My Dear One,
Here’s a fun and slightly embarrassing fact. Sometimes the sun makes me sneeze. It may sound funny but it’s true. It doesn’t happen just randomly either, but usually occurs when I walk outside after being in a dark building for a long time, such as a movie theater. And I know I’m not alone. My dad is this way and both of my sons are as well. We are part of an estimated 10 to 35 percent of the population that has what is called called “photic sneeze reflex.”
It is mildly documented in medical research. Scientist say it is clearly genetic and you only need one parent who has it to inherit this trait. As a PBS article notes, “The Greek philosopher Aristotle referenced the phenomenon during the fourth century B.C., but wasn’t until 1954 that scientists first described it in medical literature. Some researchers have since applied the appropriate acronym ACHOO: Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome.”
So there you have it, I have ACHOO. Do you?
Why do some people do this and others don’t? I don’t know and since it’s not really a pressing medical issue, there hasn’t been much research into it. My son has a hypothesis that it’s a trait left over from caveman days when we would climb out of our dark caves into the light which would then trigger a sneeze reflex to clear out whatever molds we’d inhaled back in the cave. Kind of like a celestial remedy for allergies.
Sounds good to me.
Then there’s this:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Matthew 17:1-2
If Jesus is like the sun, it makes me wonder, can we be allergic to the full glory of Jesus too? Would coming face to face with God make my body wince?
It’s a bit of a silly question but there’s something deeper there as well. How often do I allow myself to bask in the full warmth of God’s light and love? How often do I turn to face the sun, even when that makes me sneeze - that is to lose full control of myself?
When we sneeze, it is customary for someone to turn to us and say, “God bless you.” The origins of this seem to stem from an old belief that the soul leaves the body momentarily when we sneeze and we need to be blessed to make sure evil spirits don’t take its place. Or perhaps from a time when it was recognized sneezing might be a sign of impending illness, a time we could be in need of extra blessings.
Turning to face the sun, to face God, can be a challenging thing to do. But it is necessary for our spiritual growth. As a Buddhist saying goes,
“If a tree is behind you, all you can touch is its shadow.
To experience the full tree, you have to turn around.”
Perhaps this is why Jesus kept calling us to “repent,” which literally means to “turn around,” and to believe in the Good News. Apparently when God looks at humanity, one of the main messages God wants to get through is that we need to turn around and accept all we are running away from. What is it that I’m refusing to turn and face? How am I running away from God’s love and what will it take to get me to turn around, face it, accept it, let its brilliance wash over me, even if that causes my body to go into convulsion?!
With the sun at our backs, we can too easily remain focused on the shadows that lie on the ground before us. When we turn to face the sun, we focus not on all the shadows but instead on the light, on God.
It is no shame to cast a shadow. We all do. The only thing that casts no shadow is something that is invisible, which is not something we should aspire to become. But it is dangerous thing to continue chasing the shadows our whole life. Acknowledging they are a part of life, we must also turn to face the sun, even if it makes us go ACHOO.
God bless you. And God bless your journey this week …
following The Way,
Food for the Journey
One of my favorite bands, Oasis, sang a beautiful song I thought of while writing this week’s WayPost. It is called “Cast No Shadow” and was written about Richard Ashcroft (another favorite artist) of the band The Verve. Richard struggled with being different from others, depression and addiction much of his early life. Through music and spirituality he has found a greater sense of peace.
Perhaps you will enjoy this song as well, about the struggle to find the right words and hold onto our soul, our pride, to turn and face the sun.
Want to receive following The Way reflections in your inbox every week?