Burn the Capes: A Plea for Authenticity

Can I tell you the single most encouraging thing that anyone has ever told me about marriage? I was a newlywed sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, without the foggiest idea of what a honeymoon phase might look like. Kellan and I had made a violent crash landing into “I do” in the wake of my brother’s death, and wedded bliss was proving to be a slow death of expectations I hadn’t even known I had. We were fighting. Ugly, visceral, unhinging fights that sometimes ended with us in separate bedrooms. Crushed by the grief of losing my brother and the cavernous loneliness that threatened to swallow me whole, I felt unraveled.

Constraints of the English language make it impossible to explain how desperately humiliated I was that happily ever after was just…hard. We were newlyweds, after all. I didn’t know a lot about marriage, but I knew that we were supposed to be wrapped up in a state of almost narcotic bliss—breaking from crazy bunny rabbit sex only for electrolytes and power naps. Then, you know, back to sex.

One defiantly sunny afternoon found me sitting at my friend’s kitchen table. I find that when miracles happen, it’s most often at kitchen tables—and somehow, I mustered the trembling courage to blurt out how deeply, irrevocably, desperately sad I was. I told her about gulping back sobs on the couch, the seeming complete inability to understand each other, the sleeping in different rooms. The miracle? She looked me straight in the eyes and said, Oh girl, sometimes I’m so mad at my husband we STILL sleep in different rooms. Me too.

Me too. She’d been there—she’d slept in her guest room and been desperately wounded and said a hundred thousand things she wished she could take back—just like me. In a sentence, I wasn’t alone anymore.

I exhaled for the first time in months as an immense weight slipped off of my exhausted shoulders.

Shame creates wincing, jaded isolationists. We’re all convinced that we’re the only ones with bitter disappointments and broken marriages, the only ones who believe that God is good, but quietly wonder is he really good to me? Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that the Instagram story is the real story, and we’re alone clumsily navigating a post Genesis 3 world.

We’re pretending, and it’s laughable. There is no piece of any of our lives that hasn’t been touched by sin—nothing that isn’t in desperate need of resurrection.

In a world full of Supermen, what we really need is more people who will take off their capes and exercise the outrageous courage that it takes to be Clark Kent. We need real people who lean hard into our question marks and unfinished stories—who step with us into uncertainty and heartbreak and fear. I can think of no greater generosity someone could offer me than to tell me the real story of who they are, and what God is doing. We need people who will walk with us through crushing heartbreak, through days in marriage when we wake up and wonder what on earth we’ve done, through seasons when work and parenting and relationships make us want to walk outside and scream forever. We need people who will say, me too, and be the actual hands and feet of Jesus to us.

The magic of telling the truth is that it creates space for other people to do the same thing. Authentic community requires mutual sharing of brokenness, and it is hard and holy and wildly redemptive.

I have discovered an inexhaustible reservoir of hope in the mutual sharing of brokenness, because there is deeper magic afoot: we are resurrection people. Believers, we’ve staked our whole lives on a God who is in the business of bringing dead things back to life and we believe that there is not.one.thing. under the sun that He cannot redeem and restore. Sharing the real stories of who we are allows us to point each other to our infinite source of hope and help—to hold up each other’s arms and beg together for the grace to keep doing the next brave thing. Life is a group activity, and we need each other.

God has performed actual miracles in my life through the hands and words and kitchen tables of people who have hung up their capes and told me the truth—about themselves, and about me. People who have stood with me, believed with me, listened to me, sobbed with me, been gracious to me. People who have showed up on my doorstep double-fisting pitchers of apple cider sangria, and prayed with faith and expectancy and courage when all I felt was fear and dread.

Church is not something we do—it’s who we are to each other and to a watching world that doesn’t need one more Christian pretending that everything is fine.

Let’s burn the capes.

Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    You are one of those people who has let me sit at your kitchen table and taught me this over and over again.

  2. Carolyn says:

    When your name pops up in my email I get really happy to see what feels like a letter from a treasured friend. I adore your writing ,Ashley. It’s real , it’s funny, it is so wise. Thank you so much. This piece is brilliant. Burning my cape today. Go ahead, ask me anything! Lol, by the grace of God may I tell the absolute truth . Thank you…

  3. Yes. Burn the capes. Love this friend & love you.

  4. I don’t remember how I randomly found your blog one time a while ago and bookmarked it, but I just wanted to tell you this post is awesome and so, so true. Thanks for writing. Always keep trying, forgiving, and praying both about and hopefully with, your husband and marriage :)

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