A scientist placed a number of fleas in a jar and they immediately jumped out. He then placed a clear glass plate over the top of the jar. The fleas continued to jump, smashing their heads into the invisible barrier. They kept this up for some time, jumping with all their might, crashing into the glass and falling back. They slowly adjusted the height of their jump to avoid crashing into the invisible lid. The scientist then removed the glass lid, and the fleas remained in the jar, jumping just short of where the lid had been, unable to clear the lip of the jar and escape.
The jumping fleas are a parable of how we adjust our expectations. Like the fleas, we become conditioned to limitations imposed by others and, sometimes, imposed by ourselves. We no longer try to extend beyond the comfort of what we have done before and we remain trapped by traditions and learned behavior.
Wilbur and Orville Wright were sons of an itinerant preacher, a Bishop in the United Brethren Church. Like their father, they were gentlemen who neither smoked, drank nor gambled. But they learned to dream.
When the Wright brothers arrived at Kitty Hawk, NC, they found an almost deserted island with constant winds, lots of sand and about fifty homes, mostly occupied by descendants of shipwrecked sailors. The residents wore hand sewn clothes and lived in homes with scarce furniture and bare floors scrubbed white with sand.
Wilbur boarded with the William Tate family and set to work assembling his “darn fool contraption,” as the locals called it. Tate later said, “We believed in God, a bad Devil and a hot Hell, and more than anything else we believed that same God did not intend man should ever fly.”
The Wright brothers became fast friends with the Tate family and the outer banks people, who helped them immensely. Within 3 years, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers lifted into the air. Six years later, Orville Wright circled the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and the Wright plane flew over the Eifel Tower in Paris. Aviation was born. The world has never been the same.
Jesus was constantly urging his disciples to think beyond their limited expectations. Often He referred to the twelve disciples as “you of little faith.” He challenged them, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20).
Jesus chose twelve of the most unlikely men to follow Him. They were common fishermen, common laborers and a tax collector. Without Jesus they would have lived out their lives in their small villages unnoticed. History would have taken no note. But Jesus taught them to believe beyond the limitations of their day. Armed with faith, confident in the power that raised Jesus from the dead, they turned the world upside down and changed the course of human history.
“Nothing,” Jesus said, “is impossible with God.”