Over coffee recently, a friend intrigued me with her description of a relative we’ll call Jackie. Jackie, it seems, embraces the odd. If you were to go shopping with her, you might be flummoxed to discover she prefers the items with tiny flaws: the one blue vase with a splotch of orange paint where it shouldn’t be, the picture frame with a nick on the corner, the sofa pillow with a pulled thread. Nothing that renders the piece unusable or unsafe, mind you, just something perfectly imperfect.
What’s more, she wouldn’t think to ask for a price break on these items; she actually considers them more valuable because of their uniqueness.
I’ve read that in the Navajo culture, artisans traditionally included a flaw in any handmade art they created. This “purposeful imperfection” was said to allow evil spirits a place to exit the design and also protect the artist from the harbored evil.
The Amish, too, were said to have always planned a mistake in their quilt projects lest they mock God, who alone is perfect. The cloth section containing the flaw was dubbed the “humility block”. Some contend this is a myth, but it’s interesting to think about, especially for those like me who sometimes get stalled by our tendency toward perfectionism.
Personally, I don’t need to intentionally design flaws into anything I do. Flaws seem to find me just fine, thank you. But the idea of actively looking for value in imperfection rivets me, and brings to mind those who choose to see the beauty others might miss: adoptive parents who gladly accept children with special needs; animal lovers who rescue unwanted dogs, cats, and horses; those in the myriad helping professions who minister in countless ways to “the least of these”.
This looking at the less than perfect from a different angle and seeing the loveliness rather than the lack? For me, it shines a bright light of understanding on how God sees and accepts us.
Poet John Donne wrote beautifully in the early 1600s about the worth of a human soul in God’s economy: “It is precious … because it is entered into Your revenue and made a part of Your treasure.”
We are precious, not because we are perfect, but because we are His.
As for Jackie, I doubt she seeks out flawed merchandise in an effort to guard against harbored evil or to avoid mocking God by aspiring to human perfection. She probably just finds pleasure in the “one of a kind” nature of her acquisitions.
And I think that’s perfect.
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