It’s Time to Jump

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The notion that people can “train fleas” is just an urban legend, right?

Every now and then, however, urban legends turn out to be true – and it just so happens that one of the smallest entities that might lurk in our carpets can be taught a fascinating trick.

There are more than 2,500 species of this tiny, wingless insect.  When full-grown, they rarely exceed one-eighth of an inch in length. 

Fleas, however, are world-class jumpers.  Because of their highly specialized back legs, they can propel themselves 40 to 100 times their body length.  If an average-size human being could do that, he or she could hop over 300 feet.  Forget the Olympics.  We’d be talking about a new Marvel Comics superhero. 

Training fleas not to jump would seem to be a remarkable achievement.

But it’s actually not that challenging.

All you need is a Mason jar.  Add a generous handful of fleas.  Secure the lid.  Then wait for the fleas to do what fleas do so well – jump. 

A flea will jump right into the walls of its container.  Splat.  Now even a creature with a flea-sized brain will ultimately conclude, “You know, it might not hurt so badly if I don’t jump so high the next time.”  Within two days the fleas will have fully accommodated themselves to the shape of the Mason jar – so much so that when the lid is removed, the fleas will not jump to safety.  They are fully capable of launching themselves beyond their glass prison.  But they have been trained to be satisfied with lesser goals. 

We should know exactly how this feels.  It happens to ordinary people all the time. 

For some kids, expectations were contained from Day One:  “Why do you want to go to college?  You’re not trying to leave our family behind, are you?”  Splat.  A pioneering spirit gets squelched.

Some of us were told we’re not really high jumpers:  “You should avoid anything that requires math or science,” insists a teacher.  Splat.  Doors close. 

Others of us feel as if the world has become an unsafe place: “After my marriage fell apart, I lost confidence that I can ever be in a healthy relationship.”  Splat.  Our fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then there are the Seven Last Words of the Church:  “We’ve never done it that way before.  Thanks for sharing your interesting idea; maybe you should try the Lutherans.”  Splat.  A spiritual entrepreneur wonders if she ever heard God’s voice in the first place. 

And there’s always this clincher:  “I’m too old to try something new.”  Splat.  It’s so easy to talk ourselves into settling for modest expectations and modest results. 

If we don’t jump so high the next time, it won’t hurt so badly.

But that’s true only if we believe the lie that the lid is still on life’s jar – that something or someone (second-rate DNA, toxic parents, unimaginative teachers, an unsupportive spouse, a lousy boss, or just plain bad luck) has always held us back.  We’ve coached ourselves into seeing walls that no longer exist, and cling to the suspicion that risk-taking is just way too risky.

There’s no verse of Scripture that says, “The lid is off.  You can jump!”    

But in a sense, that’s the message of the entire New Testament. 

That’s what Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit falls upon the early church, and young and old, male and female alike are gifted and empowered to begin remaking the world (see Acts chapter 2).  And that’s what Paul writes in his extraordinary, crazy, run-on sentence that takes up a whopping 11 verses in Ephesians chapter 1 – that those who abandon themselves to Christ are blessed, called, chosen, forgiven, predestined, redeemed, loved, included, and sealed with the Spirit.

God has taken off the lid of stuffiness and religiosity.  He has torn down the walls of spiritual fear and insecurity. 

We are free in Christ.  It’s time to jump.

God’s Yes is bigger than any of the No’s we ever thought might be holding us back.