Faith and Life: Wading through the lice

Even though the following topic may be common, people do not like discussing it. But the emotions, anxiety and prayer that filled my previous week are just too "real life" to not write about. And the topic may amuse you, or strike a chord of affinity within.

My kids came home from a weekend away with lice, one of my greatest repulsions. I went until my 30s before I ever experienced lice, and to this day, I have not had it myself. But the stress and exhaustion involved in getting rid of it this past week, and avoiding re-infestation, brought my mind, emotions and body to an exhaustion I have not experienced in a while.

During this week, I still had three kids to raise, tae kwon do lessons to go to once they were deloused, speaking engagements, and a full load of patients to see.

I became aware of our problem shortly after the children arrived home and I was setting a home-cooked meal on the dinner table, candles lit and all. The itching started. I immediately took them outside, and checked. Yes, it was there, much to my chagrin. Dinner was left cold as I took four hours to wash, de-nit the kids and sanitize my home.

The next morning I hired a "lice expert" to come and take any remaining nits out and give me instructions on how to prevent re-infestation. I spent the entire week with six hours of duties: vacuuming and turning all couches, mattresses and chairs over to clean, washing flat surfaces, doing treatments each night on the kids' hair, washing sheets, towels and other clothes immediately after being worn, and spraying repellent on heads every time they left the house.

They did not go back to school or martial arts until lice-free. But a home can take up to two weeks, as everything must be cleaned and covered with a clean sheet twice a day. I went to bed each night exhausted with back and wrist pain that woke me up in the middle of the night. Who knew you could get carpel tunnel syndrome for using a vacuum hose? The pain was this intense; the diagnosis is facetious.

The reason I write about this common but annoying circumstance is this: It felt like a mini trauma to my family. This can definitely be deemed a crisis when we experience these types of things because they affect our time and lifestyles so radically. It was not life threatening, it was not "harmful" per se. But emotionally, mentally and even physically, it affected us all.

There were arguments of frustration (Don't let your clothes touch the floor when you take them off! Put them straight into this trash bag so I can wash them in hot water. Get in the shower. Leave the conditioner on for 10 minutes), just to name a few. Any parent who has dealt with this knows what I am talking about. Deal with it in more than one kid, and with very long hair the nightmare increases.

We felt like we were in crisis: intense anxiety and stress during the day, and moments of defeat and depression at night because we knew we'd have to do it all over again the following morning. I knew that if we didn't do it right, we may have to go through it again. Now that's pressure. We all had school and work to contend with in addition to this. And a tae kwon do exam to pass.

How do psychology and theology fit into this story? Psychologically, there were tensions and victories. We all had anxiety. Yet, we learned we can overcome in crisis. We felt connection. We saw our strengths — we passed our exam as a family and we all advanced a belt!

Spiritually, we spent a lot of time praying, and even my kids came forward with things they thought God may be showing us in this time of trial. As a family, we bonded and learned to work together, support one another on a deeper level and how to endure a crisis together.

We survived. We did not go crazy, and God showed us something a bit amazing — that we may need to take a different path that we had not looked at before (nothing lice-related — but a real big family decision that I had time to pray through and process during my long hours of cleaning).

Can psychological crisis grow us? Absolutely. Can the need to seek God spiritually during times of crisis mature us? Of course. Can families bond during times of trial? That's the expectation.

I hope my little self disclosure touches someone who reads this. This is one of our smaller family crises. We have certainly been through much worse, such as rare, life-threatening diseases and other issues I won't describe — so that you can insert your own crisis here.

But was God there? Yes, with strength and lessons. And that is precisely what crises for the person of faith are all about — growth.

The Rev. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN can be reached by e-mail at or by mail at La Vie Counseling Center c/o the Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, La Vie Counseling Center, 650 Sierra Madre Villa, Suite 110, Pasadena, CA 91107.

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