Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

Halloween may be over, but not everyone has taken their masks off. Every day, too many human beings don’t realize how much they put on a show with every minute that ticks by.

Life ends up being more of a show than it is a reality. We play a role that is assigned to us by those who intimidate us, and we oblige the crowd by only saying the sentences the audience scripts for us. We surrender to political correctness, and our voice is silenced.

This is no time to be somebody else. If ever our world needed men and women of integrity willing to stand up for what they truly believe in, even if it isolates them from the popular majority, it is now. How about you?

When someone asks you what you believe in, do you hesitate when it comes to making it public? Are you willing to allow your light to shine bright, even if it annoys those around you because the rays are getting in their eyes?

Deeds that contradict the way that the Lord is calling us to live must be done in darkness. There is too much rationalizing away the truth because, let’s face it, to do what is right takes a surrendered heart.

God created us with a void in our soul that works best when it plugs into Him. If you choose to find another power source, it doesn’t make you free. It only labels you a slave to whatever mode has mastered you.

I was born with an overactive conscience. At the tender age of five, I remember lying in bed at night with sweat pouring down my forehead, begging God not to send me to hell.

I already knew I was a sinner, and I desperately wanted to be perfect. I wanted God to love me. I reasoned that I was unlovable. 

When I was in Catholic School, growing up, I was regularly bullied because I was the good kid - the perennial teacher’s pet. I hated it.

The nuns didn’t always help my reputation. In front of the whole class, they would say, “Why can’t you all be like Rudolph?” I would shrink down in my seat because at that moment, I wanted to be any other person on this planet other than Rudolph.

I never ran around with the rough kids. My heart wouldn’t let me. They were always in trouble, and I didn’t want anything to do with detention. Even though I was held in high esteem as the model child and student, I knew there was a problem because I was miserable.

One Halloween night, I lost my bearings. I was sick of being Howdy Doody.

In North Jersey in the 1960s, the evening before Halloween was known as Mischief Night. You would get dressed up in your costumes and roam the neighborhood, looking to raise a ruckus. I would normally guard our house, making sure that I exposed anybody looking to mess with the Sheptock home.

One year, when I was seven or eight, I went out looking to cause trouble.

Inside the costume, I originally felt empowered. I would have fun going against the grid, and nobody would even know who I was. At least that’s how I rationalized the plan on paper.

I joined the other kids and soaped windows, threw eggs, destroyed pumpkins and tossed a lot of toilet paper. I hated it.

Nobody could see the tears in my eyes as I pummeled the pumpkins on the street because all I could think of was how I was hurting the little ones who creatively carved them. When all of a sudden, the lights came on at one of the yards we were littering, all the other kids ran. I was too new at this.

I froze in place, like a deer in the middle of Route 9. I saw our neighbor lady, and when she cried out, “Who is that” I had so much guilt and remorse in my gut that I confessed instantly.

I might have gotten away with it because I still had my costume on, but God knew it was me and I knew it was me, and at that moment, I never wanted to do something as stupid as this again.

I cleaned our neighbor’s home and car, took the punishment from my disappointed mother and went to confession because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy getting candy on Halloween unless I did so. I owned up to everything, and from that moment on, I vowed to never allow the crowd to think for me again.

God created you to be you. Leave no room in your life for deception. Ask yourself the same question in every situation and with every decision: What’s the right thing to do?

If you consistently ask yourself that question, you will never be a deceiver. It all starts with being a receiver of God’s grace and truth. I finally surrendered my rituals and religion, and opened my heart to a relationship with the Savior, Jesus, in 1975. I have learned that the greatest fulfillment comes when I stop masquerading and simply make sure that I am following Jesus.

The other principle that keeps it real is to guard my soul against all forms of rationalization. It’s too easy to do something because “everyone’s doing it.” The reality is that not everyone is doing it.

Everyone has never been doing it. Ask yourself, “What’s my motive?”

People may see your actions, and you might con those closest to you, but God always sees our hearts. Your motives matter.

David prayed to the Lord, “Create in me a pure heart,” because he knew how easy it was to wander from the way. I don’t want to be sorry because I got caught. I want to confess my mess because I know what my sin has done to the God who loves me.

Please make no apology for allowing Jesus to take the wheel. Even when those around you let God down, please keep lifting Jesus up.

No costumes, tricks, or smoke and mirrors. It all comes around to grace and truth, with Jesus in charge. If anything immeasurable happens in life, it is from Jesus.

If anyone could have rejected us because of our shortcomings, it was the Lord, but truth tells us that He made the first move to love us while we were still out shopping for a new mask to hide behind. Thank you, Lord, for your love that allows us to leave the costumes at home.

Halloween is over, and the season of Thanksgiving has begun. Let your light shine bright, and allow it to show others the way to freedom and life.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.