It’s a word that is probably all too familiar to most of us. From school and work, to relationships, societal pressures, inner pressures, anxiety, and general feelings of unworthiness — there are so many things that can bring us to the place of feeling overwhelmed.
And that’s why the premise of this book, “Not the Boss of Us” by Kay Wills Wyma, intrigued me: “Too much to manage and not enough time or energy to do it? What if instead of being overwhelmed with life you could be overwhelmed by Truth with its grace, hope, peace, and love?”
Sounds like a much needed reminder, right?
A few weeks ago, I too found myself facing that familiar over-my-head, rising-anxiety feeling. I was thirty-something weeks pregnant and deep into the nesting phase. With my belly swaying, I spent the morning crawling around on my hands and knees as I wiped down our apartment’s neglected baseboards. And that’s when I found the bug. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first. We’d just returned from a trip to the library and I imagined that our microscopic visitor had hitched a ride on a stroller wheel. That is, until I cleaned my way into the kitchen and found a whole family of flour beetles chilling in our pantry.
It didn’t help that a few days later we were in a car accident and had to deal with the stress involved in dealing with insurance and rental cars, replacing car seats, and handling repairs on our two-month-old vehicle. On top of that, a close family member was in the hospital; and I was fighting a daily battle of disinfectant to get rid of some seriously sneaky, pantry bugs. All at a very hormonal, thirty-five weeks pregnant.
I was overwhelmed by things in life that I had zero control over. I’d hit my tipping point — all thanks to a bug.
And so I laughed when I read through “Not the Boss of Us” and heard Kay’s stories about finding cockroaches in the living room, lice in her son’s hair, and billowing garbage in her van — because it’s all so real. These seemingly little things have such power to overwhelm and yet, they don’t need to.
In “Not the Boss of Us” the author, Kay Wills Wyma, talks about some of the antidotes to “Lifes Overwhelmed.” (Her term for anything that threatens to overwhelm us.) Each chapter discusses a potentially anxiety-inducing area of life and then offers a “Truth” to contradict that. She says that instead of being overwhelmed by appearance pressures, one should focus on being overwhelmed by beauty. Instead of being overwhelmed by group pressures, be overwhelmed by belonging.
I enjoyed the idea behind this book. In today’s society, we are constantly reminded of all the ways we fail to measure up. It’s important for us to take a step back and remember that we are not defined by these lies; we need to speak truth to society’s distorted versions of reality.
However, I seriously struggled with a key aspect to this book. The author talks a lot about counteracting what overwhelms us with “Truth” (with a capital T.) The problem is that “Truth” is never clearly defined within the book. While I approached the book with an understanding of Truth as revealed by the Scriptures, I couldn’t help but wonder about readers coming in without that base understanding. Without continually directing our eyes first and foremost to Christ, the book reads like a collection of practical but self-focused tips to avoid stress. The book lacks a solid Biblical foundation and felt confusing at times without those theologically based definitions.
Throughout the book, the author shares a collection of everyday stories and examples from her family life. I found these snapshots honest and interesting (and occasionally humorous or heartbreaking). But while the book discussed the many overwhelming pressures we encounter daily, the chapters often seemed to lack the strong conclusions that I was looking for.
It was unfortunate that “Not the Boss of Us” seemed to focus more on “positive thinking” than on looking at Christ. It’s not enough to simply say that we’re “beautiful” or that we’re “worth it.” Ultimately, we need to stop looking at ourselves and instead direct our attention upwards. It’s only in Christ that these truths hold any real value.
After finishing the book, I was left feeling as if a substantial chunk of the story had been forgotten. While the writing and stories were fine, overall it felt incomplete and a little watery. All in all, this was a disappointing read for me.
I give “Not the Boss of Us” an unsatisfying 2 out of 5 stars.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”
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