“We have a problem,” he said gravely in his thick British accent. Our family was on our eleventh day in the United Kingdom earlier this summer. We had checked out of our place in the Highlands of Scotland and had been traveling all day in order to make it to England so we could check into our guest house in Whitley Bay. We were tired. We were carrying all our luggage. But there was a problem with the house, as he announced to us.
Yes, fleas. And the young man who was our host assured us that we couldn’t stay there that night—tired or not. Apparently while his family had been on holiday, their housecat had introduced an infestation of fleas throughout the whole house, including the beds and living room. They had returned earlier that same day and discovered that the whole house was hopping with the little biting critters. The young man physically blocked us from entering the house as he explained the situation. He and his family were busy feverishly cleaning, vacuuming, and using flea powder on everything.
And when we heard this news, we were suddenly not that tired, and not quite so eager to check in.
Take your time, really. Make sure it’s good and clean. That’s what was running through my mind.
And as I reflect on that experience in England, my mind wanders across Scripture to an obscure section of the book of Leviticus. In chapters 13 and 14, there are extensive rules and procedures for dealing with diseases of the skin, fabrics, and houses. Yes, houses. No mention of fleas there, but still some good advice for the people of Whitley Bay, at least in concept.
Leviticus counsels that a priest come to a house if there is a spreading mold. If the mold continues to spread after a week-long quarantine, then the plaster needs to be scraped off, the affected stones removed, and both thrown outside of town. If the spreading mold returns, then the whole house must be pronounced unclean and it must be torn down and deposited outside of town in an unclean place.
Pretty drastic, especially for a time when building a house was a big, expensive deal.
Would you tear down your house because of mold? Or fleas? How far would you go to correct a problem like that?
How about when it comes to your spiritual life? The truth is that sometimes our lives become like a guest house infested with fleas: fine on the outside, but filthy inside. And sometimes our souls can pick up a spreading mold of unchecked sin. So the question is, what will we do with our sin and filth? Will we take drastic measures to correct it—with vacuuming, scrubbing, and powder? Will we tear down the house, just to save our lives? Or will we tell ourselves that everything is okay and leave all as it is?
There was a silver lining to our stay in England. We didn’t stay in the flea house, but miraculously God provided another house a block over (which is another adventure story for another time). And there is a silver lining for all of us who have infestation in our souls. God has miraculously provided a way to be cleansed and forgiven. Jesus has taken all our sins and sicknesses into his body on the cross, so that we can be completely healed. So let us all pause and take a good look at our inner lives, to diagnose our sin. And then, let us take the steps necessary to address the problems we find there, knowing that God is able and willing to heal us.