In a Q&A format, Kairos Global asks Dr. Sindhu Nadarajan about persevering in today, trustful surrender to God and handling stress and anxiety.

Kairos Global’s theme this month is, ‘Living in today/Trustful surrender to God’. How has this influenced you in life?

Matthew 6:27 says Can any one of you by worrying add a single moment to your life? On the contrary, anxiety and stress can shorten our life! Cares and worries are a constant in life, we can either allow it to steal our peace or use them as wonderful opportunities to exercise our faith, as St. Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 5:7 (Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you). This verse has been a mantra for me, from my early days of conversion.

Embracing Christian faith when I was 21-years-old and trying to grow deeper in it was a challenge at every step. Sparks did fly in my family. My mother threatened to take her life if I received baptism. But somehow I was given the faith to hold on to Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your family (Acts 16:31). It was difficult when some of my Christian friends would ask, ‘Have you ever thought of your future, especially marriage?!’ One night, recollecting such a conversation, I couldn’t sleep; my heart was deeply troubled. Lying in bed, my eyes went to a scripture I had written on the wall, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). This quietened my heart and like a child, I fell asleep.

Once, a cousin teased me saying nobody from my community would marry me as everyone knew I was a Christian by faith (this was before my baptism). He continued to jeer at me, ‘Do you think any Christian will marry you? Not at all! They usually marry only from traditional Catholic families.’ Even though I felt very sad and insulted, I snapped back, ‘The Bible assures me that “the face of those who look to him are always radiant”’ (Psalm 34:5). Then he said, ‘Yeah, your Lord will save you but in a strange way. It will probably be a widowed Pentecostal pastor from America with five children! Because no Catholic from Kerala will marry you!’ And he began to laugh at his cruel joke. Tears rolled down my cheek but I remembered the rest of the Psalm and retorted, ‘the scripture also assures me that “their faces are never covered with shame”. My Lord will see me through. You don’t have to worry about that.’ It came with such power and conviction that he stopped bullying me and I walked away triumphant with my faith deepened. So a few years later when my marriage got fixed with Sunil, who had a similar history, my family couldn’t believe there was another ‘crazy’ person like me. They all echoed, ‘Sindhu, it is your Jesus who has done this for you!’ I told my cousin, ‘Your prophecy has become true! My groom has come from America, but he is Catholic and maybe we will have five children or more!’ To which he replied, ‘You had said that day that your God would not put you to shame… Be blessed.’

So it was not a cakewalk for me to persevere in faith. It was God’s loving promise that was my rampart, where I took refuge and his living word, a sword which destroyed all doubts.

Anxiety is something that has grown exponentially for everyone these past two years, with the pandemic. How do you look at it?

I have adapted something from Romans 8:28 which is my guiding principle – nothing will happen in my life without my good Lord knowing or allowing it. This doesn’t mean that fears and doubts will never arise! But I won’t allow them to separate me from God. Rather, amidst all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35-39). All these become occasions to deeply trust in the Lord’s providence and abandon ourselves into his loving arms. It doesn’t matter how I die as long as it is how and when our Good Lord wills it.

Once, while we were preparing to go to Haiti during a time of uncertainty and violence there, a person who was coming for the mission asked me, ‘Do you want a bullet-proof jacket?’ At first I thought he was joking. But he was serious and had two jackets – one for him and one for me! I could only laugh and say, Mr XYZ, I feel in prayer that I’m going there because God wills it for me now.’ And taking my scapular I continued, ‘This is my bullet-proof jacket. Nothing will pass through this. My mother’s mantle protects me. And if a bullet penetrates this, then it would be meant for me and I would take it and become a happy martyr!’ God’s holy will will not take us where his grace cannot sustain us.

As a wife, mother, full-time missionary, and holding several ministry responsibilities, life can get stressful. We may lose our ‘peace’ or ‘patience’. How do you handle stress? What would your advice be?

Ordering everything through fervent prayers, open discussions with different parties involved is the way to go. When God wants you to do more things, he will give more grace because it is his work.

Dialogue, communication and sharing of responsibilities at home and work can take off many unwanted burdens from your shoulder. My husband is also a full-time missionary and is doing his masters in theology now. So we all pitch in to ease him as much as we can. At home even our 6-year-old has all freedom to express his desires and opinions. And he knows he also has responsibilities to keep the house in order. Training children to be responsible for each other should start as early as possible. Homeschooling has helped us impart these life skills early on and has saved me many tears and toil as they grow up. And my older kids can run the show when I’m away from home. This doesn’t mean that we are perfect parents or have perfect kids; we’re at it together, learning and trusting as we journey through life.

With schooling, cooking, cleaning, running errands, taking care of guests, reading, writing, programmes, you can get exhausted if you don’t derive strength from the Lord. It’s like getting anticipatory bail before troubles come knocking at your door. I wake up early before the kids so that I get quality time to spend with the Lord. Our day starts with Holy Hour and Mass. During Adoration, I bring everything to the Lord. That is where my frailties see God ‘face to face’. Like St. Augustine said, ‘Misery encountering Mercy’. After which there is Mass when the same God will come and reside in me to confirm my will to his. I cannot imagine a life without sacraments! Then, while I go for a Rosary walk, being with nature, the kids attend a second Mass. After breakfast we start school. We take a break to pray the Rosary at noon, before lunch. This is never to miss Rosary, since at times we have guests in the evenings. After dinner, we do the Lectio Divina with the kids. My husband and I set apart some time every night to share and pray when kids clean up and get ready for bed. It’s very easy for spouses to get lost amidst busy schedules and it’s very important to discuss and together offer everything in prayer.

I’m also at this season of life where I’m learning and trying to do only that which the Lord inspires me to, after many levels of discernment with my husband, spiritual director and friends with whom I work. Whenever I become overwhelmed, I sit down, take deep breaths and invite the Holy Spirit and ask him to rest in me that I can rest in him. I’m called to be a gentle stream bringing joy and life wherever I am to go. At times, though, this small stream can swell up with pride or get turbulent with fear, anxiety or other cares and pass them on to those around. But eventually there is that ocean of God’s love which finally can contain this stream and bring it to peace. I have made our Blessed Mother the manager of my life. She never fails me. And my guardian angel always counsels me. ‘The help we have from heaven is powerful than all that hell can send to destroy the grace of God in our souls’ – Dom Lorenzo Scupoli.

How do you help your family, especially your children and also other youth to totally surrender to God?

There is no better way to do this than to show them through our lives. Kids closely watch how you deal with tough situations yourselves. Daily cares and worries will definitely be there but I can decide whether I want to cast it upon myself or kids and spouse or my neighbour or to the Lord. Accepting our failings with humility and asking forgiveness publicly does magic and will inspire others also to do so. During our family time every night, we openly share our struggles, take suggestions and pray for each other. We deliberately do one-on-one sharing with all our five children from time-to-time and also girls’ time and boys’ time, when mom goes with girls and dad with boys. This also happens with those young people and friends with whom we work very closely. Being vulnerable to each other in a loving community promotes healthy relationships rooted in trust. Encountering one’s own frailties is like death to some people. We all need encouragement and support and lots of prayers to lead a life of total surrender to the Lord. When burdened by stress or before any obstacle, every Christian needs to reflect like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘Quid hoc ad aeternitatem? How will this look in the light of eternity?’ We are finite beings capable of the infinite. Mortal beings yearning for an immortality, made possible by the Immortal One taking our mortal body and tasting death!

The Taize song, Nada Te Turbe – nothing can trouble – adapted from this quote of St. Teresa of Avila is the chant of our household. ‘Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone suffices.

Please could you tell us of few experiences of total surrender to God?

One area that I have to constantly surrender is memories from my past. The accuser may come with many charges and in those desperate situations, the only thing that can chase him away and banish that misery is to proclaim God’s unfathomable mercy and abandon ourselves to that bottomless ocean of Divine Mercy. God can work everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

Once while I was proclaiming God’s mercy to the accuser, I saw the Lord’s heart opening and mercy gushing forth from there! It came like a strong torrent that I felt it would sweep me away! Then I felt a strong arm seize me and in no time I saw myself by the banks of a huge river formed by those waters; so wide that I couldn’t see the opposite bank. I saw myself as a little child; Mother Mary was holding me with one hand and with the other, bathing me with water from that stream! It reminded me of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Jesus is holding the hands of his mother, entrusting everything to her hands. Graces flowing from the Father to the Son come to me easily and in a tangible way through the loving hands of his mother, who is my mother too! Even when mercy was rushing to me like a torrent, I didn’t know how to access it. Then the Blessed Mother came and took me to the shore, gently washed me like a mother bathing her baby!

Another one comes to my mind. It was a tough decision to go for a thirty-day silent retreat in Jerusalem with my spiritual director. Even though, through prayer and discussions with my family and spiritual director, it was clear that I should be doing this, when it was time to board the flight, my anxious glance fell over our home. To my surprise I saw somebody entering my kitchen ‘with haste’. She proceeded to the pantry, opened the door and took my apron, put it on and while tying the sash, she smiled at me and said: ‘My child go in peace, I’ve got your household!’ A divine sense of peace enveloped me and I said, ‘Thank you, Mother (Mary).’ During those thirty days, not even once did any anxious thought cross my mind! Needless to say, upon my return everything was found better than I had left them – including myself! Why do we worry when the whole of heaven comes to help us?!

In light of our theme of not worrying and trustful surrender, who is your role model?

Of course, our Lord himself and his Blessed Mother. Our Lord’s prayer at Gethsemane asking the Father to take away the cup and later the complete surrender to his will is always there before me. Our Lady’s ‘Fiat’ and ‘Magnificat’ speak volumes to me. When she didn’t understand she asked, ‘How can it be?’ the angel responded, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’. And thus it shall come to pass even in our times. At different times, different saints talk to me. Mary Magdalene teaches me perfect resignation from the overwhelming worldly cares and to choose the better part (Luke 10:42), which will not be taken away. I have accepted her as my spiritual mother. I pray for Mary’s heart and Martha’s hands. St. Faustina is my spiritual director, through whom the Lord directs the missionary in me daily. She shows me how to do only what the Lord asks – nothing more or nothing less.

Another great soul I’ve modelled as a contemplative in action is St. John Paul II. Many have been witness to the fact that his prayer time always increased when the seriousness of his meetings or missions increased. This gently persuades me to reflect everything to our Lord in prayer so that I will be free to take up any task he asks me to do. The kneeler the Pope used when he came for the Denver World Youth Day is still preserved. That ‘Pilgrim Pope’ would come every day to the chapel at 4am, kneel on it and never move from there until 6am!

St. Ignatius of Loyola has put in words, what a life of true surrender to God is. It is ‘Trinity labouring for me, in me and through me!’ I only need to be calm and let God. His suscipe (Latin for: receive) is my prayer of utter surrender.

‘Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.’

 Thus surrender, to me, is being open to receive everything from God; another way to put it is ‘receive God’. For God alone fills us – Solo Dios Basta (St Teresa of Avila).

What advice would you give the youth of today, living in such unpredictable and unprecedented times?

Times have always been unpredictable, even worse than this in history. But the time that we are now in has brought the world so close that it’s a global village. Technology has made it possible to reach out to even the remotest parts of the earth and even other planets! But there is still so much distance between human hearts and the human mind still remains a mystery! Only God’s love – sincere and pure, overflowing from the hearts of the faithful can reach out and change even the hardest of hearts and polluted lives (John 7:38). There are many souls like the Samaritan woman waiting for this life-giving water along the road we travel. Young people have the generosity and the courage to take on such journeys without counting the cost.  St. JP II used to say, ‘Young people, you’re not only the future of the Church, but also the present!’

We read in Scripture that the kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure or a fine pearl. My young friends, you may be tempted to think that you’re a mountain of weaknesses or brokenness. That’s not true; always remember, you are the ‘treasure hidden in the field’, the fine ‘pearl of great value’ (Matthew 13:44-46), for which our Lord gave up everything, even heaven and came searching and purchased with his own blood.

Never let any of God’s work go to waste! Just rise up and take your unique position assigned to you from eternity as a saint of modern times. You’re worth much more than you think. So do not be afraid of looking at the brokenness around you. The one who has brought you into this great light and immense freedom knows how ‘to gird your loins and lead you to places that you do not want to go (John 21:18) when you get old’ (spiritual maturity)! So just trust God to do greater things with your life. Because as the French author, Leon Bloy said, ‘The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint!’

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