We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
(Plato 428-c 347 BC)
Timon and Pumbaa taught me something about myself. A few years back I was watching one of the extra features on a Lion King DVD and was shocked to hear Pumbaa describe what I’ve experienced all of my life without explanation. Though I don’t remember exactly what he called it, he was referring to Photic Sneeze Reflex.
Basically, I sneeze at the sun. It mostly happens when I go outdoors on a sunny day after having been inside for a bit. It’s only when I first get outside. I could sneeze up to seven times. My kids – who have the same affliction, just not as severe – will say, “God bless you,” several times in a row between my first and second nasal expulsions of air just to cover their bases.
My Dad, whom I inherited this from, is a music teacher. He would make a performance out of his sneezing by conducting each one. He’d also make up variations on “achoo,” like “achooey,” “achowee,” and “achubba-hubba.”
When I was in my 20s, my doctor suggested it was because the pupils in my eyes don’t shrink quickly enough. My brain treats superfluous sunlight as a foreign contaminate and sends a message to my nose to sneeze it out.
I just read on Scientificamerican.com that the nerve controlling facial sensation, the Trigeminal nerve, is next to the optic nerve, the one that tells the brain to constrict pupils. Some of the signal to the brain is sensed by the Trig nerve and . . . gesundheit!
My eyes aren’t equipped to take in all the light the Sun has to offer and my body rejects it, at first.
Beth Basista, a friend of mine, emailed me about the quote from Plato under Timon and Pumbaa’s picture above. We had a discussion about how Jesus uses the theme of light as spiritual illumination in the Bible – especially the book of John. But, Plato lived several hundred years before Jesus. So he was talking about knowledge, including spiritual knowledge, but not about the Gospel.
So Jesus used a secular concept to convey a spiritual message. I’m okay with that. Besides, who’s to say that he didn’t engineer it that way, kinda like the way he timed the earliest days of Christianity to coincide with the building of Roman highways that would facilitate its spreading?
Plato’s wisdom can be applied to both Philosophy and Christianity. It’s okay for a child to be afraid of the dark, but it’s a tragedy when adults are afraid of the light (i.e., of Jesus). In John 3:20, Jesus tells us why this happens:
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (NIV)
As a Church Planter, I look at it this way: People who are bombarded with too much spiritual insight have a spiritual Photic Sneeze reflex. The Light isn’t bad, but they can’t handle it, much like the Israelites viewing Moses’ face after he had been with God (I wonder if any of them sneezed). They can’t absorb so much Light and so they stay in the dark because sneezing several times in a row can be draining. But, what has been the church’s response? Tell them everything they’ve ever done wrong and keep telling them until they get it right!
It is a tragedy when adults are afraid of the Light, but that doesn’t mean we have to make it worse.
Instead, give them a little bit of Light and allow their spiritual pupils a chance to adjust so that they can receive more. Otherwise, they’ll just be sneezing at the Light and you’ll just be barking at the moon.