I’m sure you all know the feeling.

You sit quietly in a meeting, but silently slide your foot out of your shoe and use your toes to scratch furiously.

Or you’re driving down the road, frantic because you can’t quite reach that spot to relieve the inflammation that’s driving you insane.

And then there are those times when you lay awake in bed long after everyone else has gone to sleep, biting your lip as you carefully maneuver and contort, trying to make the itchiness stop.

Mosquito bites. Oh, the horror.

I recently visited my family in the beautiful state of Minnesota, where the lakes shimmer and vivid green trees sway gently in the breeze of millions of mosquitoes. If you’ve ever been to Minnesota, then you undoubtedly know that the unofficial state bird of this fine region is indeed the mosquito–and I’m sure you can imagine how many small, itchy bites I still have as a result of this trip.

To make a long story short, I have mosquito bites all over my body.

As I’ve laid awake in bed many nights the last few weeks, scratching the souvenirs of my trip up north, I’ve pondered the mosquito. As I silently complained for the umpteenth time, I was suddenly struck with a thought:

As youth leaders, we are mosquitoes.

No, no–we’re not blood-sucking insects who annoy the living daylights out of innocent people just trying to enjoy God’s creation.

I’m not saying either that we’re nagging or annoying (although, let’s face it, if you’re in charge of a confirmation program, your students would probably agree that a mosquito is a fitting description of you).

What I mean is that we do a lot of the same things as mosquitoes. Think about it–we buzz around teenagers, observing them and looking for a way to reach them. We attempt to be close to them, even when they run away from us, whether from fear or annoyance. We don’t give up, but keep on trying to reach them even when they swat at us and wave us away, telling us we’re spoiling their fun.

So many times, we have just a few moments with a student as they give us their short focus in a world clamoring for their attention. Knowing that we may have just one opportunity to share the hope within us–the message of salvation–we “bite”, sharing God’s Truth with them.

Our bite, however, isn’t poison. It isn’t meant to aggravate or annoy, but to give life and freedom.

We long for that serum within us–that life-giving Gospel message that Jesus loves each one of us and suffered to save us from the wickedness of our own souls– to reach them.

It’s our hope, as youth leaders, that this “bite” sticks with them and keeps working in them, even after we’re long gone. We hope that they keep scratching that spot–and that the Holy Spirit works in their hearts, spreading to the deepest corners of their soul.

Ephesians 1:13-14 reminds us, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.”

“Marked”? Or perhaps “bitten”?

I can’t promise that I’ll feel any differently about mosquitoes when I’m scratching my bug bites in the darkness of night, but I’m now aware that even the most annoying insect on this planet can teach me something insightful about ministry.

Isaiah 55:12 tells us, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

All creation indeed praises our Creator…and that certainly includes those pesky mosquitoes.