Lessons From Head Lice, the Sorrow and the Self-Pity, Part I
Such a small creature can still produce such misery. It wasn’t just the itching, it was the surprising shame that still is attached to these “ugly, creepin, blastit” insects, as Robert Burn aptly describes them in his poem, “To A Louse.” He saw humour in his situation, and longed for the gift to see ourselves as others see us, when he saw a louse in a fine young lady’s bonnet at church. In my predicament, I began to see myself as my Father sees me, which is often the crux of these kinds of trials. In vulnerability, I came even more out of hiding, and had to depend more on God’s people. And this light affliction produced in me endurance for a much greater trial that very shortly followed.
It was some years ago, when we first spotted the head lice on one child’s head just as we were getting ready to leave for a “Weekend to Remember” Marriage Retreat. I was ready to bail out of it, but our eldest daughters proved their mettle, and insisted that we go. I left, releasing my control but still very chagrined, as piles of beautiful, shiny blond hair were forming on the bathroom floor, and shorn heads were being slathered in mayonnaise to smother the repellent insects.
So my husband and I enjoyed a luxurious weekend, writing love letters to each other in dappled sunshine, eating candlelit dinners and meditating on the wisdom of elders. Our heroic daughters hacked at hair, and combed out eggs and wriggling ‘wonners’, washed bedding and clothing and tried to keep restless young children amused in their quarantine. A darker blight had just passed through our family, affecting these girls the most, and we had just endured an even more painful quarantine of therapuetic boarding schools. What a gift these two young women gave to us that weekend, in serving us so well, that we might enjoy at last the sweet fruit of a marriage that had nearly broken in those same great trials. I was so proud of my big girls.
We came back, and everyone was alive and well–especially the head lice! I do not recommend the natural treatments. Spare yourself time and misery. Go to the big guns, the neurotoxins. But heed the warnings–they are not child’s play. But happily, my littlest girl’s lovely blond locks had been spared the scissors.
And then I found them in my head too. Gross! Really gross. How unclean they made me feel. Oh, the self-pity I indulged in, as I spent my morning Quiet Time combing out my hair–it was distracting, all the itching! So I had to grab the lice comb, every time I felt their “creep and sprawl and sprattle” on my poor scalp. I would sit, a magnifying glass in one hand, and a lice comb in the other, the Bible open on my lap, but my attention wholly absorbed by the anxious question–is it a nit or just lint? A little bug had become bigger than God to me.
I was magnifying the wrong things. When this realization dawned, I was on my face in repentance. It is a good place to be when a storm hits.