Nit Picking

So, we got to experience a new adventure in parenting recently.  My first grader came home from school with lice.  Eeeeeee……  Raise your hand if your head just started feeling itchy.

First she came home and told us that two girls in her class had lice.  One of those two is her close friend.  Then she started scratching her head a little.I checked her, but saw nothing.  Then we were sitting at the dinner table and the 4 year old says “There’s an ant in Emmy’s hair!”  Eeeeeee…!

I checked and sure enough, she was lousy (haha…get it?).  So we did the treatment, and we vacuumed, and we nitpicked and we went over her with a fine toothed comb… literally.  It was tedious and not fun.  The hardest part about it was remaining calm and acting like it was no big deal so she wouldn’t feel stigmatized by it, all the while inside I was battling a huge case of the heebie jeebies.  I have been carefully checking my own hair every time I shower (lice free… woohoo!), and my head itches just typing this post.  HEEBIE JEEBIES!  But I had to remain matter-of-fact about the whole thing , so I did.

She had a pretty easy case to handle because her hair is unbelievably fine and not too long.  It is the only time that having thin hair has been to her advantage.  She has a wee bit of envy about her younger sister’s hair which is thick and long and lovely.  Very thick.  And very long.  Do you see where this is going?  Sisters share everything.  Even parasites evidently.  So the 4 year old ended up with a case of lice too.  Boy, does she have a lot of hair.

So we treated her, too.  She sat patiently with the treatment stuff in her hair.  She was patient while I rinsed and rinsed it out.  Then we sat down in front of Dora the Explorer and began to comb with that metal fine toothed comb, scraping as close to the scalp as possible to get all the nits.  I was as gentle as I could be, but she has A LOT of hair.  She was quiet for the first 20 minutes, only muttering the occasional “Ouch, Mama.”  About that time I noticed that she was sitting there quietly crying.  “Oh, Katie, what’s the matter?” I asked her.

“Mama, remember that time I colored all over my sheets?”  (How could I forget?) “Mama, I am so sorry that I did that.”  And then she began a litany of every bad thing that she had ever done and how sorry she was for that.  I scooped her up and petted her and did my best to reassure her that I knew she really was sorry and that those things were totally and completely forgiven.  And that mama was not combing out her tangles because she was a bad girl or because she was being punished.  I was doing it because I had to get the lice out of her hair to make her better.  She didn’t have lice because she had been bad.  We set aside the comb for another night.

She recovered well and has been really a trooper for further treatments (lice… the gift that keeps on giving!).  But I was really struck by her response and tears.In thinking about it, I can see a real parallel to how we deal with hardships and disappointments in life.  Let em be clear: there are some disappointments in life that are directly our own darn fault.  We acted in a way (sin) that brought on consequences that are unpleasant.  I think that if we take an honest look at our lives, we can say that A LOT of the disappointments are the consequences of our own bad decisions.  It can be easy to fall into a thought pattern of “I don’t deserve this” when actually, yes, I do deserve this.  However, that being said, there are other things that happen to us that are not a result of our own sin.  They are the result of being part of humankind- a fallen race.  And living on the planet which is reaping the consequences of that.

I think about the victim of violent crime.  The chronically ill.  The abused child.  The grieving family member.  You didn’t ask for it.  You didn’t deserve it but for the fact that you were a member of the human race.  It is not a direct result of your actions.  It isn’t because you colored on your sheets.  You didn’t do anything wrong to make this happen.

Then I think about my role in combing the lice out of my daughter’s hair and making her cry.  It is part of the hard road that it takes to get rid of this problem.  And I think about the sometimes hard, painful route that God takes us through to rescue us from some of the messes we get in.  In talking to fellow Christians, what I hear over and over about hardship is not about God being a cosmic bully who is capriciously punishing them (putting lice in their hair).  I hear that they look back at the hardest times in their lives and say that “It was a hard time that God saw me through and strengthened me.”  (He is patiently combing the lice out- how’s that for a visual?)  This is what real faith can bring- not what religion brings- what true faith brings.  Jesus tells us “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  The road out from disappointments in life is a tough one.  Like getting your hair nitpicked.  It means sorting out tangles and some pain and some tears.  But the alternative is sitting there with a head full of bugs.

Here is what a real faith can bring you, in good times and bad, in joy and in sorrow: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”

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