Thursday, September 6, 2012

Expose Yourself

I'm kind of a beast.

Not the kind of beast who is strong and awesome at everything she does. The kind that is literally a beast. A hairy one.

I've been going through a bunch of old photos recently as I work on an 'on-the-side' work project, and I came across this gem:

Yes, that's a picture of one of my arms next to one of my guy friends' arms. Can you even tell whose arm is whose? I wish I could say the hair was always that blonde, but this was immediately following a summer of being out in the sun.

This is the one thing I've try to hide about myself more than anything else. In my list of things I always wanted in a guy, 'hairier than me' was pretty high up there. It was mortifying to watch people's eyes drift as they caught a glimpse of my arm and know exactly what they were thinking. I sometimes avoided little kids because while the rest of the world seemed able to resist saying anything about it, kids lacked the filter and, with disgust, commented on how hairy my arms were. Awesome.

I tried lots of things to fix it--Nair, shaving, waxing... my mom even felt so sorry for me she took me in for 3 treatments of laser hair removal. It didn't work. I gave up trying and decided to embrace my naturally woven arms. Keep in mind that this is just my arms we're talking about so far (although, I do relish the thickness of my head hair, ensuring that I'll most likely not go bald in my old age...).

One summer my hairiness taught me a very valuable lesson. I was a 3rd summer returning counselor, meaning I was a little cocky and thought I was 'too old' to learn anything new. I had a group of students that I had had before, and while not all the students were the same, I felt extremely comfortable with the leaders and several of the campers.

On this particular day we were out on a hike, and my co-counselor and I got the brilliant idea to create a complicated mess of a team challenge for the group. The group would carry a blindfolded and mute me to our next destination. It was brilliant because I could no longer talk or see or walk... but it was simultaneously terrible because I could no longer talk or see or walk.

As soon as we began, comments starting flying.
'Dang Hammer (because that's what I was called back then...)... you've got junk in the trunk!' was a favorite of mine that I remember from that day. Never before had I been insecure about the size of my tailend... until now. There was a wide array of complaining, moaning, and struggling to move just a few feet.

I stayed mute, and left my partner to lead the exercise. It wasn't long before I heard a commotion and one of our youngest campers was down for the count- defeated by heat exhaustion. My partner decided to run back to camp to get a vehicle to take the boy in. That left me alone, in all my camper's arms... not talking, seeing, or walking...because I wasn't entirely sure what all was even happening.

They kept talking and complaining...commenting about how heavy I was and how hard this task was. I wondered if they had forgotten that I could still hear everything they were saying. I was getting pretty frustrated, but everything ended when the following was said:

'Dang Hammer, you have a beard!!!'

Something internal snapped and immediately I was able to talk, see and walk again. I scurried out of their arms, very aware that a hot mess of tears was about to explode down my face. I was humiliated, called out on something I'm not even sure was true, but in that moment I felt exposed and naked. I took off down the road, leaving my entire group to fend for themselves with one sponsor. I ran back to camp weeping, no longer able to hold it all in.

Fortunately, I passed my co-counselor on the road as he was driving to retrieve the dehydrated boy. I didn't say much of anything, but one look on my face revealed to him how terribly upset I was. I kept walking back to camp and let him take care of the group. When I got there, the first person I saw was my boss. I went up to him, told him he should fire me because I had just left my entire group on the side of the road.

He was kind and showed much grace as we talked through the situation. I wasn't fired that day.

I tell this story because, while humiliating, this catastrophic event allowed for the Lord to work in a way that I never would have expected. As the group apologized to me, I was able to forgive. My co-counselor and I ended up washing their feet that night. Guess who put their faith in the Lord that night? The boy who had both commented on my junk in the trunk and my beard.

It's kind of surreal thinking about it.
The lesson I learned was all about how the Lord can use even the things we are most ashamed of, most embarrassed about...the thing we try to hide the most... for His glory. It was a life-altering moment of recognizing that even (what I think are) the ugliest parts of me can still be beautiful.

I've told this story a few times since then--all with this same desire and hope that others will seize this and not live in fear of being 'exposed'. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known, and I've found a lot of freedom in being able to openly talk about my biggest insecurities. There's been freedom as the Lord has used that and reminded me that it's not about me.

Shoot... wouldn't we all want our beards to be brought to everyone's attention if it meant that someone else knows Jesus by the end of the day?

So, what is it for you?
What things do you try to hide from the world? What things are you most ashamed of?
And what are ways that the Lord might be able to use that for His glory? 'Cause it can be done. Be open to it. Ha.. and even if you aren't? I imagine you'll find out, one way or another.

Also- I'm not saying go out and flaunt your biggest insecurities ('cause, don't worry, I now regularly shave my arms)... I'm just saying those things can be good and it'd be sweet if we could adopt a mentality of believing that even our 'ugliest' things really can be exquisite.

A little at a time.

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