It takes two days for a flea egg to hatch. Dormant eggs are triggered to hatch by vibration of people or animals moving about, and a dormant egg can survive for months and months before hatching. A mature adult can survive for a year without blood before it dies. And visible, adult fleas compose about only 5% of a flea population. How do I know? We once moved into a house that had been vacant for three months. It happened to be infested.
Two mornings after arriving, we woke up early. “Something’s in the bed,” my husband said, and I threw back the duvet. The bottom of the bed was full of fleas; our ankles were covered with bites. Yes, I screamed, and while I did, I ran for the vacuum cleaner. Too little too late. They were swarming around my feet and jumping onto my legs as I tried to suck them up. The carpets were literally pulsing. We moved out for almost two weeks. The professional came–twice–and said it was bad, that not only the house, but also the garden and the 1 acre lawn were infested. Every day between professional treatments, my husband would go in, spray, vacuum, and powder every inch of every room.
Half way through, I asked him if he should take a break. He was supposed to be using this time to prep for fall lectures, orient himself on a new campus, do a lot of moving paperwork, and maybe even help me unpack. “If I stop now,” he said, “We will lose this battle – they will take over the house and we’ll have to move again.” So he kept going in every day until he was certain that every flea and egg was obliterated. Once it was all done and safe for us to return and unpack all the boxes, everything had to be meticulously cleaned because of all the pesticides.
Sometime during the ordeal, we were driving back to our hotel and my husband commented that fleas were like sin: fight them, or they take over your life. But we both realized we had more of a revulsion for fleas than we often did for our own sin.
When we realized we had a flea infestation, all of our latent Dutch obsessions with cleanliness erupted with full force and still have not returned to their pre-flea levels. (The children will never have a pet, unless it is under water.) But how obsessive are we when we recognize a pattern of sin in our lives? Do we attack it by every possible means? Do we utilize Scripture reading and memorization, prayer and fasting, accountability, the preaching of the Word, etc., to kill the sin? Do we cut off every avenue which Satan uses to tempt us? Do we rid ourselves of any means which makes it easy for us to sin, cutting of the hand which leads to transgression (Matthew 5:30)? Do we obsess with holiness because we are temples of the Holy Spirit?
It is possible to rid a house of fleas – to make it 100% clean and safe. And though it is not possible to achieve sinless perfection in this life, by grace, it is possible and necessary to constantly, consistently fight sin – to put to death the deeds of the body so that you will live. (Romans 8:13) Because, as John Owen said, unless you are killing sin, it will be killing you. And every time I think about fleas, I’m driven to holiness.