Choosing to be Present

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

I recently read Shauna Niequist's book Present over Perfect, and I think it would be a good book for many of us to read. Shauna is a Chicago mom raising children in a world that begs her to strive, hustle, and achieve. The book is an easy read, yet packed with great reminders of how important it is to see, grab, and actually live the life God has given us.

One favorite part for me is the chapter that shares the title of the book, Present Over Perfect. In it Shauna shares how one Christmas she gave up the drive and frantic nature of creating the "PERFECT" Christmas and instead plopped down in the middle of her messy holiday and was present. She writes, "...the mess is actually my life, the only one I ever get, and the one I'm in danger of using completely, waiting around for fantastic." She continues to explain that perfect, as she knows it now, is "brittle and unyielding, plastic, distant, more image than flesh." Present, she believes, is "rich, loamy soil. It's fresh baked bread, lumpy and warm. It's real, tactile and something you can hold with both hands, something rich and warm."

Shauna explains that being present, "...isn't working less or more, necessarily.... it's about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling." What a great reminder! We are children of God who have been given life free of charge. A real gift.
I find being present is a choice we need to make. I suppose for some people, being present to each moment as it is, comes easily. For me it is really a choice I have to consciously make. Choosing to be present to each moment is a spiritual discipline of mine. I am easily distracted by the planning, hustling, achieving invitations our culture gives us. Sometimes such invitations are helpful as they move us along when we are stuck, but mostly, for most of us, they can become our task masters pushing us so hard we forget why, for what or for whom we are so busy. We can easily lose ourselves. To avoid this, I am choosing to stop three times a day and be present to the moment I am in at that time. Of course I would love to be completely present EVERY moment, but this is a practice. It will take time.

My favorite quote of Shauna's reads, "Present over perfect living is real over image, connecting over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn't need to be "zhuzhed" up and fancy in order to be wonderful." So true. God's world is beautiful and valuable on its own terms and so are we. You and I are a part of this world of God's. We do not need to earn love. We simply need to choose to be present.

You can easily find this book on most online booksellers. If you are interested in reading this together let me know!