Think for a moment about the word perfect.
For far too many years, that’s all I did: I thought about perfect; I worked toward perfect; I held up “perfect” as my prized ideal. I wanted perfect holidays and perfect vacations, perfect dinner parties and perfect celebrations with friends. Professionally, I wanted a perfect track record as one who always got everything done.
And so I strived for perfect, I sacrificed too much for perfect, I pushed and proved and hustled and competed and went as hard and as fast as I possibly could—all for the sake of perfect, all in the name of realizing my elusive perfect dream. I did these things because something inside of me said, “If you let up or slow down, you will lose.” Lose what, exactly? I wasn’t sure, but I had my suspicions. What if I lose my Most Dependable title? Future job opportunities? Admiration and praise? In the end, what I lost was my soul, which is the very worst thing to lose.
I missed out on the life God had given me to live—to steward—because I was too busy building a different life, a life that looked more … perfect.
Along the way, I picked a different word to live by, a word that brought me back to that divinely gifted life. The word is present, and present is something perfect will never be.
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem,” I wrote on the heels of that wind-whipped season. “Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale.
Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” Present, I found—and am still finding—is rejecting all the climbing up and choosing to simply come down. To come down to the ground, and to God, to the soil, the vibrations of life. Present is settledness. Stillness. Rest. Present is no to chaos and yes to calm. It is a deep-seated sense of allrightness … it is acceptance and contentment and ease.
And so, I wrote Present Over Perfect, a book and Bible study. It was four years in the making, and it is my invitation to you, to leave behind perfection-seeking and embrace presence as a way of life. It’s better here, I promise—free from illusions, inspiring and good.
Watch all of session one of Present Over Perfect below.
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, Bread & Wine, Savor, and Present Over Perfect. She is married to Aaron, and they have two wild and silly and darling boys, Henry and Mac. They live in New York City. Shauna’s three great loves are her family, dinner parties, and books, and she believes that vulnerable storytelling, hard laughter, and cold pizza for breakfast can cure almost anything.