This is a post I’ve been meaning to write all year, but could never really figure out a happy conclusion, so I didn’t write it. I mean, nobody wants to read a story without a happy ending, right?
When I was a little girl, I used to have issues with bug bites. There was a time period when my parents couldn’t figure out what was biting me so much at night. Nobody else in the house had been bitten, but I had little red bug bites all over my body. My mom used to say it was because I was so sweet, which I suppose was meant to make me feel better. For a little while, it did, but it never really made the itchiness go away.
If anything, this year has been the year of the mosquito for me. I have screens on my windows, although they aren’t perfectly sealed. I sleep with a mosquito net every single night. I keep the door to my room closed at all times. And still, every other night on average, I wake up to itchy, fiery bites that are almost unbearable. The overarching rule that I’ve observed is that if there is even one mosquito in a room, it will without question find me and bite me multiple times. The system at this point as become pretty routine to me: rouse myself out of my sleeping state, find the cortisone cream, flashlight, and glasses that I keep in the net for times like this, apply the cortisone cream to every bite (I’ve gone through about seven bottles of it so far), fire up the flashlight, put on my glasses, and go mosquito hunting. During these times my prayers are also routine: “Lord, why did you let that mosquito get inside the net tonight? You could’ve kept it out.” “Help me to catch this mosquito soon so I can get back to sleep.” Sometimes I catch the mosquito in lethargic state, drunk off my blood and unable to fly away fast enough. Then I lie down and wait for the anti-itch medication to kick in so I can sleep. Other times the mosquito is the usual flabbergastingly lightning-speed. Tanzanian mosquitoes are at least three times as fast as any other mosquito I’ve ever had to deal with and incredibly difficult to catch. I usually have one good shot that it, and if I miss, it will take me another couple minutes to find it again, and then I have one more good shot. If this goes on longer than ten minutes, I give up sleep completely and turn the room light on until I’ve found it. By this time, my adrenaline is going and I’ll only be able to get back to a very surface level of sleep (if at all) until my alarm goes off and I need to go face my students for the day. I have no idea how many hours of sleep I’ve lost with this process, but if the adage about losing hours of sleep equals shortening the length of your life, over the course of this year I think it’s fair to say that I may have lost a few years.
Besides the night monsters, there are also the day variety that love to plague me at work. These mosquitoes have a heyday going under the desk at work and gorging themselves on my legs and feet. When the weather got a little bit cooler, I started wearing pants once in awhile in hopes that it would protect my legs, but found to my astonishment that the mosquitoes were able to bite me THROUGH THE FABRIC.
At the peak of rainy season, when mosquitoes are at their worst, I found 32 bites on my body at one time. So you can imagine how I relate to Paul when he said, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Cor. 12:7)!
When I went to visit Aimee and Justin in Nairobi, we had quite a few good talks. I told Aimee about the mosquitoes, and how finding one inside my net at night could completely ruin my night’s sleep, and subsequently, ruin the following day on about twenty different levels. About how frustrating it is to know that one mosquito can terrorize your entire night. About how humiliating it is that your entire day could be dictated by a bug half the size of my thumb nail. We talked about lessons and how God brings people to Africa during a myriad of different seasons and for many different reasons. I told Aimee that I didn’t know what God had really meant for me by this year, and how maybe I failed just fully enough to miss the main lesson completely.
Aimee smiled, and said something like this:
“Heather, He wanted you to know that all it takes is one mosquito.”