We went to a fancy beach house recently to spend the weekend with our kids and first grandbaby. We had reserved an elegant two story home with a back deck that leads right onto the sand of a long, semi-private beach. But the trip was ruined by fleas. At first we started finding them on our eight month old granddaughter’s head. That took away her freedom to sit on her blanket or roll around on the floor. Next we felt them chewing on our ankles. Despite the lovely setting and our excitement to be together, the fleas were a constant annoyance. We felt guilty every night as our kids said goodnight, knowing they were sleeping in flea infested bedrooms. Despite constant cleaning, washing clothes, and setting off flea bombs, we still found them everywhere.
Going home was no relief. My husband and I were itchy and freaked out for days. Every time we saw a black spot we were sure it was a flea. I washed everything we took on our trip, dirty or not. So much for a relaxing weekend. Even after every precaution, I woke up with new bites on my legs the next morning. Did we all take home fleas from vacation?
The sad thing is that none of this was our fault. Someone else brought in the first flea weeks ago and they went undetected until we entered the beach house. But we certainly felt the effects.
My husband did some research and found out that it takes only one flea to infest a home. Here are some itchy flea facts:
• Each flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs
• The eggs hatch into pupa in two weeks (during which time they go undetected)
• At three to four weeks the fleas are full grown
• Fleas can live on skin, blood, and fecal matter in a house for three to four weeks without a live host
• Bombing only kills fleas in the adult stage, not the eggs or pupa
• Fleas lay eggs in out of the way places that are not regularly cleaned, such as the carpet edge by the wall
Since it is less than a month until Easter, I have been thinking about ways to prepare my heart and truly focus on Jesus. This flea episode has given me some ideas. In Jewish homes, yeast is hunted down and destroyed for the celebration of Passover, which comes just prior to Easter. Bread without yeast commemorates the haste in which the Israelites had to leave Egypt and is symbolic of ridding their lives of sin before leaving for the Promised Land. Yeast is as unwanted during the holiday as our vacation fleas were.
In the New Testament, yeast is a symbol for sin which starts small but spreads at an alarming rate. Jesus warned His disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees, meaning their hypocrisy (Matthew 16, Mark 8, and Luke 12). Paul wrote, “Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 and Galatians 5:9-10). He used yeast as an example of wrong teaching and selfish attitudes that can infect an entire body of believers. Just like fleas.
So how can I get rid of this yeast (sin) in my heart before it spreads to the rest of my family, my church, and beyond? My newly acquired knowledge in flea eradication turns out to be good spiritual advice as well. And just happens to match the verses I have been memorizing:
Be on the alert for incoming
It only takes one flea to infect a home and one sin to infect a group of believers. We have to be on guard! Sin can wear many disguises. The psalmist expresses my thoughts perfectly: “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). I invite the Lord to search my heart for quiet intruders before they reproduce.
Set off occasional bombs
This sounds drastic, and it is. We had to set off several bombs in the beach house to kill the full grown fleas that were feasting on us and making us miserable. Psalm 19:13 says, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” The full grown fleas are the obvious, premeditated sins in my life. They ruin relationships, suck the lifeblood of my faith, and will lead to other sins if not dealt with.
Practice regular house cleaning
It’s not my favorite thing to do, but occasionally I vacuum the edges of each room, clean the window coverings, de-crumb the furniture, and wipe down the woodwork of our home. It is tedious and time consuming, but it feels good to get everything sparkling. Easter is a good time to do spiritual spring cleaning. Two areas that need regular maintenance in my life are my words and my thoughts. The psalmist said, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
I want to be ready to celebrate Easter with a pure heart. Like fleas, like yeast, like sin – there always seems to be little beasties creeping in and trying to take over. I do hate fleas! Hopefully our experience with them will be a good reminder to hate sin in my life even more.
© Beth Vice, 2010