NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A compassionate, intelligent, and wry series of Christian daily reflections on learning to live with imperfection in a culture of self-help that promotes endless progress, from the author of Everything Happens for a Reason and the executive producer of the Everything Happens podcast
“Brilliant, hilarious, absurd, honest, hopeful, true-hearted, and good to the core.”—Sarah Bessey, editor of A Rhythm of Prayer and author of Jesus Feminist
In Kate Bowler’s bestselling memoir Everything Happens for a Reason, readers witnessed the ways she, as a divinity-school professor and young mother, reckoned with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis; in her follow-up memoir, No Cure for Being Human, she unflinchingly and winsomely unpacked the ways that life becomes both hard and beautiful when we abandon certainty and the illusion of control in our lives. Now, in their first-ever devotional book, Kate Bowler and co-author Jessica Richie offer 40ish short spiritual reflections on how we can make sense of life not as a pursuit of endless progress but as a chronic condition. This book is a companion for when you want to stop feeling guilty that you’re not living your best life now.
Written gently and with humor, Good Enough is permission for all those who need to hear that there are some things you can fix—and some things you can’t. And it’s okay that life isn’t always better. In these gorgeously written reflections, Bowler and Richie offer fresh imagination for how truth, beauty, and meaning can be discovered amid the chaos of life. Their words celebrate kindness, honesty, and interdependence in a culture that rewards ruthless individualism and blind optimism. Ultimately, in these pages we can rest in the encouragement to strive for what is possible today—while recognizing that though we are finite, the life in front of us can be beautiful.
About the authors
Kate Bowler, Creció en las praderas canadienses de Winnipeg. Es profesora adjunta en la Duke Divinity School y egresada de Yale. Hace unos años publicó su primer libro, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford, 2013). Actualmente mantiene su insano interés en las megaiglesias (templos evangélicos con asistencia de más de 2 000 personas) y el teleevangelismo, y continúa aprendiendo a vivir feliz en un mundo lleno de bendiciones.
Excerpt: Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection (by (author) Kate Bowler & Jessica Richie)
(Pronounced “reg” like “regular.” Not the way Jessica says it, like a rhyme for green-leafy “arugula.”)
There’s a feeling we get when we want to start something new. A little spark, a tiny flame has been kindled. There is some kind of desire or awareness rising. We start to hope for more, but we don’t always know how to begin.
In our best moments, we notice that this feeling stirs up spiritual hopes. In a quiet moment. In a moment of awe. Sometimes in a moment of aching emptiness. We realize we want more.
Spiritual hunger, like other forms of desire, is fleeting. Hello! And goodbye! Now it’s gone again. If we want our spiritual appetite to stick around, that will require a bit of attention. Our spiritual selves need encouragement. We need community. We need a hot minute alone. And we need a regula.
Regula means a “rule of life,” but it is simply a regular pattern of activities that becomes more valuable over time because its structure creates a space for good things.
The most common understanding of the term regula evokes images of a strict monastic life, where monks keep to a demanding daily schedule of grunt work and fervent prayer. Their days are divided into regular periods of communal worship, private prayer, spiritual reading, work, and sleep. Not everyone loves the rigors of a heavily scheduled life. Jessica Richie, co-author of this already beloved book, refuses to brush her teeth at the same time every day. Ever. She has to brush her teeth at completely different times each day or else, as an Enneagram Type Seven, she will surely die of predictability.
Sometimes we almost crave a tight regimen of rules only to suddenly lose momentum or decide that the cost is too high. If you have a history of dieting or joining exercise communities—CrossFit, SlimFast, Whole30, Peloton—you know how these moments feel. It is intoxicating until you can’t keep up. Excitement quickly deteriorates into failure and shame. Perhaps you, like me, never last until the end of January with your New Year’s resolutions. If so, I would strongly encourage you to be comforted by the earliest stories of rebellion against rules in the Christian tradition. In the sixth century, Saint Benedict had high hopes for the spiritual community he founded until his rules were deemed so unnecessarily strict that his followers tried to poison him.
Don’t worry. He survived. And simmered down a bit. Benedict’s main achievement became a set of rules which enshrined a spirit of moderation and balance, saying:
“We hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome . . . As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
To be effective, a regula doesn’t have to be hard; it only has to be regular. So don’t worry so much today about whether you want to love God or whether you have all the spiritual feelings you think a better person would have. It’s enough to say hello to the idea of trying.
A Blessing for Beginning a New Spiritual Practice
Blessed are we who are trying a new thing, though we can’t quite see the whole of it. That’s the beauty of the life of faith. We start in the middle, at the heart center of an unspoken desire to live into the glimpse we’ve had of You and of Your goodness.
Blessed are we who ask You to be the guide as we begin to build from here and create a stronger, more flexible rule of life. Trusting that you are trying to foster life in us.
Blessed are we who remember that we will fall short. We will fail, but that doesn’t mean we are ruined. We simply pick up and begin again.
Blessed are we, willing to be beginners all over again.
A Good Enough Step
Regulas are not meant to be hard or heavy. We may have been given a story of what a faithful life is supposed to look like. We all know someone who seems to be effortlessly spiritual. I (Kate) had a friend whose morning ritual of thirty minutes of Bible study and silent prayer seemed so utterly natural to her that I always felt unmotivated by comparison. Don’t I care about God? Don’t I care about God in the morning? I got so stuck on the idea of this habit as the only true way to become spiritual that I needed to find an entirely different version.
What is something you can set down or let yourself off the hook for? Something that has made a life of faith seem impossible. Write it down on a piece of paper, then throw it away. Practice letting this expectation go so you can take up something gentler.
We thought it might be a nice reminder for you that not all habits are follow-through-able. Here are some of the things we have tried . . . and failed to do regularly. What would you contribute?
1. Not to bite nails
2. Not throwing the alarm clock (or pressing snooze seven times)
3. Losing weight
4. Not talking about losing weight anymore (because, seriously, we can learn to love ourselves)
5. Flossing (apologies to our dentist friends)
6. Accepting email calendar invites
7. Drinking enough water
8. Canceling subscriptions (because, really, you haven’t read that online magazine you subscribed to three years ago)
9. Reading for joy
10. Watch more edifying television (reality TV is just too entertaining)
11. Writing thank-you cards
12. Calling your mom, Jessica
“With humor and wit, Good Enough guides us into a spirituality that is at once rich and humble, challenging us to search for beauty and meaning in deep waters, yet never asking more of us than a tender and compassionate God would. This devotional is medicine for all those thirsting for mercy in the mundane.”—Cole Arthur Riley, author of This Here Flesh and creator of Black Liturgies
“This book understands me, especially the parts I keep hidden for fear people will think less of me if they know how sad I can get. Kate and Jessica bless those who mourn. They also connect the dots between feelings and actions, giving readers concrete things to do that lead to small springs of healing bubbling up all over the place.”—Barbara Brown Taylor, author of An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark
“Winsome, wise, and true, Good Enough is a devotional for those of us who can’t stand devotionals. Kate and Jessica are gentle, funny companions for the journey. Overflowing with grace, humor, and clear-eyed counsel, their warm and tender writing pushes back against my cynicism and fear. Their generous blessings soften my curmudgeonly heart. And, ultimately, they convince me that I don’t need to be perfect, that I can be good enough—and there’s tremendous hope in that.”—Jeff Chu, author of Does Jesus Really Love Me? and co-curator of Evolving Faith