Practical devotion in post-Christian America?

An endorsement of Matt Schur’s Imperfectly Perfect

“What sort of flag would Jesus fly and why does the one in the sanctuary have stars and stripes?”

This is among many profound questions asked by Matt Schur in his latest offering Imperfectly Perfect. This question resonates with me, because much of my time as a writer is devoted to issues that shape the divisive age in which we find ourselves as a nation. Schur’s often poetic tapestry serves as a balm of healing offering an oasis for readers to step back and reflect more deeply on the larger priorities of life that stretch beyond the daily headlines. In every piece in Imperfectly Perfect there is the witness to Matt Schur’s faith that is in many regards reflective of my own, perhaps reflective of many of us, who find ourselves wrestling with where to place our faith in relationship to the hard and fast binaries that so often define American Christianity.

Schur writes, “The United States has changed, that’s for sure. Our racial makeup as a nation has shifted dramatically. The world is less defined than it once was. The boxes and categories into which we would neatly place things have blurred. Our religious backgrounds show much more of a plurality, with a much larger percentage of our population identifying with no faith at all. Our understanding of gender, of orientation, of marriage, of societal roles—they’ve all seen changes. Threats are much less easily identified, and that can be disconcerting because we just don’t know who we need to protect ourselves from.” We’ve all known this for a long time, but these realities are fear inducing, combating the faith that within us is attempting to grow. These words, along with others in Imperfectly Perfect, evoked deep emotions that are easy to repress rather than feel.

But Matt Schur, in this work, gave me words to express feelings that I’ve had over the past few years that I couldn’t articulate well. The Trump administration, the attack on the Capitol, the Pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and numerous other apocalyptic adjacent events have caused me moments of fear that seem overwhelming. My fears aren’t unique, and this is perhaps on the of the greatest gifts of writers like Matt Schur is that with every word, he points out what should be obvious; fear is ubiquitous and can only be assuaged by embracing the suffering Christ. At least this was my takeaway from the words I read in Imperfectly Perfect. A title, by the way, that beautifully sums up the disposition of all of us and the example of Christ, who lived and suffered in the crucible of this paradox.

 By the standard of every worldly measurement the life of Christ was a dismal failure, incredibly less than perfect. Christ did not attract many followers in his life, and those who did eventually show up, he offended rather quickly with his challenging words that they deemed just to difficult. Jesus was then beaten, murdered, and put into the ground. But what Jesus demonstrates, and Schur beautifully points out in many of the selections, is that this is kind of the point.

 For years I was convinced that in order for my Christian faith to work, that I needed to have faith even if it was small, you know like the “mustard seed” that Jesus talked about. But it occurred to me that my security as a Christian isn’t dependent on my ability, but rather on the ability of Christ to secure me. Jesus was the “Mustard seed.” He was the small insignificant person that could have been easily dismissed by history, but because he went into the ground, now my faith, and the faith of many around the world flourishes in these troubled times. It doesn’t flourish by the world’s standards of greatness, it has no military or political might to speak of, it doesn’t insist upon itself or look for endorsement for validation. Rather, it flourishes in the kind acts of humanity towards one another, the incremental progression of love to be more inclusive of the needs of everyone. A faith that is “Imperfectly Perfect.”

As Matt writes in a piece entitled “Mustard Seed Faith,”

“Jesus says faith can be small like a seed

But it can do more than we’ll ever see.

 Even when our souls feel by doubt they are plagued,

Faith can move mountains, changing night into day.

 Faith is a gift from God, not human made,

 Jesus can form it, transform it each day.

Though it doesn’t feel like enough, it will be— Faith that moves mountains from a small mustard seed.”

I commend Matt Schur’s work Imperfectly Perfect to those souls, like mine, who are still in search for a flag to fly. With every selection, Matt will challenge you to think about how the gospel of Christ that we embrace applies to the mundane and monumental aspects of our lives. If you are looking for a practical devotional that will give you equal parts of inspiration and lyrics of lament; this is the book you need. I think after reading just a few selections, you will agree with me that Matt Schur is on to something.

The Christian life is indeed Imperfectly Perfect because of Christ.

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