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Ghost Stories for the Christian SoulKate Mereand-Sinha / Flickr

Ghost Stories for the Christian Soul


Oct 30 2013
Hear me out: Haunting tales provide their own kind of spiritual formation.

I was so relieved when I read that Mickey Maudlin (my one-time boss and former managing editor of Christianity Today) reviewed Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Maybe I wasn't so off-base for finding what is essentially a ghost story one of the most spiritually significant books I'd read this year.

The book journeys into the dark and supernatural as the nameless "hero" revisits his childhood home where he encounters two mysterious women—unchanged in age or appearance—he befriended in his youth. Maudlin wrote:

I love how the plot leaves open so much—what really happened, who the three women really are (a female version of the Trinity), and how these events shaped the main character—but the open space is pregnant with all the great mysteries: of life, death, tragedy, hope, meaning, and identity.

I nearly cried. That was what I loved about the book, too, the open questions and unanswered mysteries. The longing I felt after one member of the story's Trinity leaves for a spell was nothing short of, "Come Lord Jesus." As a reader, I felt eager for her to return, to solve the mysteries, to end the questions and the aches left in her absence.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane exemplifies what draws me to all great ghost stories: These stories allow us to suspend our disbelief and surrender our emotions to the big and small frights, to the rushes and chills, to the unknown and unexpected, and to feel them, sit or jump at them.

When well-written or well-told, a ghost story's characters and settings and plot become real and transformative, and we sink deeply into its world. Realizing we have survived the frights, the adrenaline rushes, the unknown and unwelcomed, we find that we made it and can keep right on breathing.

This is exactly what I love about faith in Jesus. As we go through life and faith, as we enter into the mysteries, experience the thrills and anguish, the hopes and the fears, and as we keep—through God's grace—right on breathing, we grow; we form more into the likeness of Jesus.

Because they offer this emotional, spiritual growth "coaster" in tiny packages, ghost stories have been wonderful spiritual formation tools in my life. I realize not all Christians will appreciate this. Plenty will be alarmed and appalled.

Consider, however: my love of ghost-stories or my love of exploring ooky-spooky spaces (as I did two weekends ago when I wandered through the back passages and dark rooms and dim-lit basements of the beautiful, old "haunted" hotel I stayed at) come from the same part of me that loves God stories, the same part that sends me exploring God in the bright and the beautiful as well as the creepy crevices of his world.

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