It was an evening church fellowship dinner in the basement of my grandma’s little country church. Bright and happy checkered tablecloths, adults chattering, forks clattering, kids running around through the downstairs Sunday school rooms. I was little. And some mean older kids were taking the opportunity to fill my head with some horribly unsettling claims.
I knew that nobody was up there. No humans, at least. I also knew all the lights were off, and that meant the stained glass windows and the organ and the pulpit and everything would be…scary. Way scarier than in the daytime. I could picture it. And now, thanks to these jokers, I could picture transparent figures walking the aisles, too.
It was more than I could take. Lip quivering, brow furrowed, I ran to my sweet grandma, who was sitting with the adults and finishing off a slice of whatever delicious pie had been brought for the occasion. The words came tumbling forth – the ghosts up there, the dark, the sanctuary, the punk kids who said it all.
And with a gentleness that grandmas everywhere have somehow copyrighted, she smiled and shook her head. “There are no ghosts up there, Jennifer. Let’s go. I’ll show you.”
I was shaking in my Mary-Janes. But if grandma was brave enough to go, then I would be, too. So I took her hand, reluctantly, and we climbed the steep, winding staircase up from the basement, away from the bright checkered tablecloths, and into the terrifyingly dark upstairs.
When we reached the top, she turned on the light in the foyer and the hallway just outside the sanctuary, which created just enough indirect light to flood through the doorways of the big room without turning on the heavy fluorescents. We walked into the big room. I gripped her hand with white knuckles.
“This is God’s house, Jennifer. He is here. Just Him. No ghosts. You don’t have to be afraid.”
Against all that I had expected, she was right. There were no transparent figures, no bumps in the night.
We walked around on the platform. “Here is the organ where Ms. Juanita plays,” she said. I ran my hand over the plastic keys and the bench. “And here’s where the preacher preaches,” she said. “See his big black Bible? These are the offering plates. Here is where the choir sings. Now let’s walk around down there.”
We ventured past the pews, past the stained glass windows, all the way to the front door of the church and back. Looking fear in the eye with a hand to hold, I saw that it had no power. And when I was calm and satisfied, we went back downstairs and had more pie.
As an adult, I must still recognize the powerlessness of fear. To pay no attention to those fears behind the curtain. Especially those irrational, falsely manufactured flim-flam fears. The Lord is the one who says, “Look, now. See? I am here. I am with you. Put those away now. Hold my hand, and we can face this.”
And then, once again, I’m a child peering into the sanctuary, filled with the peace that there are no ghosts. And there never were.
Pass the pie.
Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”