“Present over Perfect” was one of those books that all of a sudden began appearing all around me. It was being promoted on Instagram, featured on blogs I frequented, showing up on Pinterest a part of “2016’s Must Reads” lists, and just about everywhere else you can imagine. Friends were recommending it, other Christian authors I adored were raving about the book and finally I decided I needed to bite the bullet and just purchase this book.
My only exposure to Shauna Niequist prior to opening the cover of this book was in a handwritten card I received from a colleague when I left my last job. Inside her handwritten card was a piece of paper with a series of quotes from another one of Shauna’s books “Bread and Wine”. The quotes were timely, speaking right into my situation and the condition of my heart. But beyond the sheer accuracy of the words on the page the way she wrote was absolutely mesmerizing – it was real and authentic and so beautifully composed. I was enthralled and entranced and knew that I needed to read more of what this author had to say.
I went out to look for “Present over Perfect” the week it was released. I was committed to finding this book and reading every word on every page. It took 20minutes for two Chapters employees and I to locate this new release but as I left the store and slipped the crisp, clean, bound pages into my purse I knew I was embarking on a life changing read. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this feeling before or not, but I, on occasion, pick up a book and flip through the pages, read the first line, and know that my life is about to be radically transformed by the ideas and heart inside those pages. I can promise you that picking up Shauna’s new book “Present Over Perfect” will be one of those life changing experiences for you – because it certainly was for me.
“This is a love story, like all my favourite stories. It’s a story about letting yourself be loved, in all your imperfect, scarred, non-spectacular glory. And it’s about the single most profound life change I’ve yet encountered.” That’s the first line of Shauna’s book. After that first sentence I was hooked – I wanted desperately to know what this life change looked like; what had happened to radically shift the life of this accomplished, famous, Christian author? What was this whole “Present over Perfect” thing all about?
“Present” Shauna writes, “is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale.” Shauna talks about being an achiever, about being the kind of person who chased the kind of success the world tells us we ought to have. She talks about how she feels this never ending pressure to perform and “be” and shares her honest feelings about how she feels when she’s not chasing after the next marker of success. Shauna tells readers, “all my yeses brought me to a shallow way of living – an exhausting, frantic lifestyle that actually ended up having little resemblance to that deep, brave yes I was searching for.”
I think what Shauna writes about is something so beautifully human. This book is her white flag – it’s her call to surrender. The writing of this book was her desperate attempt to tell the people she loved and countless others who would read these pages, that for years she had been chasing after a life that had offered her less than what she wanted. We live in a culture that tells us every single day that our value and our worth is found and made in the number of tasks we take on, how busy we are and our ability to work crazy hours on little to no sleep. But you know what Shauna tells herself and what she challenges her readers to do to? She says “This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you”. This entire book from the first page to the last is all about the beginning of a season of transformation. It’s about letting go of what the world has told us we need to be and about stepping into this present moment and investing in it deeply – knowing that we are never working for worth or for the power to say our lives our perfect, because “perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide eyed, open souled present.”
I think every single one of us needs this book. I think we all need a reminder that our lives are allowed to be more than just “busy” – in fact they should never be busy. Our lives should be full – full of good people and friends and family and meals shared together and laughter induced from memories made. Our lives should be forever pointing people to Jesus and when we’re busy we just don’t seem to make time for that. So what do you need to let go of and what do you need to make time for? Why do you feel this incredible pressure to forever be busy or to always have your schedule booked up and full? I want to make room in my life – room for adventure and laughter and spontaneity and Jesus. I know I need to make way more room for Jesus.
So here’s my challenge to you: Stop being busy and be present. Stop working for perfection and just recognize your God given worth. I also would love for you to read Shauna’s book – I’m living differently because of it and I hope it encourages you to slow down and gives you a chance to breathe deeply and love every single precious minute of this beautiful life of yours.