I had been driving around the neighborhood, circling the same streets for almost thirty minutes, until I reached a point of no longer being able to bear the weight of what I was trying to escape. My friend Cassandra was on the phone with me, listening as I talked with panic in my voice and tears streaming down my cheeks. Our call started with an internal war of desperation and my mind racing for a plan—a way to reframe my current place of grief.
Since I no longer was able to safely and visibly see the road through my blurred, tear-filled eyes, I pulled my car over and put it in park. I could feel the tension in my body escalating and noticed my shortness of breath, which paralleled my racing thoughts. My mind was searching for words and trying to make sense of my story, my current season of life, and the week’s devastating events.
This place of grief and need was familiar to me and held so much vulnerability.
As a little girl, I didn’t have parents who attuned to me or moved towards me in my needs. I know that nurture and care was possible in my childhood home because my three brothers received it from our parents, but it didn’t come close to reaching me. At a young age, I learned to care for myself and to tend to my own needs. I sought to protect myself from harm, clinging to the words, “I’ll be fine, I’ll be good…” These words helped me to be resilient and keep moving forward. They were glue for my pain and grief and held me together in times of crisis, fear, and desperation.
As a little girl, I made a vow: “I will care for myself since no one else is available to care for me.” This vow kept me alive, and I bless the brilliance of my inner child and her bravery. My protective ways served me for so many years, but now they were bringing me to a dead-end road, which was keeping me stuck and without the care I longed for. I needed a new road of healing, headed in the direction of receiving care.
As I found myself sitting in the car, facing a lifetime of trying to protect myself from harm, I came to a breaking point. I wanted to say the words, “I am fine, I’ll be fine, I’ll figure it out,” and, “I’m good,” but I knew that I wasn’t either of these things. These words, life-long allies, were betraying me and my need for care. My mind and mouth deeply desired to cling to these words and to shut off the pain of grief, but as I opened my mouth, they didn’t come out. My body fought my attempted words of false safety, and I felt like it was purging my old ways of self-protection.
I paused in silence, took a deep breath, and noticed a shift in my mind and body, which ushered in fresh tears, streaming down my cheeks. My body slowly released the tension it held, and I noticed my racing thoughts slow down. As I let out a large sigh of exhaustion and surrender, an image of Jesus came to mind. I saw Him take a tree branch with the words “I am fine” burned into the bark and break it into two pieces with great force. This image held such power, fear, and comfort for me. I had just entered into a new territory that was unfamiliar, and yet held some peace.
Little did I know what was coming minutes later—a gift of balm in the form of deep care.
I told Cassandra I’d call her later, and we hung up. I put my car in drive and headed down the street. As I arrived at my destination, I took a deep breath that brought me into a deeper rest. I was exhausted.
I rang the doorbell, and as the door opened, a man stepped out towards me. I was met with a big smile, welcoming, kind eyes, and the words, “Sandhya, welcome! We are so glad you are here!” I remember the tight embrace, and I felt my heart melt. There was more. Another kind soul, standing just inside the entryway, also met me with a smile, kind eyes, and a big hug. I was overwhelmed in such a glorious way by these small, yet meaningful gestures. New life was being birthed in my story, and it came at such an unexpected place and time. This new life holds care, rest, and healing, which are what my soul has desired and needed since I was a little girl.
Sandhya Oaks is a Campus Ministry Leader, speaker, and advocate. Born in India and adopted as a Transracial Adoptee in the Midwest, she has been serving with Cru Campus Ministry for more than thirteen years, and loves watching Jesus set women free. She is the co-founder of The Adoption Triad, a social media group that provides community and resources to those connected to adoption and foster care. Sandhya recently moved to Colorado and spends her free time camping, sipping coffee with friends, and creating tasty charcuterie boards.