On our Southwest flight to Portland yesterday there was a great article in their magazine about the soulful singer, songwriter Valerie June. The Jackson, Tennessee, native discussed the musical influences in her formative childhood years.
In addition to her family, she reminisced about the spiritual impact of music in the church of Christ where she attended. It was congregational and acapella. Valerie said, “It was one of the most beautiful things because you could hear some people…who sounded like professionals, and other people who had rough or soft voices. I learned so much about singing, being around people with different types of voices.”
Valerie observed that “we all have different types of voices: the morning voice, the afternoon voice, the evening voice.” She said that sometimes her voice was warm, other times raspy, or even squeaky. Then she said something that really caught my attention.
“Why can’t it just be something that gives you pure raw emotion and moves you…It’s not like every single note is perfection. It’s perfectly imperfect.”
When it comes to singing, no doubt I’m imperfect. But perfectly imperfect?
The Bible says about our worship to God. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
In a similar passage, we’re instructed, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16)
These texts tell us that God is not looking for a professional musical production in our worship. He’s interested in our motives. Our heart. Our soul. Our communion with Him and one another. It’s not about singing flawlessly, but fervently. Perfectly imperfect.
This concept reminds me that the entirety of our Christian walk is like that. Perfectly imperfect. The Bible commands that we be “perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col 1:28). However, the word perfect does not mean sinless. Or without fault or flaw. Rather it means complete, full grown, or mature.
You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know “there is none righteous, no, not one.” Indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:10,23). But we can work on being “perfect.” Spiritually mature. And complete in Christ.
The Bible says that Christians are to grow in “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). Various versions render the word mature.
None of us will every reach the point of mistake free living. We sometimes hit a sour note in our speech, attitudes or actions. Different situations may reveal our rough or raspy side. Occasionally our interactions with others are “off key.” Yes, we can be perfectly imperfect.
If these conclusions are true individually, how much more are they a reality in the church family? Just like congregational singing will never sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, no church will have all of its members living in harmony with God or one another 100% of the time. And at different times it may be you. Or it may be me.
Yes, the church family can be imperfectly perfect. Keep that in mind the next time you visit another congregation. Or find yourself searching for a church home. Or feel compelled to complain and criticize your brethren.
That’s me. Both in singing and in my life.
How about you?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman