I’ve been doing some post-summer reflection these past few days, remembering vacation memories from this summer and those of many years ago. One in particular happened at a favorite beach spot from my childhood: a gorgeous, little, secluded island off the coast of South Carolina called Kiawah Island.
Although it has since become a little more developed, when my family went, the beauty of the untouched nature was a huge part of its appeal. We rode bikes everywhere, ate magnificent breakfast buffets, and one night we even broadened our horizons by crabbing on a secluded dock. Despite the fact that we had no idea what we were doing, we actually caught some crabs, screamed when we saw them, and made my dad throw them all back.
The joy of that night was marred the next morning, however, when we woke up with some mosquito bites. I know, it doesn’t really sound like much, but I’m not talking about one mosquito bite, or even a few mosquito bites. While we were catching the crabs, the mosquitoes were telling each other about the all-you-can-eat buffet that was happening on the south dock. I remember trying to count how many bites I had and I lost track after 30. It sucked. Literally.
My then ten-year-old sister, Ashley, swore that she saw an infomercial for the Doctor’s Home Book of Remedies, that claimed that applying a paste of plain yogurt and baking soda to mosquito bites would help to alleviate the itch. We were just desperate enough to believe her. My dad went out and bought several huge pints of plain yogurt and we lathered the paste all over our bodies. The yogurt bath proved to be cold, smelly, sticky . . . and not even the remotest form of itch relief. We found out later that the plain yogurt paste mixed with crushed aspirin actually relieves sunburn. Not mosquito bites. Way to go, Ash.
This summer, in addition to road trips, vacations, and way too many trips to Italiano’s Water Ice, the past four months have brought with them their own share of, how shall I say . . . adventures. Thank God that there have been no major tragedies, but there has definitely been a string of life’s nuisances that have added up.
A flooded basement. A car accident. The death of a grandparent. Health insurance confusion. The death of another grandparent. Another flood in the basement. Trying to sell a house. Another car accident. Month-long sinus infections. Work stress. Someone steals the plumbing from the house you’re trying to sell. Yet another flood in the basement.
On their own, they are just a part of life’s nuisances. We live in an imperfect world. Stuff happens. It’s not fun, but it’s not tragic. You deal with it. It’s just a simple mosquito bite, if you will. But when you string together a series of inconveniences in a short amount of time, well, it starts to get a bit draining. And by draining I mean it can suck the life out of you like a swarm of mosquitoes on a deserted dock on a warm, summer evening. You start looking around the corner, wondering what’s going to happen next, and pretty soon, it’s hard to see anything good happening in the midst of all the “mosquito bite moments.”
I’ve lived through tragedy. It’s terrible, indescribable in many ways. One thing about walking through tragic seasons, however, is that it’s obvious suffering. It’s one big, horrible, tragic thing at once, that puts you at the end of your rope and in my case, immediately propelled me to my Heavenly Father.
The thing about mosquito bite seasons, however, is that it’s kind of a ninja suffering. It sneaks up on you. You don’t really realize it’s happening until you’re a good several weeks and several “mosquito bite nuisances” into it. Whereas I had to obviously make a choice to turn with desperation to my Father in the midst of tragic suffering, in the last few months, now I was subtly turning to God with sarcasm and resentment, wondering why He was allowing all these things to happen. I inadvertently chose to spray a coat of cynicism and bitterness over my heart to try and protect myself from any more bites.
Last weekend, as Brad and I had just about reached the mosquito bite tipping point, the thought occurred to me:
If the Enemy can’t destroy your life with tragedy, he’ll try and distract you to death with the ordinary.
Like a bath of cold, plain yogurt paste on my bit-up skin, the realization woke me up to a new perspective of what was happening around me. Yet unlike the yogurt paste, I began to feel some relief from my discomfort. I read Isaiah 41.10 [AMP] in my YouVersion Bible plan.
“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”
Just as He was with me in the darkest night of tragedy, God was there in the gray dusk of the ordinary. And not only was He with me, He had a plan in this, a purpose to this season. He was using it to strengthen Brad and me, to harden us, to build our stamina. You don’t finish a marathon after a day of training and you can’t finish life well without learning how to handle these difficulties in stride.
Somehow, just knowing that God was with me in the ordinary, holding me up, and redeeming each “mosquito bite moment” made the itchy misery not feel so bad. I began to reevaluate the past several months and discovered so many small miracles and faithful provisions each step of the way.
I know this mosquito bite season will not last forever. I know there will be more in the future. And God-willing, when the next one comes along, I’ll be a little better at looking around me not with terror or dismay, but recognizing God’s presence and hand in the midst of it.
And to all my friends who may be reading this, finding themselves in the midst of their own string of life’s mosquito bites, please know you have a friend who is right there with you, praying for you, and ready to bring over a pint of plain yogurt to help.