Fearless Faith

The value of imperfection


What a curious thing among collectors, the tendency to value imperfection, error, and mistake over perfection. This is especially true of those who collect postage stamps, currency, and coinage. A much higher value is found in those few items among the millions of others that are the exception to the rule, the abnormal, the unique. With postage stamps, errors are of three general categories: misprints, misperfs and non-perfs. Misprints are just that, printing efforts that fall short, are misaligned, or even left out altogether, including colors, lettering and denomination. Some of the most valuable misprints have inverted printing, letters or pictures which are upside down.

Misperfs and non-perfs describe misplacement or omission of the correct perforations between stamps, perforations which allow them to be easily separated. These are found more often on coils or rolls of stamps if the machine creating the perforations is misaligned. Imperfections catch our attention. We proudly display them, and because there are so few instances in which they occur in automated processes, they create value in and of themselves. Misperfs and non-perfs range from 10 to 30 or 40 dollars. Misprints can exceed several hundreds of dollars depending on the particular error involved.

How curious it is when society seemingly places more value on conformity than non-conformity, on minding the status quo rather than challenging it. By philatelic standards, one would think the opposite would hold true. If justice in a non-just environment is so rare, why is it not more embraced? We are hesitant even within our churches to step off of the beaten path and explore the questions and concerns no one has dared ask. What will others think? Will they condemn me if I don’t talk and act and believe the exact same way they do, or in the manner the church expects of its members? There’s a long list of imperfections to choose from!

And what if a personality lands near the sacred altars of respectability and religious sameness, and we identify them as a misprint or misperf or non-perf? Will we find ways to discard them or will we come to new understandings of their worth and ponder all the ways in which they are to be highly valued? How exciting would it be to search out the imperfect rather than to begin with the assumption of perfection? As with stamps, it could turn into quite a treasure hunt.

God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty — never canceled, never rescinded … God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in. Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep, wisdom? It’s way over our heads… (Romans 11:29, 32-33, The Message).

It’s as exciting as discovering imperfection while rummaging through the stamp drawer! It’s time to acknowledge imperfection’s value in other places as well, including our own church communities.


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