In our frantic, overwhelming, too busy world, what does a heart-centered life look like? For each of us it’s different, of course, because it’s dependent upon what’s in our hearts, whomever and whatever truly reside there. But it’s very likely – perhaps a guaranteed certainty – that the things we give importance to in our lives are not the same things living in the softest part of our heart. This is the journey inward that Shauna Niequist chronicles in her book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. A collection of thought-provoking essays, Present Over Perfect explores the discoveries we make when we slow down, simplify, and choose to live with more grace and intention.
In that most tender area of the heart, Niequst discovers, there are not numbers – the ones we exert ourselves hoping to see on a bank slip or a scale – and there is no obsession with status, with organized homes or perfect, social-media-ready lives, enviable careers and grandiose square-footage. In that space these things cannot survive because what’s there wasn’t meant to sustain them: love was not made to give power to consumption, financial gain, social success, and external pleasures. What brings us most fully to life is the love evoked by grace, by family and friends, love born of soul-work and stillness. To go into the quiet simplicity of that love in many ways goes against what modern society would have us do: it’s choosing minimalism over excess, frugality over frivolity; and yet, as Niequist discovers on the challenging journey toward intention, this is the truest, most compelling road to freedom and wholeheartedness.
In her luminous, lyrical voice, Niequist sheds the layers of life that our culture piles on, uncovering something raw and wonderful underneath. She engages the reader in her own insightful ponderings as she reacquaints herself with her unique understanding of God, of work, marriage, motherhood, and self, all seen without the trappings of the many shoulds and oughts in which we so frequently indulge. What she reveals, as much to herself as to the reader, is the greater depth of living, the powerful connectedness and emotionality to be found down the road so infrequently taken. And the result is a gift of insight and inspiration to the reader, an invitation for us – at whichever point in our life we might find ourselves – to follow our hearts down the lesser worn path and into the quiet vulnerability of true fulfillment and authenticity.