Pursuit not Perfection

Pursuit not Perfection

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Tonight over a birthday dinner and drinks, my husband asked me a simple question: "So, what is the biggest lesson you've learned at 25?" I am someone who doesn't take questions like this lightly. Early on in my friendship with him I mulled over my top 5 star-struck list for months. And so with the pressure of an "-est" question I did what any overthinking verbal processor would do: I rambled on about everything that happened in the last 12 months, which to be honest, was a lot.

I planned and prepared for a wedding and more importantly, a marriage. I moved into an apartment with my husband. (The novelty of saying my husband has not worn off yet.) We went on a cruise, adventuring and exploring in new places together. We celebrated the weddings and birthdays and engagements of dear friends. We have fallen into a pattern of life together. We have fought and forgiven one another.  Everyday we grow as we learn how to love each other well, with intention and selflessness.

I closed out 3 years of campus ministry with University Christian Outreach at the University of Maryland. I led a powerful mission trip to Guaynabo City, Puerto Rico. I saw firsthand in planning this trip that the Lord provides and paves a way for His will to be completed. Through tearful goodbyes and testimony of students, I realized how the Lord had taken what little I had to offer and multiplied it to bring light and glory to the campus.

I began the next step of a journey that began 7 years ago as I started my graduate program at Loyola University of Maryland. I have been challenged to grow in skills and knowledge and discovered that I am still passionate about speech-language pathology after all this time. I have made new friends who lift me up and encourage me with laughter, conversation, and pep talks.

I have come to a crossroads with my anxiety. I took courageous and terrifying steps towards healing with the support of my friends and family. And I have found more peace through medicine, counseling, and increased trust in the Lord.

I have grown to appreciate the beautiful relationships with my siblings. More than brothers and sisters, they are some of my best friends. We share a strong bond and particular sense of humor, and I love them with all of my heart.

I have cried. A lot. Because transition is hard. And I've learned that it's okay to admit that things are hard. It's okay to say that I am sad. It's okay to be angry. I don't shy away from my negative emotions as much, and there is so much freedom in accepting these parts which I pushed down for so long.

I have also laughed and laughed. I have smiled at sunsets and marveled at the vastness of the ocean. I continue to wonder at the fact that I am so small in the scheme of the whole universe and yet I have a God who says that I matter and knows every corner of my being.

Early in the year, the Lord spoke to me during prayer. Pursuit not perfection. It took a lot of repetition to bathe my heart in this truth. Pursuit not perfection. God does not require perfect sons and daughters; if we were perfect we would have no need for Him. We are not perfect. He knows that. He does not desire my perfection, but a purity of heart that comes with earnest pursuit of being with Him.

Pursuit not perfection. Each day I watered this little seed planted in my heart. Little by little it began to take root, growing stronger each day.

Pursuit not perfection. Soon it began to bear fruit.

Pursuit not perfection. I stopped striving for a perfect meal to serve friends and focused instead on being present with them.

Pursuit not perfection. Falling into sin did not result in a paralyzed fear and self-loathing but a quick return to the Lord with a repentant heart to receive His grace.

Pursuit not perfection. The stress of planning a perfect wedding lessened as I turned my focus instead into becoming the wife that my husband deserved, complete with my fallen imperfections.

Pursuit not perfection. I cast away the unrealistically high expectations for my studies. Challenging situations were not an expression of my failure but an opportunity to grow.

Pursuit not perfection. I am imperfect. I am growing. I am strong. I am more than I ever thought that I could be. I am a wife and daughter. I am a sister and a friend. I am a student and a disciple.

I am all of these things and more. I am an imperfect mess with my eyes cast away from seeking perfection as I run towards something higher than myself. This short phrase has genuinely changed my perspective and I think stands as the biggest lesson of 25. This Type A, high-achieving, self-identifying Martha will likely need to repeat this simple phrase over and over for the rest of my days. But that's okay. I'll keep learning and keep moving forward one step at a time as I steady my breath and repeat to myself: Pursuit not perfection.

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Sandy Merrill

Sandy lives with her husband, Jerel, in Laurel, MD. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in speech-language pathology at Loyola University of Maryland and hopes to work with children in special education someday. She loves all things cozy and dreams of the day that she will get a dog.

He Goes Before Me

He Goes Before Me