What You Need to Know About Superhero Capes
When my middle son was in preschool, one of the moms made a superhero cape and matching mask for each preschooler in the class. Every single one. All eighteen of them. These Etsy-worthy capes were crafted with layers of gorgeous colored fabrics, red with green and blue zig zags. Centered on the back of every cape was each preschooler’s first initial, hand sewn in a circle of fabric, pronouncing every child a true superhero.
One by one, as the preschoolers put on their capes, something remarkable happened. As the cape was secured, they stood taller, joy and pride evident on their faces. They were invincible. They had purpose. They would save the world!
While I quietly envied this mom’s talent and gift, I had to admit, I have some experience with cape-creating. You see, when I started to believe that I could strive and perform and achieve my way toward perfection, my cape started taking shape. For years, I didn’t even realize I was wearing one.
I started crafting this cape in first grade, when I earned academic recognition in my tiny, private Christian school. Before I’d even tackled multiplication, I’d discovered that hard work and striving were superpowers, and I liked how they felt. Those lessons from first grade followed me through every life stage thereafter. Perform. Achieve. Strive. Through high school, college, graduate school, and in my career, this cape-wearing charade worked. Over and over.
What I didn’t realize was that this striving mentality bled into my walk with Jesus. That year in that Christian school, when I was learning basic addition, I was also learning the foundations of my faith. My young brain combined these very different things, and my competency in striving in academics crept into a practice of putting on that cape to do things for Jesus. Somehow, I’d come to believe that my super-achieving escapades would gain me points in God’s Kingdom. I loved Jesus, but I’d missed the whole point. No cape or grade or promotion would ever be enough to fill my need for Him.
Fifteen years ago, I stood in front of Jesus, broken, holding out for Him my very tattered cape. I’d tried using my superpowers of determination and diligence, but I couldn’t save myself. As I laid my cape down, stepped out from under it, I could finally feel the fullness of His loving gaze. Stripped of striving and free of shame, I could feel His delight in me. No completed checklists or tacky trophies strayed into this found sense of belonging and completeness.
I finally learned that God wants my not-enough-ness. If I know I can’t do this alone, then He can work through me. If I know I’m not enough, I’ll be forced to rely on and rest in His sufficient enough-ness. Paul knew this when he prayed for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. He grew to accept his weakness as a strength, saying, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Cor 12:10, ESV).
I’m more useful to Him without my cape. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to check all the boxes. I don’t have to know all the answers. I just need to know that He is enough. He is the one with the power. He is the one who saves.
We still have that beautiful cape and mask from my son's preschool years. For me, it serves as a special reminder of a time when we believed that putting on a garment transformed an identity.
Now I know capes don’t do that. Only He does.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Cor 12:9-10, ESV).