My first clue was the bites around my ankles. Nor could I deny that our dogs seemed to be scratching an awful lot. I set out traps and caught nothing, which put my mind slightly at ease. But when I walked across the carpet in my girls’ bedrooms one day, I looked at my socks and saw about five little black specks. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were exactly what I was afraid they were. Fleas.
Trust me, no one wants a flea infestation. They’re hard to get rid of because by the time you realize you have them, they may have already laid eggs, further complicating your problem. A friend of mine once had to stay in a hotel while an exterminator came and “bombed” their house. I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to us. So I sprang into action. Immediately I vacuumed every carpet, then used the carpet cleaning machine on them as well, hoping the deep suction would get them out. I washed sheets and clothes in hot water. I swept and steam mopped the tile flooring in our house. We attempted a flea bath for the dogs, and we used a flea comb and bought them flea collars and flea spray so we could deal with the problem at the source. All of this helped a great deal, and I’m proud to say we got rid of a whole lot of those pesky fleas, but I’m still on the lookout. Here and there a stray one will find its way onto my sock, which tells me we aren’t completely out of the woods. We continue to comb and spray our dogs, I’m much more regular about vacuuming, and I think I’ll do the carpet cleaner one more time for good measure and for peace of mind. One way or another, we’re going to rid our house of fleas.
With a flea problem, one really has no choice but to be vigilant, or else it quickly goes from a nuisance to a full-blown infestation. One’s hand is sort of forced to deal with the problem quickly. But what if we were as vigilant about rooting out sin in our lives as I am about killing off these fleas? In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses some pretty strong language when talking about sin. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away… And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30) That sounds pretty drastic to me. Now, obviously, Jesus isn’t promoting self-torture here. He’s simply showing us how seriously we ought to take sin. And in dealing with sin, as in any other problem, we need to take care of it at its source. In the case of sin, that’s the heart. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matthew 15:19-20a)
James 1:14-15 spells out the process even more clearly. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Whoa. That’s not the kind of ending I want to see. So what’s to be done? Stomp out sin at the root. Be vigilant in searching out your heart. Those seemingly innocuous thoughts aren’t so innocent after all. If you develop a crush on someone other than your spouse, say, don’t dismiss it as a harmless flirtation. If you allow your heart and mind to dwell on it long enough, eventually those desires will lead to sin, and unrepented sin leads to eternal death. Not such a pretty picture, is it? But there is hope. Our hearts may be bent on evil, but we have a God who cleanses our hearts and forgives sin. The Bible assures us again and again that we can ask God for strength to resist temptation. It may be unnerving to ask God to fully search your heart, because of what He might find there, but He already knows anyhow. Let His Word and Spirit point out to you the “little” sins that lurk there, and then flee to Him for pardon and healing. And then, with David we can pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”