Friday, January 19, 2018

Present Over Perfect {how to really rest}

You know when you come home bone tired on a day so cold your fingertips are numb? The home lights are burning, the windows are fogged up, and the table is set down to water in the glasses. And in the middle of the table steams a pan of comfort food. You know what it is for you. For me, it's probably something Italian with tomato sauce and cheese.

And on the counter is something even more comfort food, of the chocolate variety.

Present Over Perfect is like one of those nights.

via Goodreads
I struggle with being a perfectionistic, proud, people-pleasing workaholic. Ugly, but true.

Months ago, I saw Present Over Perfect on the list of books I could request for review and was mildly intrigued. But, like sometimes happens, I didn't act on it fast enough, and the list changed before I could make up my mind. Fortunately, Kindle books often go on sale for great deals, and I picked a copy up at a discount.

I read three books twice last year. That's got to be a record. Present Over Perfect was one of those favorites, so much so that I named it the nonfiction book of the year.
The two sins at play here, I believe, are gluttony and pride—the desire to escape and the desire to prove, respectively. I want to taste and experience absolutely everything, and I want to be perceived as wildly competent. The opposite of gluttony is sobriety, in the widest sense, which is not my strong suit. And the opposite of pride, one might say, is vulnerability—essentially, saying this is who I am . . . not the sparkly image, not the smoke and mirrors, not the accomplishments or achievements. This is me, with all my limitations, with all my weaknesses. (Niequist, pg. 19, Zondervan.) 
Ouch. I love being competent and I love experiencing everything. Shauna's journey to be viewed as a strong, competent girl led her to a rushed life, saying yes to everything, and a sense of frazzlement. Over time, she saw her busyness had taken her to losing who she actually was--what she loved doing, and even her real personality. She knew something needed to change.

Shifting from proving and experiencing to self-control and humility is a long journey. I think it will be a long one for me, just like it was for Shauna. It means confronting some things--things I believe about God's love, and things I'm ignoring because I'm busy. As Shauna says, you can make something into a drug so you can hide from wounds and emptiness. Busyness is one of those drugs.

But her quiet reflections on why she's so busy and how she needs to slow down are like taking a vacation in the Houses of Healing having something healing being poured on a wounded place. Her chapters are short; perfect to read, highlight, mull over, and journal about. They invite pauses for reflection and slowed my mind down into ease as I read them.

The middle section takes a dip into spiritual practices that I would differ with. If you start encountering chapters with a different and more concerning trend of spirituality, keep persevering. It gets back to sections and mindsets that I found helpful. I most differed with the author going to see a Jesuit spiritual director and attending regular church gatherings taught by people that might not hold to a high authority of Scripture. There's one reference in the book that uses inclusive language to different, more unbiblical lifestyles, and there's one sentence closer to the end where the author was officiating at a wedding. These chapters don't fit with a scriptural understanding of biblical teachers, lifestyles, or gender roles. (I feel like my paragraph here is moving quickly through some huge topics, but when I'm recommending a book like this, I want it to be clear to readers which parts I agreed with and which parts I would exercise caution in.)

But in spite of that section, and those differences of belief, there is so much good to be gleaned about the topic of rest and enjoyment. I loved the way you can tell the author loves the small details of life. Stirring tomatoes as they cook down in olive oil. Watching the waves. Reading books. Straightening the house. She captures detail with a deep joy, like a parent running a loving hand over their child's hair as they pass them by.

Shauna shows how to rest, how to savor, and how to be loved.


  1. Sounds beautiful.

  2. Ooooh I may need to pick this one up. I also have a hard time being present over being busy. My creed for this year is to slow down and savor life (and rejuvenate myself in the process), so this may be a good book to look into this year. :)

    1. I hope you really enjoy it! It's such a tough thing to slow down, isn't it? I'm always thinking of "just one more quick thing" I could do--but I"m finding myself feeling really rejuvenated in January by taking some time to read and wind down before bed!


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