Reviews/Resources

A Review of Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

On a scale of 1 to 10, this book was about a 6 for me. I was pretty excited to read this book as I had heard some great things. It was on sale through Bookbub, so I jumped on it.

Let’s Start With the Good Stuff

First of all,  I want to share the good stuff. I appreciate Shauna’s story, and I do think the book has some good seeds of truth in it.

One of the things I took away from the book was how important it is to know WHY you are doing something – even when you are serving others. It’s really easy to get tangled up in filling our own needs even when we outwardly appear to be serving others.

Another great takeaway from this book is the idea of being still and quiet – even if it makes you super uncomfortable. Personally, being an introvert, I find I need to have time by myself in order to recharge. My quiet time with Jesus every morning is not a luxury but a necessity for me. So, I love that the author really stresses how important it was for her to get still even though she personally found it very hard and uncomfortable.

I also liked how she very honestly shared her struggles of putting aside opportunities and the feeling that she would somehow miss out if she wasn’t connected 24/7. As someone who is a creative, I get how challenging it can be to feel like you might miss a big opportunity if you aren’t always plugged in and available all the time. It’s not easy to say that you were putting opportunity over your family. The truth is though, I think that probably happens in different ways for all of us way more than we’d like to admit.

What Didn’t Work for Me

So, there were some good things in the book, but for me, it wasn’t earth shattering or life changing really. For one thing, I’m not sure how many people can just take off for a month to hang out at a lake house. That would be wonderful, but it isn’t something most people can do.  Shauna had the flexibility to change her work life to make more time for her family. There are a lot of women for whom that is impossible. So, I can see where this book might feel a bit frustrating for them.

I also felt that while Shauna shared her own story, she didn’t really expand that to principles we can all use. I mean, there is value in reading someone else’s story, and we can definitely learn from what others have gone through. But, I kind of expected to actually learn how to move from trying to be perfect to being present.

The book was also very thin on how Jesus figured into all of this change. Yes,  the author was obviously burnt out because she was striving to be all things and do all things for all the wrong reasons. But, the truth is, sometimes God calls us to hard stuff. I don’t know that the Apostle Paul got a month off or could change his work hours to be less stressful.

My friend Erin is a case in point. As a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of three, she is busy. Yet, she feels called not just to those things, but also to write. To do that, she has to squeeze writing into the margins of her life. The woman gets up regularly at like 4:30 a.m. (as a non-morning person, this leaves me in awe!). She has shared with me (and on her blog), about how she feels stretched very thin, but doesn’t feel God is telling her to give anything up.

There are just going to be seasons where we are busier than others. This book kind of leaves the impression that if you are busy, then you must be doing something wrong. That life should be peaceful and well, easy in many ways. I’m not sure how Biblically accurate that is.

My Final Thoughts

So, overall, I’m not sure I can recommend Present Over Perfect. While it definitely has some good ideas in it and I applaud Shauna for honestly sharing her own journey, I feel like others have done it better. Lysa Terkeurst’s book The Best Yes is a more useful book on this topic, in my opinion.

Have you read either book? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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