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Monday, May 23, 2005

Head Lice

I usually don’t pray about things like head lice. I prefer to pray for other people, which Quakers call holding them “in the Light.” For example, my mother and my mother-in-law have both had medical issues recently, so we’ve been holding them in the Light. You can translate this as “sending them good energy” or “asking God to take care of them,” whichever makes the most sense to you.

I think of holding someone in the Light as praying for whatever is best for that person, without trying to tell God exactly what that is. Larry Dossey—author of Healing Words, among other books—says that studies show that this type of intersessory prayer is actually more effective than specific “Please let mom’s test come back negative” prayers. Aside from the interesting fact that people are studying the effectiveness of prayer on the sick, I am struck by Dossey’s explanation that there seems to be no evidence that one religion or denomination’s prayers are more effective than another’s. However, there is a measurable benefit to patients when the prayer is open-ended or non-specific. Dossey, a physician himself, prays for his patients, "May the best possible outcome prevail." He acknowledges that sometimes the best possible outcome for the patient is actually a peaceful death, even though as a doctor he wants to prolong life for as long as possible. The message for me is to try to be open to an outcome that is not what I originally envisioned, but which may be best in some bigger sense.

So, it was with some ambivalence that I finally prayed last night, “Please let us be done with the head lice!” After more than two weeks of toxic shampoo, daily nit-checking, and excessive house-cleaning, I’m fed up. I tried to be open at first. When we first found a few lice in my daughter’s long red hair and I had to keep her home from school to treat it, I thought, “Well, maybe we needed this quality mother/daughter time.” As I’ve meticulously looked through her hair every day since (making us late for school many days), I’ve thought, “Maybe she needed this extra attention.” When we found another louse a week later and then a few more ten days after that (including some in my hair), I thought, “Maybe God’s still trying to teach me patience.” Frankly I’d prefer for God to teach me how to get rid of the lice.

This is a theme on my spiritual journey. I want to control things, get the lesson over with, move on. However, usually the problem doesn’t go away until I let go of my anxiety and accept whatever is going on. I don’t believe in totally passive spirituality—turn everything over to God, while the head lice multiply. I’m still going to check our hair tonight, soak it in vinegar to get the nits out, and keep working on cleaning the house. But tonight, perhaps I should also pray for the patience to deal with the head lice. That might bring a better ultimate outcome than just getting rid of the buggers.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Sharon M. said...

It's so hard to accept that those persistent little head lice aren't gone yet and we've got to do another round of vinegar, laundry, therapy, antibiotics, calamine lotion -- whatever it is to resolve the issue. Why can't we just get over this and move to the next problem? Why do these things have to keep coming back to haunt us, to hurt us, to test us?

Accepting that they're there and praying for patience to deal with them. WHEW! That's a tough one.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks for your comment, Sharon. I couldn't believe how long the lice situation lasted. I have to confess I was not always very patient about it, even though I realized that getting anxious wasn't helping.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Joeffrey said...

I agree when i was in 12yrs old i had that problem of head lice until i get the age of 14 it takes 2yrs to think that its disgusting have them

11:53 AM  

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