A Theology of Imperfection

We live in a world overflowing with information and yet so hungry for understanding. The stories that each culture tells its children to teach them about life have been exposed as fictional stories--many of them are. But in our zeal for modern standards of accuracy, we have thrown out the lessons these stories communicate.

Take, for example, the Amish "humility block." The story goes that Amish quilters would incorporate subtle mistakes in order to acknowledge the truth that God alone is perfect. As it turns out, this story isn't historically accurate. Amish quilters are quick to acknowledge that no intentional mistake is needed to point out that God alone is perfect. I am afraid that our "fact-checking" has inadvertently thrown out the theology of this story with

Our church is currently renovating our sanctuary and our Trustees--Chuck, Ed, Shawn, and George--are installing the wooden wall that will serve as the backdrop to our worship experience. I am sitting here watching, waiting for my chance to help out, thinking theologically about the work our trustees are doing. I am amazed, watching these craftsman ply their trade: measuring, re-measuring, leveling, cutting, and measuring again.

Shawn, apparently, was a bit disappointed because of a nail gun misfire, causing a tiny extraneous hole in one of the boards. While he moved on from his disappointment quickly, I am sitting here fascinated by the theology of his mistake. We are doing more than renovating a wall, we are building a backdrop for our worship of the Most High God. In front of this wall we will sing of the wonder of the Lord, we will declare his perfections, we will confess our sins and our dependency on God.

Even if the story of Amish humility is apocryphal, it doesn't mean its theology is. Every time we make a mistake, we testify to the perfection of God; we publicly announce that we are not God; we practice the posture of worship. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

If Paul is to be believed, our weaknesses are opportunities for perfection--not ours but Christ's. Shawn's mistake will stand as a monument to the wonder of God as will every other mistake as we continue to create a landscape for worship. As is written on our walls: "Soli Deo Gloria" To the Glory of God Alone

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