It’s spring and for many folks, it’s also allergy season. One of the symptoms of an allergy is “sneezing.” Sneezing is simply a reflex. Pollen and sunlight are the most likely instigators of a sneeze. However, there are 454 diseases that include sneezing as one of the symptoms? In other words, a sneeze may indicate something else other than a common cold or a seasonal allergy. We need to get a doctor’s opinion if our sneezing is out of control. We never want to take chances with our health!
So what does sneezing have to do with our spiritual lives? What does sneezing have to do with worry and prayer? Often, a sneeze is caused by an irritant in our nasal cavity. Is there an irritant in your spiritual life that causes you anxiety or worry? A commonly held myth about sneezing is that a person’s heart stops when they sneeze. That isn’t true. Blood vessels constrict, the heart might skip a beat, but it doesn’t stop. What makes your spiritual heart stop or miss a beat? What spiritual “sneeze” is giving you second thoughts about your faith? What do we, as Christians do, when we get fixated on spiritually sneezing and forget that is what we are called to do?
Donna Griffiths of the UK holds the world’s record for the longest sneezing fit in history at 194 days! I’m certain she tried some of the suggestions to help stop sneezes: like rubbing your nose, pressing on your upper lip, and taking a big deep breath through your nose. Doctor’s don’t really know how to stop sneezes. Most often, you sneeze perhaps several times in a row and it is over. Sneezing is a way to “reboot” your body. Did you know you involuntarily close your eyes when you sneeze? And you never sneeze when you are sleeping. Sneezes travel at 30 to 35 miles per hour. The “spray” from a sneeze can travel over 5 feet away with over 40,000 “droplets” of germs in that spray.
Now, let’s get back to our spiritual analogy: sneezes are better “out” than “in.” Don’t stifle a sneeze because it can hurt and even cause more problems. So, we shouldn’t stifle our Christian witness. God’s love is better “out” than “in,” because God’s love is meant to be shared, not hoarded. God’s love cannot be stopped. Involuntarily, we often close our eyes as we pray. If we spiritually need to sneeze periodically to reboot our faith, why do we worry about so many issues? We miss a lot of blessings when we are trying to stifle a sneeze – physically or spiritually.
There’s that great story about a Christian valedictorian who was to give her commencement speech at her high school graduation. She was told not to mention God in her speech. She coordinated the speech with her classmates. As she began her address, she sneezed into the microphone. All of her classmates simultaneously said, “God bless you!” She simply smiled! The next time you sneeze, ask yourself how far has your witness spread today? Is your faith in need of a reboot? ACHOO! “God bless you, too!”
Rev. Bev Hall, pastor of Pleasant Hills United Methodist Church, Middleburg Heights, OH