Church ended and there were only the talkative few left behind. We were sitting around telling tales from the week prior and debating the lunch menu when my son came walking in the front door. I didn’t realize he was standing right next to me until someone said, “John, what’s wrong with your arms?”
I turned to see him pull up his sleeves and start scratching.
“I have bugs all over me!”
Those are the words no mother ever wants to hear, especially in church.
I immediately began to itch. It didn’t matter if the bugs were on my arm or not. I’m pretty sure it was a maternal itching instinct that kicked in.
Now, we all have our own set of great expectations when go to church. We may want to hear from God, to be encouraged or challenged. Perhaps we want to fellowship with other like-minded people. Each Sunday, there are hundreds of thousands of people with great expectations sitting in the pews of churches across our great country. Some people’s expectations are fulfilled, while others try again the next week.
Same time, different story.
There is, however, one expectation I guarantee none of you have ever brought to the church house.
Presumptuous of me to make such a bold assumption?
Possibly, but I think not.
No one ever expects to go to church and contract a bad case of bugs, but that is precisely what my son did one warm and sunny Sunday this summer.
“Those are bird lice.” said my husband, the avid outdoorsman.
He was so matter of fact about the situation, like a thousand little bugs hadn’t just infested our child. Clearly his paternal instinct doesn’t compare to my maternal sympathy itching.
Now, as luck (or perhaps providence) would have it, my husband wasn’t the only one with prior bird lice experience.
“Use gasoline. It’s the only thing that will kill them.” said another man.
Images of my buggy son burning at the stake flooded my imagination. Surely there was a less volatile cure.
“How about alcohol?” I suggested.
I had recently added a brand new bottle to first aid kit down in the basement. So, we headed downstairs, bugs and all.
Under the bright lights, I realized John’s black shirt was alive with creepy crawlies. I made him take the shirt off and throw it in the trash. Then I tied the bag tightly and threw it out the back door.
I don’t mess around when it comes to bugs. In my world, they are the enemy and must be cast out, like Satan himself.
I began pouring alcohol over my kid. He was baptized from the neck down in the kitchen sink of the church. It was a spiritual experience. The angels sang.
We found a t-shirt in my husband’s office and decided it was time to go home where there was another bottle of alcohol. One can never be too clean. I think that may even be in the Bible somewhere.
While I cleaned up, my kids went on ahead with clear instructions for my son to strip on the back porch and douse himself with more alcohol before showering.
I continued to itch, but the freckles on my arms weren’t moving. Praise God!
When I finally made it home, my daughter was sitting in the kitchen laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“John’s been in the shower screaming for the past ten minutes.”
It went something like this:
“Ahhhh…..it’s burning!!!! Cold water. I need more cold water. Ouch, ouch, OUCH!!!! Hot water. No! Cold….It’s burning!”
She said his screams for cold and then hot water continued to cycle until the shower was finally turned off, only moments earlier.
John emerged from the bathroom, looking and smelling cleaner than I’d ever seen him. Seriously, he sparkled.
I guess that’s what happens when you pour a bottle of alcohol all over your body, from the top of your head down to your toes.
“It got in my eyes.” he said. “I thought I was going to be blind. Then I couldn’t breathe from the fumes, so I thought I was going to be blind and dead. Then it burned going over every tiny scrape and dry patch of skin on my body. Then, it hit my sensitive parts and dying stopped sounding so bad.”
“Are the lice dead?” I asked, fearing we’d have to move on to plan B – gasoline.
Some birds made a nest on the front porch of the church. They dropped their lice/mites all over the brick ledge that my son leaned his arms on. John then became their host.
Of course I googled bird lice. Turns out once they find a host, they are nearly impossible to move out. An eviction notice just won’t do. Burning down the house with gasoline is a viable option in such an instance.
The next Sunday my son used the back door.
He’s never again been as clean as the day he was baptized in alcohol, and we’ve all adjusted our expectations for Sunday morning church.
God certainly works in mysterious ways.