Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sneezes of the Heart

I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner recently, when I heard someone in the room sneeze. Besides wondering if she covered her mouth in time, I had another thought in the wake of her air expulsion. It hit me that it could really benefit us if our hearts had a sneezing mechanism or reflex. Let me explain (you’ve already read this far, so why not)?

There are a couple different reasons that we sneeze. The first – and most obvious – is that our bodies need to eliminate undesired pollutants from our lungs or airway. When our nasal cavity (or, if you want to be technical – the mucous membranes in our nose) becomes irritated, our body reacts by sending a message to our brain telling it that we need to sneeze in order to release air and bioparticles that contain the cause of the irritation.

Essentially, our bodies know when foreign substances have invaded, and it protects itself by eliminating these unwanted particles. In short, the body knows when something doesn’t belong or isn’t good for us, and it does it’s very best to get rid of it.

That’s why it would benefit us to have a similar defense mechanism for our hearts. No, not the aorta, the ventricles, or the septum (no, I am not a doctor, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night). Instead, when unnecessary pollutants enter our hearts, we’d be well-served to kick those suckers out. Things like envy, pride, lust, insensitivity, depression, low self esteem, duplicity, and selfishness can lead to heart failure much more quickly than smoking, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits could ever hope to.

The second kind of sneeze is called a photic sneeze reflex. The primary cause of these sneezes is sensitivity to light. And, more often, it is what results from exposure to direct sunlight. Basically, many of us automatically sneeze when we look directly into the sun.

With respect to our hearts, this is also a common response when we come into direct contact with the powerful light of the Son. Whether we are seeking Jesus Christ, or whether he confronts us, there are times when our hearts are so touched by his love and mercy that we immediately humble ourselves, and our weaknesses are immediately overpowered by his strength.

In the end, there’s another word for a “heart sneeze.” It’s called repentance. Repentance (the word) has gotten a bad rap over the decades. It’s almost always associated with bullhorn guys and street preachers who utter the “R” word as they condemn passersby with messages of hellfire and brimstone.

But repentance is actually a beautiful thing. Repentance is defined by as “deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.” When we repent, we are turning away from those things that separate us from God – and His best for our lives.

All too often, we are aware of the pollutants, the irritants – the JUNK – that weighs our hearts down and holds us hostage, but we refuse to admit our weaknesses to ourselves, to others, and even to God. But, we have a choice. We can repent – offer up a hefty heart sneeze – and turn away from the past, and instead begin to look to God to guide us.

Maybe it’s been a while since you sat and had a heart-to-heart with the One who eagerly awaits the opportunity to speak with you again. All it takes is humility and honesty – with God, and with yourself – to become reacquainted with His undying love for you.

And, this time, when your heart sneezes, God will Bless You! You can count on it!

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