Hooked on Photic

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250 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”

Original caption: Not faked. I was trying to t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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60 thoughts on “Hooked on Photic

  1. Dave, you really are a master of metaphor for biblical instruction. Sometimes people (like me) stretch their comparisons a little too far and end up losing the point. But you really do a great job of creating word illustrations that hit the mark. I like this sneezing one a lot. It makes me see something in a new (achoo!) light.

  2. Actually, I’m in the process of shamelessly soliciting blogger and/or Amazon reviews and would love to send you a complimentary print copy, if you’re interested. Email your postal address to me at willowfeller@yahoo.com and I’ll get one off to you right away. I’ll take whatever couple sentences you have to say about it and certainly won’t hold it against you if it’s not your cup of tea. Let me know.

  3. Enjoyed this post very much… I like finding Jesus in the everyday (and the not-so-every-day). … Plus everyone in my family is a Photic Sneezer. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t common to *everyone* until I was an adult.

  4. Just share the gospel; the only way to eternal life, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for all of us sinners- so that by His grace we are saved.

    That’s really all we’re called to do. 🙂 Congrats on the Fresh Press!

  5. Ah but is Jesus the light or god? In the hebrew bible god tells the jews. “This is my light spread it to all the nations of the world and let them know of the one true god.” This was thousands of years before Jesus.

    The great spirit said “I give you light to guide your path and warm your flesh, rest within the light for it is good.” Thousands of years before the Jewish god though still the one and only singular god.

    Buddha teaches “Make of yourself a light and show others the way to the light.”

    I think light and dark has for a mellenia been the contrast for good and evil. It’s an easy metaphor to demonstrate a point that even a child can understand. They can see the light and in the dark they stub their toes.

    My belief is god from the great spirit to the god of the jews, to the god of the christians has always been the light. For Christians jesus like Buddha would be a messanger from the light who was sent to reignite the light in mankind.

    I still enjoyed the read very much thank you for sharing it.

    We may not see god the same but we share the same god. Stay in the light 🙂

    • Great thoughts, Michelle. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is God. The book of John in the New Testament says that Jesus is the true light that makes it possible for everyone who believes to be able to experience the life God wants us to have, but that our sin messes up for us.

      Yes, the concept of light vs. darkness is used extensively even in the Bible to contrast good and evil. But, it’s also about illumination; knowing the truth about God (another theme in John’s book). So it must be based on his definition of what is good instead of what we might come up with, just like with our understanding of what we would call sin.

      The attempts by his own people over the centuries to be God’s light to the world fell way short, as God knew it would. That’s why God’s plan all along was to provide a Savior who not only shows us the only way to knowing God, but also enables us to follow him there.

      I’d love to know where in the Hebrew Bible that passage is from. I’m not a scholar, but I’d like to check it out and give my thoughts if I know that context.

      This is why, with great respect for your belief, I disagree with the idea that Jesus and Buddha are messengers of the same god. Their messages are not the same. As well intentioned as Buddhism is (and I believe it is), it falls short because it is based on human effort that can never accurately shine God’s light.

      The one thing that separates real Christianity from all other religions is that it is based on Grace. What a relief! As hard as a person might try, you cannot earn Nirvana (salvation). Real, adventurous Christian living is in response for the great gift of salvation God has given us through Jesus Christ. We know we’re going to heaven, so we are free from trying to earn it. Instead, we want to live for the One who made it all possible.

      Wow, thanks for the great comment, Michelle.

      • I do know how Christians believe I admire many as friend, teacher and decent people of god. Our god shares the same except by name. 🙂

        The prophet Isaiah (42:6) states,
        “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations.”

        Psalms Chapter 27
        תְּהִלִּים
        א לְדָוִד: יְהוָה, אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי–מִמִּי אִירָא;
        יְהוָה מָעוֹז-חַיַּי, מִמִּי אֶפְחָד. 1
        Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? {N}
        The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

        I believe the talk was wih Abraham and I shall ask a few of my Jewish freinds i believe the quote from the Talmoud. Not the Torah.

        I love talking about religion and belief with people not to convert them but to learn more about them, their faith and their beliefs. I believe in a nation to be tollerant we must know what the other thinks, dreams, desires and believes. This leel of understanding leads to true peace amoung peoples. It’s a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to reading more of your works. May god bless you with many more years and many more words.

      • I’m with you on that, Michelle. While we may not agree on some things, even if they are fundamental to our beliefs, we need to have the freedom to express what and why we believe.

        The Israelites of the Old Testament served to point people of the world to God. In that sense, they were God’s light in the world. But that nation was an imperfect light because they were not perfect. That’s why John 1:9 says (referring to the time before Jesus arrived), “The true Light that give light to everyone was coming into the world.”

      • Oh and grace is the same for me. The great spirit aka the one god asks us to care for that he has given us. Our lives, and his creation. It’s not through deeds that I am save but through belief alone. We are charged with doing our best to honor and respect his gifts but that is it he knows we are human and we will fail but belief and his mercy allow us to try again and again. It is the effort not the success or failures we will be judged upon.

        We can and are forgiven most any failure if we ask him for mercy and blessing as well as confess to him our failings. Much of the native peoples of america and Christianity is tied together. Proof there is but one god? We have been practicing without Jesus the same for 10,000 years. He touched our nations and yours only at different times and by different means.

        I know Christians believe the world was so bad god had to become flesh to fix things. That is about the only true point we do not share. To me (my faith) god has always been here and is everywhere I look, everywhere I go, an is felt in everything i do. He is the wind, the water, the air, the earth and the stars because he created it all for us. To my people he lives and breathes in me, in you and in all creation. He didn’t need to come and tell us that. This is one of very few places we differ. The other being his name. But whatever name he is known by he is great, powerful, merciful and good.

        Again god bless and long life I look forward to more insight from you. You are a god writter and a champion to him with your words. 🙂

      • What is your religion? I didn’t know there was another that claims salvation through faith alone. Very interesting.

        Yep, it looks like we disagree on the world being so bad that Jesus had to come and save us. If Jesus hadn’t become a person to be the ultimate sacrifice and pay the penalty for all of my sins, I’d be a lost cause. His death paid the price for anything anyone could have done or will do. He can and will forgive anything if we ask him.

        And, if he hadn’t kicked death’s butt (Easter), I’d have nothing to live for!

        However, we do agree that God wasn’t absent before Jesus came on the scene. There are many Biblical accounts of Jesus being with his people in the Old Testament as well as the new. The change came in how he appeared to us and how we can relate to him.

        Also, I believe we can see him in the wind, water, air, earth and stars, but I don’t believe that those things are God. God is above his creation. But he does speak to us through them all.

        Sorry about my ranting, but you make some great points and I want to share my perspective. God bless you, too. I’ll be visiting your blog as well, Michelle.

      • I believe as my ancestors in the great spirit.

        I love easter full of color life and fun. I have been to a few christian churches for easter and love the flowers, smells and the word they read promising life beyond this one.

        But god created but is the master ever above his creation or does he pour himself, his love into them thereby leaving a piece of himself in everything? When i write a piece of me goes into that. I believe god is so perfect that nothing exists without him. In this belief i believe he is in all things and is the wind, water, air, i belive he is all and absent him there is nothing. 🙂

      • What a beautiful thought: that God pours himself into everything! What I read in the Bible, and that I put in the next blog post after this one, is that God can be seen in his creation, but he is above it – greater than it.

        When you write a piece, it is a reflection of you. It gives insight into who you are, but it isn’t you. As good as your writing may be, you are far more magnificent. It’s the same with God. God is not a tree or the wind or the cries of a newborn baby – but they tell us a lot about him.

        Once again we agree. Nothing in the universe could exist without God.

        Are there writings that guide your religion? Thought there are some fundamental differences, there are some nice similarities.

        Thanks for chatting with me, Michelle. It’s been educational and interesting. And, your honesty is refreshing. I’ll be dropping by your blog as well.

  6. Lovely piece, great adoption of the metaphor and clear viewpoint on how we can help others “adjust to the light”. Very relevant for me as at our Messy Church we’re having 4 meetings in a row (we meet monthly) where our theme is light – which I accept as generally a good thing but often have difficulty talking about as I find sharp bright lights really quite painful – we have to get across to those living in darkness that the quality of God’s light is one that brings comfort rather than pain – sometimes tough when one of the most enduring images of comfort is the darkness of a mother’s womb. Tricky stuff and not at all black and white (sorry about the pun) – but at least folks like you are trying to get it, trying to communicate it doing it with gentleness rather than “Telling them everything they’ve ever done wrong and keep telling them until they get it right!” -I’m with you in rejecting that strategy.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Is Messy Church a Missional Community? My wife (she grew up in Maidstone) and I will be starting an MC in the next few months from our house in Ohio. I searched for your church and I think it’s in SW England. I looks like fun!

      Relationships are key to getting this Christianity thing right. The tough part about living in the light is that it isn’t always comfortable. It sheds light on things we don’t want to deal with. It’s a mistake to try to force people to deal with everything all at the same time, or to force them to see the full impact of the light while their eyes are still adjusting to it.

      Thanks for commenting, and have fun at Messy Church!

    • Yes, we need to be more salty, indeed!

      I remember that you’ve followed my blog. It’s been for some time, if I remember correctly. You’ve commented before as well. Thanks for the congrats and for taking the time to read it again, SueAnn.

  7. Hello Dave
    This is my first time coming to your blog, and its already seeming like a one stop. Your post is really illustrative and i like it. Its really tragic to see what some adults are really turning into. Just happy because light is never scared of darkness. A child can be said to be scared of darkness because of his/her inner cleanliness. They are clean and ignorant. Since dirt and clean do not mix always will children remain scared of darkness, since they are ignorant of what the outcome might be if they mix. If they understood, light is never scared of darkness and will always be supreme over darkness, they could be leaders to conquer darkness. On the other hand some adults are scared of light because they have embraced darkness, they know what it carries and are aware of what will happen if it happens to meet with light which is the supreme.

    Happy to have stumbled here, and can’t wait to read more.
    Joko

    • Nice thoughts, Joko. I think you’re saying that kids avoid darkness because they are unfamiliar with it. And, in a sense, they are also unaware of one aspect of the light – it always overcomes the darkness. That fits well with the Bible: The Light (Jesus) was in the world and the world didn’t understand, or even recognize, him.

      I really like the idea that light is never afraid of darkness. Jesus is boss. Just because we’re afraid of the dark, we shouldn’t act as if he is.

      Man, I’m glad you commented, Joko. Thanks.

  8. Others have commented on the quality of the writing and of course, I appreciated this also, yet the key object of my appreciation is the wisdom that lies beneath your allegory. We could all be gentler teachers.

  9. I believe sometimes the light people see from God’s word doesn’t agree with them just like the Israelites. They prefer the light to be dimmed a little so they can adjust it according to what they want, so you adjust the light right? Maybe dimming the light won’t make you sneeze just yet. After a while the Israelites did not want to listen to Moses after he got through talking with God. They probably were in great awe at the time when they saw Moses’ face illuminating so brightly. Satan even changes to make it appear he is an angel of light. However, your light you sneeze to is maybe a wrong kind of light.

    • I’m not sure what you’re saying. True, some people can’t stand the light because they don’t want to. Some people adjust the light to their own taste, as you say.

      But, are you saying that true Christians don’t struggle with understanding or acclimating themselves to the Light? If that were so, we wouldn’t need our Christian communities. The New Testament often refers to the process of spiritual maturity as well. Maturity means you grow in your walk with Jesus by letting the Holy Spirit refine.

      There are some things about God I’m not ready for. He knows what they are and reveals them to me on his timing. It’s not that the light I sneeze at is a wrong kind of Light. It’s quite the opposite. I’m just still trying to adjust to it.

      • Yes what I’m saying is that some people don’t want to adjust to the light of God. I’m not sure how your sneezing relates to the light of God’s word. Have you had a difficulty of adjusting to his laws?

        When you say you are not ready for God’s word are confused about some of the principles he states in the Bible? Many things he says is plain and simple. However, the deeper things of God takes more understanding, but the concept is clear.
        How long have you been a follower of God? Just curious. Many preachers say God is a mystery. I wish they quit saying that he is not a mystery.

      • This blog is a simple illustration, and illustrations can only be taken so far without becoming confusing.

        You say that you’re not sure how my sneezing relates to the light of God’s word. I was replying to the last line of your first comment: “However, your light you sneeze to is maybe a wrong kind of light.” And yes, I’ve had difficulty adjusting to some of his ways. So have you. If not, you were just like Jesus in every way the day you were saved.

        We are all being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory (2nd Corinthians 3:18, which includes the Moses veil concept you’ve referred to as well). If I claim that I haven’t had to struggle in adjusting to what it means to be a follower of Christ than I’m the most arrogant person you could meet. Paul speaks in Romans 7 about how he does what he doesn’t want to do. Still growing up in Jesus. Peter was called out by Paul in Galatians for being a hypocrite in the way he was treating gentile Christians. Obviously there was some Light he was still getting used to. I’m certainly not better than them, though it’s different aspects of the Light that I struggle with.

        I’ve been a Christian for many years. There are some things in the Bible that confuse me because there are many things about God I cannot figure out. His greatness if far beyond what any human is able to comprehend. There Bible is full of things about God that are abundantly clear, but there is much about him that is a mystery as well. I hold strong to what is undeniably true in his word and keep from limiting my concept of him to what I think is possible of the Almighty in the process.

        Finally, to get back to the point of the blog. If Paul and Peter have trouble adjusting to the Light – even AFTER being designated apostles – why in the world would we hold people who aren’t Christians to such a ridiculous standard?

  10. The light (God’s word) is too overwhelming for you, I get it. It also seemed to me like you were allergic to the light because when you sneeze it’s like an allergic reaction. Right??
    We all are trying to follow Christ and do what his father, Jehovah says too. I’m not trying to say I know everything, but in fact he took off the veil off from my face I have a better understanding of his Laws. (2 Corinthians 3:18) You speak of the Law of what Paul was referring to in Romans 7 about Paul not doing what he wants to do. Paul was talking about he being a slave to sins law because it’s already imbedded within us. Paul goes on to say in Romans 7:21-23, “I find, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within. but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Then he goes on to say thanking God for being a slave to his law, but not to his flesh, which is sin’s law. Paul was all about doing God’s will even though it was hard for him, but he forced himself to do what was right. And yes Peter was corrected by Paul for his behavior of separating himself from the Gentiles because of the concept of circumcision the Jews were still stuck on and the Jews were told not to associate with Gentiles. However, Paul brought Peter back to his senses by reminding him “to walk according to the truth”–basically telling him don’t treat them according to the Jewish practices. If you are following Jesus you supposed to have love for everybody.
    To get to your point about how Paul and Peter adjusted to light even after being declared as apostles-it took time for them to accept the ways of God’s Law and we are not perfect like Jesus. However, when told the right way to do things they simply complied to the Law. The basic principles are always black and white in the Bible never changing. I’m not perfect, but I do know Jehovah’s laws are perfect and righteous. I do know the light is getting brighter and I welcome it. I’m not overwhelmed by how bright it is outside. My knowledge is continuing to grow and I feel God’s standards are not ridiculous.

    • “I’m not trying to say I know everything, but in fact he took off the veil off from my face I have a better understanding of his Laws.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you know everything or you don’t. If your knowledge is only “better,” you still have work to do. Don’t we all?

      Here’s the major difference in what we are saying: you assume that I’m willingly rejecting parts of the Bible I can’t understand. I’ve never said that. There are things about the Bible that God hasn’t made clear to me because my understanding is flawed by my sin. Someday I shall see him face to face. Then I will know him fully.

      “Paul was all about doing God’s will even though it was hard for him, but he forced himself to do what was right.” Paul wouldn’t agree with your summation. His point was that he was incapable of doing what was right. In that passage, he gives us a sense of the hopelessness of sin. That’s why Romans 8:1 is so cool: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life sets me free from the law of sin and death.” He couldn’t “force” himself to follow the Law. Neither can I.

      Again, you make my point with the Peter situation. Peter knew darn well how God wanted him to treat the Gentiles. That vision on the roof in Acts was the perfect illustration. So he didn’t, as you put it, simply comply with the law. Peter’s problem was that he was, in a sense, obviously unable to fully accept the Light from that perspective. So, he foolishly rejected it, even if only for a time. It’s not that he didn’t trust God or agree with him, it’s that he hadn’t adjusted himself fully to the Light. Even as an apostle, he still had work to do. I’m no better.

      So, this blog is really about people who don’t know Jesus. You’ve noted several times that you have struggled to follow the light, and that Peter and Paul have as well. All I’m saying is that, since we know how hard it is to follow Jesus and we’ve known him for years, we need to back off of holding new or pre-Christians to such a great standard.

      Thanks for the great chat.

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