I’ve read everything by Shauna Niequist except her devotional “Savor,” and only because I’ve been busy doing other Bible studies. I learned long ago that while I would enjoy doing multiple studies at once, it simply just isn’t possible to dedicate the amount of devotion necessary to more than one.
The desire to study, learn, grow, push on is a good starting point for revealing how this book Present Over Perfect* has effected me.
Before this book, I would have never considered myself a workaholic. I don’t nearly have the amount of demands or deadlines that an author like Shauna does. I never thought of the verb “hustle” when thinking about the activities of my daily life. But what’s interesting to me is that I read this book back in February when I wasn’t trying to run a business in addition to home educating and keeping a home. Now that I am trying to add one more thing onto my plate, I can quickly and easily identify myself with her.
But I don’t think you have to be a working mother – at home or outside the home – to value what Shauna has to offer in the pages of this book.
I wrote back in February:
I learned things about myself that I never admitted before. Like Shauna, I did not honor my body or soul – I pushed to tackle someone else’s list, some expert’s method, some guru’s diet, and I believed that on the other side of all that pushing I would receive affirmation, security, and comfort in my own skin. I would frantically try to ride a seesaw alone. One side I would push with all my work, work, working to achieve someone else’s ideals. On the other side, I would plop my tired tush down in self-justified huff because the idol of work often comes with a twin – the idol of ease. I worshiped this idol with thoughts like “this shouldn’t be so hard,” “there has to be more short cuts to this,” I deserve a break,” and “since I meet everyone else’s needs, ________ is what will meet my needs…”
Having this dual idol confronted within these pages was a difficult but freeing experience. As I read, I related to Shauna. She isn’t trying to be a theologian. There isn’t a dogmatic 3-step guide for eliminating this idol from your life. She doesn’t point her finger out of the book and wag it at the reader.
She writes her story and invites you to reflect – no altar call, no burden of guilt, no message of superiority, no “I’ve got it all figured out now, and so should you.”
She stays human throughout every page.
I pulled out a number of quotes that resonated with my soul, and I hope that in sharing them you will be blessed by the reminder to be present in your right now life.
“I’ve always trusted things outside myself, believing that my own voice couldn’t be trusted, that my own preferences and desires would lead me astray, that it was far wiser and safer to listen to other people – other voices, the voices of the crowd.” – page 27
“It seems to me that Christians, even more than anyone else, ought to be deeply grounded, living a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service, and work. That rhythm is biblical, and it’s one that Jesus himself modeled. It seems to me that Christians ought to be free in meaningful and radical ways to bow out of culture’s insistence on proving and competing. Again, like Jesus. It seems to me that Christians ought to care more deeply about their souls than their bank accounts and pant sizes. But I am a Christian, and I am guilty of all these.” page 84
“It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it.” page 109
“There is a way of living that is so sweet, so full, so whole and beautiful you’ll never want to go back once you’ve tasted it.” page 161
“This is what our culture wants women to be: skinny and tired, from relentlessly shrinking and hustling. To be clear, I have nothing against people who are really skinny, whether that’s just how God made their bodies or because fitness and nutrition are central parts of their lives. You do you, skinny people. But I’m going to do me, and me is not skinny.” page 186
I think I might be pushing the limit on how many sentences I can quote without permission, so I better stop!
For me, the most important part of reading this book is living in the reality that my past operation – feeding the idol seesaw with more, more, more efforts – has to completely stop. I can’t close the cover of Shauna’s story and think – well that was nice for her, I hope some day I’ll be able to understand this in my own life.
In my life, reading Shauna’s story is a right now confrontation. It calls, tenderly, for a right now change. A right now stillness. A right now reflection. A right now filling because the “Present” part mean so much more than simply counting my attendance in life.
Present to me means: Spiritually awake, submissive to God’s sovereignty in the right now, open and surrendered in active prayer, conscious of the state of my soul, and patient and prayerful while stewarding my schedule – allowing for both work and rest, and learning the dance of being still within even while there is chaos around me.
Thank you, Shauna Niequest for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing your wrestlings and wonderings – the Spirit used them in my life to help me connect and correct.
I hope you are reading something that is feeding your soul! If you are – tell me about it in the comments! And check out what else I’ve been reading by clicking here.