I was that girl in high school. You know. The sweaty one. It’s true- I weathered that perfect storm of pubescent hormones and anxiety that left me with sweat swirls under my pits the size of a gulf coast hurricane. I wasn’t just sweaty when I ran cross country….I was sweaty everywhere: in math class, the hallway and everywhere. I was a tall banged (it was the eighties ) walking talking humidifier. I could have grown tropical plants in there. Just sayin.
I tried everything:
- Rolling up my sleeves and shoving them into my pits to act as pit guards.
- Layering my roll-on deodorant/antiperspirant and drying between the layers with my hairdryer.
- Antiperspirant so strong, it burned my poor pits to bits. (I still burn with pit-felt hate for: Mitchum antiperspirant- I’m allergic- hence the burning pits of doom..)
- Thinking “dry.”
- Multiple showers a day. (yeah… more water-that will dry me out.)
- de stressing techniques. (Which just stressed me out and made me sweat more. )
Nothing worked. In desperation, I resorted to keeping may arms clamped to my sides. (A great way to make them: more sweaty. Grand.) I did not raise my hand for 3 years. (I talked in class- of course- I was just the rude-sweaty girl who didn’t raise her hand.. When I absolutely HAD to-I raised it from the elbow to wrist… teachers had to really look to see my hand are ear level.)
Eventually, hormones and life settled down, and I outgrew my sweatyness. But- the shame and embarrassment lived on. I took the term: “never let them see you sweat” to whole new levels. I over compensated and tried to portray a cool calm an collected appearance- at all times. I determined never to be that sweaty chick again. And just to be sure? I kept people at arms length- in case I did get a bit moist… no one would be close enough to know.
And then I became a mother. I got involved in a MOPS group. I became a leader. I had to stand up and talk in front of groups of women. I figured i’d be ok…after all- I was past my sweaty phase. I had it all together, now, didn’t I? No one would ever see me sweat, again. I wouldn’t let that happen. All they would see is the put-together me. The cool one.
Leading left me anxious. Fear and insecurity flooded my thoughts: “Who am I to lead, anyone?” Leading brought many of my faults into clear view. Mothering brought out the rest. I may not have been sweaty on the outside- but I was a typhoon on the inside. “I can’t do this alone. I feel like a poser. These people don’t even know me… I’m really just the sweaty chick…. not the put together leader I try to portray.”
The more I tried to look like and be the perfect leader.. the more disconnected and alone I felt. The more I struggled to be perfect, the more I messed up. I became controlling, insecure and frustrated. I was caught in a cycle of appearance management and failure., as both a mom and a leader. Eventually I learned that I was right–I could not continue to do it alone, no matter how I tried. It was like thinking myself dry. Just. Didn’t. Work.
Then, I read a bible story. A story about Moses and his closest confidants. (I relate to Moses- well- mins the beard. I also had a speech problem…OK- the truth is- I was a mess of a kid. I had braces on my legs, braces on my teeth, crossed eyes and coke bottle glasses….with a lisp and a sweat problem. Yup- I was a mess.) A story of fighting a good fight together… and letting people close enough to smell your sweat.
Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
I have to say- that having been that sweaty girl- my immediate response to Moses on that hill- shoulder to shoulder with Aaron and Hur was this: “That is too close for comfort. Hold up Moses’ arms? They had to be pretty close to do that. Close enough to smell his sweat!… if I let people that close….they’d know the truth: I don’t have it all together-I’m really just a sweaty chick. No thank you. Who’d want to follow a leader like that?”
Even as that thought formed.. that quiet voice in my heart- that I recognize as God-said this: “You aren’t supposed to have it all together, you’re supposed to do it all together.”
“Together”- in close proximity. Close enough to see you sweat. Maybe leadership (and life) is supposed to be like that scene on the hill. Maybe we need to be shoulder to shoulder- close enough to know the truth-about each other- we’re all sweaty and imperfect, and we need each other! Maybe we should be honest and help each other raise our hands in prayer until victory comes….
I decided to make a change. I wouldn’t walk around arms clamped stiffly to my sides, emotionally. I wouldn’t hide the sweaty fear and insecurity I felt. I started to let people know the truth. I let them see my imperfections. We laughed about them. We cried about them. We prayed about them. Together. The funny thing is- the more open I become, the more I can connect with others. The more honest I am-about struggles and triumphs.. the more I find others are willing to help me, and the more victories we see- together. Instead of being rejected for my struggles- I find i’m being loved… and I find out I’m not the only sweaty one. I’m not alone.
What about you? Are you “Sure?” Do you try so hard not to “let em see you sweat” that you’ve clamped others out of your life? Or kept them at arms length? Are you afraid to let people know who you really are? Do you feel like you’ are constantly losing battles and just can’t do it on your own? I’ve been there. It hurts and is exhausting.
So- Quit. Stop it. Today- no- really. Take a risk, be vulnerable- let em see you sweat. Let others close enough to hold up your arms when you feel like you’re losing… you may just find out thats just what you need! We are wired for community… to hold each other up and help….being a good mother- or leader isn’t about appearance… or having it all together- it’s about doing life- together.
Dear Lord- thank you for the stories in your word- thank you for using imperfect sweaty people to hold each other up and win in life. I pray for anyone that reads today- that they’d find courage in my sweaty story- and take the risk they so desperately need- to let others close. I love you Lord- amen.