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by Danny Canales
MYTH 01

I can have peace apart from God.

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by Anson Chan

Fulfilled

Landon Wolford

A second-year graduate student at UT Austin, Landon Wolford has hopes of pursuing a career in university marketing and communications. He is an avid fan of music, concerts, baseball, and coffee culture. When he’s not reppin’ the Longhorns, he helps lead worship at Hope Community Church in Austin, TX.

I had my quarter-life crisis the fall of my sophomore year. The rupture was slow and painful. On any given night, you could find me sitting in my dorm hallway until 2 or 3 in the morning, deciphering what felt like a foreign language. Tear stains lined my papers as I pitifully sketched Lewis Dot structures and made unsuccessful attempts at balancing chemical equations. Nothing added up, and neither did life. I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew, and for once, my “picture-perfect” career choice felt more like a fever dream. I was lucky to survive semester three of college with even a “C” in Chemistry – it could have been so much worse.

It didn’t all start that way. When I entered college, I had my sights set on the music industry. My dream was to become a recording artist and pursue my lifelong passion of performing. Attending a musically competitive school was exciting but also anxiety-inducing. The fear of being mediocre became heavy. I knew that “good” wasn’t enough. If I wasn’t the best, was it even success? So, at nineteen years old, I decided to put my dreams of music on hold and make an abrupt, and unlikely, major switch to biology. The way I saw it, my pursuit of a medical career would bring me all of the things I secretly desired: wealth, popularity, and success. 

Ultimately, I was chasing after a false source of peace. Though I knew who Jesus was and what He did for me, I often looked within myself instead of looking up to Him for satisfaction. Knowing Jesus isn’t the same as finding our true identity in Him. I can know all of the right answers and say all of the right things, but until I chase the riches of His shalom alone, I will never experience ultimate fulfillment. During my undergraduate years, I viewed peace as something that was contingent on my success. However, by putting the world first and Jesus second, my hope was resting where hope is never found – in unfulfilling idols.

As my fall semester came to a close, I still felt unfulfilled. I realized that what I had been pursuing was fraudulent. In fact, indulging in the thought of wealth and success gave me the opposite of peace – it gave me fear. Fear of losing everything I could ever earn. How could it be like this? What was I missing? Later that spring, I began attending a church in Nashville that helped answer some of the questions I had been wrestling with for all too long. 

I remember one sermon in particular in which our pastor described the difference between Earthly wealth and Kingdom wealth, and the heart’s pursuit of both. He preached about how important it is to give back to the Lord what He so kindly gives to us. That when we receive a blessing, it isn’t by our own merit, but by the sweet providence of Jesus. He told us that while the things of this world tempt us with security and luxury, they are only temporary indulgences. When we follow Jesus, however, we are charged to hollow out our heart of Earthly riches to make room for His everlasting love. That, he said, is where unconditional peace is found. In that moment, I realized that in pursuing wealth and status, I was putting the riches of the world before the riches of His Kingdom. I wanted to pursue medicine because I was hungry for something I didn’t trust God enough to give me. The most wonderful thing about our God is that His peace is always available – we just have to say “yes.”

Isaiah 26:12 tells us, “Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us.” This is a passage I can never forget because I know where my heart has been. I’ve spent too much time drooling over the thought of wealth – a pursuit that keeps my eyes focused on myself instead of on God. Instead of looking up to my true source of peace, I sought out material wealth, but the two are not interchangeable. My decision to pursue a career that supposedly promised wealth, security and popularity left me nothing but a war with myself. Sometimes, Jesus pushes us in directions that feel uncomfortable because he knows the orientation of our hearts. We often confuse comfort with peace, but in reality, the only way to experience His peace is to see how little we have without Him.

When we chase what is fleeting, we run ourselves straight into the grave. Dying to our flesh means giving Jesus the insecurities that plague our hearts, in exchange for a peace that surpasses all understanding. The life of a Christian is not supposed to be easy. In fact, fully trusting in the Lord means answering His call to do things that terrify us – to slay Goliaths that seem too big. Putting ourselves at odds with the world is the only way we can align with Jesus. It is okay to desire stability and success, but at the end of the day, we must be willing to forsake both of those things, and everything else, for Him. Jesus will give us more than we bargain for, but only because His everlasting peace is more than we could ever deserve.

I had my quarter-life crisis the fall of my sophomore year. The rupture was slow and painful. On any given night, you could find me sitting in my dorm hallway until 2 or 3 in the morning, deciphering what felt like a foreign language. Tear stains lined my papers as I pitifully sketched Lewis Dot structures and made unsuccessful attempts at balancing chemical equations. Nothing added up, and neither did life. I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew, and for once, my “picture-perfect” career choice felt more like a fever dream. I was lucky to survive semester three of college with even a “C” in Chemistry – it could have been so much worse.

It didn’t all start that way. When I entered college, I had my sights set on the music industry. My dream was to become a recording artist and pursue my lifelong passion of performing. Attending a musically competitive school was exciting but also anxiety-inducing. The fear of being mediocre became heavy. I knew that “good” wasn’t enough. If I wasn’t the best, was it even success? So, at nineteen years old, I decided to put my dreams of music on hold and make an abrupt, and unlikely, major switch to biology. The way I saw it, my pursuit of a medical career would bring me all of the things I secretly desired: wealth, popularity, and success. 

Jesus will give us more than we bargain for, but only because His everlasting peace is more than we could ever deserve.

Ultimately, I was chasing after a false source of peace. Though I knew who Jesus was and what He did for me, I often looked within myself instead of looking up to Him for satisfaction. Knowing Jesus isn’t the same as finding our true identity in Him. I can know all of the right answers and say all of the right things, but until I chase the riches of His shalom alone, I will never experience ultimate fulfillment. During my undergraduate years, I viewed peace as something that was contingent on my success. However, by putting the world first and Jesus second, my hope was resting where hope is never found – in unfulfilling idols.

As my fall semester came to a close, I still felt unfulfilled. I realized that what I had been pursuing was fraudulent. In fact, indulging in the thought of wealth and success gave me the opposite of peace – it gave me fear. Fear of losing everything I could ever earn. How could it be like this? What was I missing? Later that spring, I began attending a church in Nashville that helped answer some of the questions I had been wrestling with for all too long. 

I remember one sermon in particular in which our pastor described the difference between Earthly wealth and Kingdom wealth, and the heart’s pursuit of both. He preached about how important it is to give back to the Lord what He so kindly gives to us. That when we receive a blessing, it isn’t by our own merit, but by the sweet providence of Jesus. He told us that while the things of this world tempt us with security and luxury, they are only temporary indulgences. When we follow Jesus, however, we are charged to hollow out our heart of Earthly riches to make room for His everlasting love. That, he said, is where unconditional peace is found. In that moment, I realized that in pursuing wealth and status, I was putting the riches of the world before the riches of His Kingdom. I wanted to pursue medicine because I was hungry for something I didn’t trust God enough to give me. The most wonderful thing about our God is that His peace is always available – we just have to say “yes.”

I can know all of the right answers and say all of the right things, but until I chase the riches of His shalom alone, I will never experience ultimate fulfillment.

Isaiah 26:12 tells us, “Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us.” This is a passage I can never forget because I know where my heart has been. I’ve spent too much time drooling over the thought of wealth – a pursuit that keeps my eyes focused on myself instead of on God. Instead of looking up to my true source of peace, I sought out material wealth, but the two are not interchangeable. My decision to pursue a career that supposedly promised wealth, security and popularity left me nothing but a war with myself. Sometimes, Jesus pushes us in directions that feel uncomfortable because he knows the orientation of our hearts. We often confuse comfort with peace, but in reality, the only way to experience His peace is to see how little we have without Him.

When we chase what is fleeting, we run ourselves straight into the grave. Dying to our flesh means giving Jesus the insecurities that plague our hearts, in exchange for a peace that surpasses all understanding. The life of a Christian is not supposed to be easy. In fact, fully trusting in the Lord means answering His call to do things that terrify us – to slay Goliaths that seem too big. Putting ourselves at odds with the world is the only way we can align with Jesus. It is okay to desire stability and success, but at the end of the day, we must be willing to forsake both of those things, and everything else, for Him. Jesus will give us more than we bargain for, but only because His everlasting peace is more than we could ever deserve.

Jesus will give us more than we bargain for, but only because His everlasting peace is more than we could ever deserve.
I can know all of the right answers and say all of the right things, but until I chase the riches of His shalom alone, I will never experience ultimate fulfillment.
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MYTH 02

I am too broken to be at peace with myself.

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by Anson Chan

Washed

Alia Joy

Alia Joy is an author who believes the darkness is illuminated when we grasp each other's hand & walk into the night together. She writes poignantly about her life with bipolar disorder as well as grief, faith, marriage, poverty, race, embodiment, and keeping fluent in the language of hope. Her first solo book is Glorious Weakness: Discovering God In All We Lack. Sushi is her love language and she balances her cynical idealism with humor and awkward pauses. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband, her tiny Asian mother, her three kids, a dog, a bunny, and a bunch of chickens.

On the third day, I ask for help. I’ve made it to the bathroom chanting “I think I can, I think I can” in my mind. My lungs are a locomotive, huffing and puffing, burning like ignited coal as I hobble down the hall. I take a break at the bathroom counter, leaning forward to catch a breath I can’t remember having. My reflection mocks me, my skin is sallow, my hair matted, my chest heaving. I look as terrible as I feel. 

It’s been three days since I showered, and twenty-four days since I self-quarantined because my asthma is flaring up and my lungs are too fragile to face adversaries like hallways, let alone deadly viruses. What started as tightness in my chest followed by reaching for my inhaler has turned into constant pressure, low oxygen saturation, and a need to break out the arsenal of medicines to open up my airways. But so far, I’ve done little more than pant and wheeze, coughing and choking for more air. It doesn’t matter how much I gulp, my lungs stay stubbornly shut. 

I weigh my need to feel clean with feeling dizzy and the likelihood I’ll pass out in the shower. The world tilts lazily as I reach my arm up to pull my elastic band from the tangles. I steady myself and blink away the dark. I text my mom to help, because I am voiceless, my breathless vocal cords frayed like bare wire from all the coughing. 

She attends to the brokenness in my body. I am a grown woman with children bigger than her born from the low white scar smiling below my belly. But all four foot nine inches of my tiny mom are dedicated to serving me. She helps me undress like I am less woman than child. I let her. 

She runs my bath the way I like it. The way she drew her own bath when I was a child. So hot you have to dip a toe and let the nerves adjust before sinking in the foot, the ankle, the calf, the thigh. She adds something that fizzes and hisses in the water as it dissolves, the water growing milky and sweet, like honey. Her hands reach out steadying me, like a minister, she guides me into healing waters. 

I am laid bare. I see the scars on my body from my many surgeries. My folds of skin and fat and wrinkles are on display. I’ve no way to be modest, to hide. I am naked and needy. The stretch marks that crisscrossed my belly during my pregnancies have aged and faded to dull silver ridges, like claw marks lurking beneath the surface of the water. My mom grabs the yellow Japanese washcloth and begins to scrub what I’ve tried to cover. 

The skin on her hands is paper thin. With her arthritic fingers arched and crooked, throbbing joints, and swollen knuckles, she works the soapy washcloth across my skin in small aggressive circles until my skin is as pink as a newborn. But no matter how hard she scrubs, I have some skin I’ll never shed. My scars remain. My skin is an atlas of battles fought and won. A history of surviving. 

She works shampoo into my roots. “Tip your head back and I’ll rinse,” she says. 

I’m reminded of my baptism, of being tipped back into deep waters. Of coming up a new creation in Christ. But this time, as I tip my head back, the suds slide across my forehead into my eyes, mixing with my tears. Because although I am a new creation in Christ, I am embodied in sickness. The body that rose from the water that day wasn’t miraculously healed.

 The tears come quickly and without warning. The steroids I am on to help strengthen my lungs, have the downside of wreaking havoc on my bipolar disorder and anxiety, and I’ve spent the past week vacillating between glimmers of hope and shattering despair. My mind is in shambles. To breathe or to want to? What options are these, Lord? Save my body and lose my mind? Save my mind and lose my body? I’m so weary, would I lose both? I manage little more than crying mercy, Jesus, have mercy on me!

When I am washed and clean, my mom pulls the drain and the water recedes. I climb from the bath, once again breathless, while she wraps a towel around me. On my bed, she brushes my hair, her fingers swimming competently through my strands as she braids it. I’m due for a nebulizer treatment. As the vapors flow through my parted lips, 

I breathe in, Lord, Jesus Christ, 

I breathe out, have mercy on me a sinner, 

I breathe in, You will never leave me or forsake me, 

I breathe out, My help comes from you, Lord. 

I breathe in, maker of heaven and earth. 

I breathe out, You are life, abundant. 

I breathe in, In you, I live and breathe

I breathe out, and move and have my being.  

I am in search of the relentless God I only find when I decant my suffering into syllables, nouns, and verbs, and let it breathe. Until it is a cup I can drink from once again. Until I remember a Man of sorrow, who loved me so much he’d choose to drink from the cup that would not pass.  Jesus, who sits with me in the terrors of my mind, and whispers, I am with you.  Jesus, who faced soul crushing anxiety, sweating blood in agony, still went to the cross. He gulped those last breaths and felt his lungs being crushed for me. 

 I think of the life I have been given. A life I have been blessed with. A life hidden in Christ, a man who fought death and won, but rose with his scars intact. 

I am embodied in sickness. I am hidden in Christ. In him, I am washed clean, broken, but whole. In him, I live and breathe. In him, I have peace.

On the third day, I ask for help. I’ve made it to the bathroom chanting “I think I can, I think I can” in my mind. My lungs are a locomotive, huffing and puffing, burning like ignited coal as I hobble down the hall. I take a break at the bathroom counter, leaning forward to catch a breath I can’t remember having. My reflection mocks me, my skin is sallow, my hair matted, my chest heaving. I look as terrible as I feel. 

It’s been three days since I showered, and twenty-four days since I self-quarantined because my asthma is flaring up and my lungs are too fragile to face adversaries like hallways, let alone deadly viruses. What started as tightness in my chest followed by reaching for my inhaler has turned into constant pressure, low oxygen saturation, and a need to break out the arsenal of medicines to open up my airways. But so far, I’ve done little more than pant and wheeze, coughing and choking for more air. It doesn’t matter how much I gulp, my lungs stay stubbornly shut. 

I weigh my need to feel clean with feeling dizzy and the likelihood I’ll pass out in the shower. The world tilts lazily as I reach my arm up to pull my elastic band from the tangles. I steady myself and blink away the dark. I text my mom to help, because I am voiceless, my breathless vocal cords frayed like bare wire from all the coughing. 

I am in search of the relentless God I only find when I decant my suffering into syllables, nouns, and verbs, and let it breathe.

She attends to the brokenness in my body. I am a grown woman with children bigger than her born from the low white scar smiling below my belly. But all four foot nine inches of my tiny mom are dedicated to serving me. She helps me undress like I am less woman than child. I let her. 

She runs my bath the way I like it. The way she drew her own bath when I was a child. So hot you have to dip a toe and let the nerves adjust before sinking in the foot, the ankle, the calf, the thigh. She adds something that fizzes and hisses in the water as it dissolves, the water growing milky and sweet, like honey. Her hands reach out steadying me, like a minister, she guides me into healing waters. 

I am laid bare. I see the scars on my body from my many surgeries. My folds of skin and fat and wrinkles are on display. I’ve no way to be modest, to hide. I am naked and needy. The stretch marks that crisscrossed my belly during my pregnancies have aged and faded to dull silver ridges, like claw marks lurking beneath the surface of the water. My mom grabs the yellow Japanese washcloth and begins to scrub what I’ve tried to cover. 

The skin on her hands is paper thin. With her arthritic fingers arched and crooked, throbbing joints, and swollen knuckles, she works the soapy washcloth across my skin in small aggressive circles until my skin is as pink as a newborn. But no matter how hard she scrubs, I have some skin I’ll never shed. My scars remain. My skin is an atlas of battles fought and won. A history of surviving. 

She works shampoo into my roots. “Tip your head back and I’ll rinse,” she says. 

I’m reminded of my baptism, of being tipped back into deep waters. Of coming up a new creation in Christ. But this time, as I tip my head back, the suds slide across my forehead into my eyes, mixing with my tears. Because although I am a new creation in Christ, I am embodied in sickness. The body that rose from the water that day wasn’t miraculously healed.

I am embodied in sickness. I am hidden in Christ. In him, I am washed clean, broken, but whole. In him, I live and breathe. In him, I have peace.

 The tears come quickly and without warning. The steroids I am on to help strengthen my lungs, have the downside of wreaking havoc on my bipolar disorder and anxiety, and I’ve spent the past week vacillating between glimmers of hope and shattering despair. My mind is in shambles. To breathe or to want to? What options are these, Lord? Save my body and lose my mind? Save my mind and lose my body? I’m so weary, would I lose both? I manage little more than crying mercy, Jesus, have mercy on me!

When I am washed and clean, my mom pulls the drain and the water recedes. I climb from the bath, once again breathless, while she wraps a towel around me. On my bed, she brushes my hair, her fingers swimming competently through my strands as she braids it. I’m due for a nebulizer treatment. As the vapors flow through my parted lips, 

I breathe in, Lord, Jesus Christ, 

I breathe out, have mercy on me a sinner, 

I breathe in, You will never leave me or forsake me, 

I breathe out, My help comes from you, Lord. 

I breathe in, maker of heaven and earth. 

I breathe out, You are life, abundant. 

I breathe in, In you, I live and breathe

I breathe out, and move and have my being.  

I am in search of the relentless God I only find when I decant my suffering into syllables, nouns, and verbs, and let it breathe. Until it is a cup I can drink from once again. Until I remember a Man of sorrow, who loved me so much he’d choose to drink from the cup that would not pass.  Jesus, who sits with me in the terrors of my mind, and whispers, I am with you.  Jesus, who faced soul crushing anxiety, sweating blood in agony, still went to the cross. He gulped those last breaths and felt his lungs being crushed for me. 

 I think of the life I have been given. A life I have been blessed with. A life hidden in Christ, a man who fought death and won, but rose with his scars intact. 

I am embodied in sickness. I am hidden in Christ. In him, I am washed clean, broken, but whole. In him, I live and breathe. In him, I have peace.

I am in search of the relentless God I only find when I decant my suffering into syllables, nouns, and verbs, and let it breathe.
I am embodied in sickness. I am hidden in Christ. In him, I am washed clean, broken, but whole. In him, I live and breathe. In him, I have peace.
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MYTH 03

Peace is personal. It doesn’t have to do with anyone else.

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by Anson Chan

Restored

Sandhya Oaks

Sandhya Oaks is a passionate speaker, advocate, writer and reconciliation leader. Born in India, and adopted as a Transracial Adoptee in Wisconsin, Sandhya is now based out of the Minneapolis Area. She holds a BSE from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and a Certificate in Resilient Service from The Seattle School, and has served for more than 12 years in campus ministry with Cru. Outside of her campus ministry, Sandhya works with the Lenses Institute and is also the Co-Founder of The Adoption Triad, a social media platform to connect, teach, and resource individuals connected through adoption and foster care. She is deeply passionate about helping people experience the fullness of life through story work. Sandhya is fiercely committed to developing the next generation of leaders, racial reconciliation, and discipleship. Most recently, Sandhya developed a course called “Beauty in Ethnicity” for BIPOC women to re-narrate racial trauma around their skin color.

My story begins with fractured pieces. Born in India, but abandoned by my birth parents, my earliest memories are a grief stricken reality of having no place to call home. Shalom was shattered right at birth, and the fractures that it sent through my familial relations only deepened as time went on. Though I was adopted by a family in Wisconsin at the age of one, they were neither loving or warm. In fact, my adoptive parents were very abusive. They called me “It”, “The Thing” and other dehumanizing names, and I spent most of my childhood feeling terrified, confused, and in the dark. Neglect was the only treatment I knew, and to be so intentionally disregarded was more painful than I can express. This is not the life I would have chosen for myself. 

There was no part of my relationship with my adoptive parents that ever made me feel at peace. Everyday was a battle and a struggle to communicate with them. When I needed permission for a school trip, or if I wanted to spend time with friends, I knew there would never be an answer until the last minute or not at all. The time in between was spent holding my breath, because I knew that anything I did could be translated into “being disobedient” and would be an automatic reason for my request being denied. 

Growing up as the only person of color in my family was isolating. No one in my home affirmed my Indianness or the beautiful tone of my brown skin. When my parents talked about India, the only thing they’d say is how I would have had it a lot worse had I stayed there. I never heard my ethnicity, personhood, or birth country spoken about with words of delight, joy or honor. I knew my family and I had a lot of differences. I was an exuberant and outgoing bicultural kid, but these characteristics weren’t received by my family. Instead, it was their aim to squash both my culture and my personality, rather than tend to it and let it bloom. My parents couldn’t contain the fullness that I brought, seeking to belittle and destroy my gifts instead. Even worse, I experienced a double color blindness from kids at school . I didn’t have a positive identity of who I was physically or emotionally, and I didn’t have anyone to help repair this alongside me.

As I grew older, the trauma worsened. My adoptive parents told me that I would be kicked out and disowned on my 18th birthday. I pushed forward and clung to moments of goodness while looking out for some sense of shalom and “life” outside my home. God allowed these to be enough to sustain me. But still the fateful day finally arrived. I turned eighteen and was kicked out of the house. There was no goodbye. This was another layer of my Shalom being shattered. At the time, this was a day of utter horror and shame, but little did I know that my life was about to radically change.

During my senior year of college, I attended a Cru Spring Break Conference, and I discovered the freedom, hope and peace that can only be found in Jesus. The more I grew in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the more I began to see him repair my shattered shalom. I noticed a new confidence and security internally developing as he slowly replaced my fears with his love. And I also began to see his shalom repair both my womanhood and my cultural identity. God has brought magnificent Indian women and sisters in Christ into my journey to teach, affirm and delight in every part of my personhood. The deep fullness I have found in Christ has not only empowered me to see myself and my self worth through the lens of Scripture, but it’s also given me a deeper awe for the one who created me. God took my physical and personal characteristics, formerly marked with lies, mockery and neglect, and began to uncover the beauty, goodness and love that he originally intended for me all along. 

But there was still one more piece of shalom that needed to be restored.

Not long after my conversion, I experienced a surprising nudge from the Holy Spirit, saying, “I want you to forgive your adoptive parents”. At first, I was confused. Why would I forgive my parents after all they had done to me? I wasn’t even a part of their life anymore. But the Spirit kept nudging me, and this prompting led to an eleven month journey of forgiveness. I began carving out space to read and pray and, as I did, the words of Scripture washed over me. What I learned on this journey was that seeking to understand forgiveness is not just about looking out and forgiving my parents, but also having a greater knowledge of what Jesus has done for me.  I knew if Jesus could forgive me, I could forgive my parents. At the end of the eleven months, I wrote a forgiveness letter to them and then burned it with some dear friends. It was a symbol of the work God had done in my heart, and I acknowledged that I had forgiven my adoptive parents of everything they had done. Only then was I able to finally look out and see shalom fully restored. 

But, still, forgiveness is a journey. A lot of time has passed since I let go and chose to forgive my adoptive parents, but along the way I have grown in a greater awareness of the trauma I walked through as a little girl. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says that followers of Jesus should forgive each other “seventy seven times,” meaning without limit. And the more I processed the trauma I endured, the more I realized my need to pursue an even greater forgiveness. 

So, the journey continues…

Recently I wrote another letter of forgiveness to my adoptive parents. This time, I named things I hadn’t before and I mapped out the Gospel. I mailed it to them and, even though I’ll probably never receive a response, I have experienced an even deeper peace. When we forgive those who have caused us harm, we will experience a greater shalom within and with the world that surrounds us. Restoration is possible. My story is a testimony to it, and it is possible for you as well.

My story begins with fractured pieces. Born in India, but abandoned by my birth parents, my earliest memories are a grief stricken reality of having no place to call home. Shalom was shattered right at birth, and the fractures that it sent through my familial relations only deepened as time went on. Though I was adopted by a family in Wisconsin at the age of one, they were neither loving or warm. In fact, my adoptive parents were very abusive. They called me “It”, “The Thing” and other dehumanizing names, and I spent most of my childhood feeling terrified, confused, and in the dark. Neglect was the only treatment I knew, and to be so intentionally disregarded was more painful than I can express. This is not the life I would have chosen for myself. 

The deep fullness I have found in Christ has not only empowered me to see myself and my self worth through the lens of Scripture, but it’s also given me a deeper awe for the one who created me.

There was no part of my relationship with my adoptive parents that ever made me feel at peace. Everyday was a battle and a struggle to communicate with them. When I needed permission for a school trip, or if I wanted to spend time with friends, I knew there would never be an answer until the last minute or not at all. The time in between was spent holding my breath, because I knew that anything I did could be translated into “being disobedient” and would be an automatic reason for my request being denied. 

Growing up as the only person of color in my family was isolating. No one in my home affirmed my Indianness or the beautiful tone of my brown skin. When my parents talked about India, the only thing they’d say is how I would have had it a lot worse had I stayed there. I never heard my ethnicity, personhood, or birth country spoken about with words of delight, joy or honor. I knew my family and I had a lot of differences. I was an exuberant and outgoing bicultural kid, but these characteristics weren’t received by my family. Instead, it was their aim to squash both my culture and my personality, rather than tend to it and let it bloom. My parents couldn’t contain the fullness that I brought, seeking to belittle and destroy my gifts instead. Even worse, I experienced a double color blindness from kids at school . I didn’t have a positive identity of who I was physically or emotionally, and I didn’t have anyone to help repair this alongside me.

As I grew older, the trauma worsened. My adoptive parents told me that I would be kicked out and disowned on my 18th birthday. I pushed forward and clung to moments of goodness while looking out for some sense of shalom and “life” outside my home. God allowed these to be enough to sustain me. But still the fateful day finally arrived. I turned eighteen and was kicked out of the house. There was no goodbye. This was another layer of my Shalom being shattered. At the time, this was a day of utter horror and shame, but little did I know that my life was about to radically change.

I knew if Jesus could forgive me, I could forgive my parents.

During my senior year of college, I attended a Cru Spring Break Conference, and I discovered the freedom, hope and peace that can only be found in Jesus. The more I grew in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the more I began to see him repair my shattered shalom. I noticed a new confidence and security internally developing as he slowly replaced my fears with his love. And I also began to see his shalom repair both my womanhood and my cultural identity. God has brought magnificent Indian women and sisters in Christ into my journey to teach, affirm and delight in every part of my personhood. The deep fullness I have found in Christ has not only empowered me to see myself and my self worth through the lens of Scripture, but it’s also given me a deeper awe for the one who created me. God took my physical and personal characteristics, formerly marked with lies, mockery and neglect, and began to uncover the beauty, goodness and love that he originally intended for me all along. 

But there was still one more piece of shalom that needed to be restored.

Not long after my conversion, I experienced a surprising nudge from the Holy Spirit, saying, “I want you to forgive your adoptive parents”. At first, I was confused. Why would I forgive my parents after all they had done to me? I wasn’t even a part of their life anymore. But the Spirit kept nudging me, and this prompting led to an eleven month journey of forgiveness. I began carving out space to read and pray and, as I did, the words of Scripture washed over me. What I learned on this journey was that seeking to understand forgiveness is not just about looking out and forgiving my parents, but also having a greater knowledge of what Jesus has done for me.  I knew if Jesus could forgive me, I could forgive my parents. At the end of the eleven months, I wrote a forgiveness letter to them and then burned it with some dear friends. It was a symbol of the work God had done in my heart, and I acknowledged that I had forgiven my adoptive parents of everything they had done. Only then was I able to finally look out and see shalom fully restored. 

When we forgive those who have caused us harm, we will experience a greater shalom within and with the world that surrounds us.

But, still, forgiveness is a journey. A lot of time has passed since I let go and chose to forgive my adoptive parents, but along the way I have grown in a greater awareness of the trauma I walked through as a little girl. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says that followers of Jesus should forgive each other “seventy seven times,” meaning without limit. And the more I processed the trauma I endured, the more I realized my need to pursue an even greater forgiveness. 

So, the journey continues…

Recently I wrote another letter of forgiveness to my adoptive parents. This time, I named things I hadn’t before and I mapped out the Gospel. I mailed it to them and, even though I’ll probably never receive a response, I have experienced an even deeper peace. When we forgive those who have caused us harm, we will experience a greater shalom within and with the world that surrounds us. Restoration is possible. My story is a testimony to it, and it is possible for you as well.

The deep fullness I have found in Christ has not only empowered me to see myself and my self worth through the lens of Scripture, but it’s also given me a deeper awe for the one who created me.
I knew if Jesus could forgive me, I could forgive my parents.
When we forgive those who have caused us harm, we will experience a greater shalom within and with the world that surrounds us.
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