Indu Shanmugam is a 20-something, college student from Oregon, USA. She is majoring in English literature and language. She also studied Theology for a short period. She wants to be a teacher. As a literature enthusiast, she enjoys literature of all types and from writers of various backgrounds from the classics, French realists, Christian writings like C.S Lewis and South Asian literature. As for her own writings, "I am still trying to find and develop my own voice." She sees the art of the written word as a way to speak about Christ and explore truth. Before she met Jesus Christ, she has been searching for the meaning of life through experimentation of other religions, philosophies and ideas. At the age of 17, she accepted Christ after a powerful encounter with God through a miracle. God's presence and deep truths in the Bible fuel her creativity. She is involved in church activities and has a love for the church and would like to see every believer grow, become closer to God and live fruitfully. She loves traveling, sipping bubble teas, theatre, music, films and hanging out with friends and has a weakness for cheesecake.View all articles by Indu Shanmugam
This is a real story of God literally saving me from death. I almost died at the age of seventeen and I met Jesus through a near death experience. In my past I’ve been a hardcore atheist, a Hindu, an agnostic with Unitarian Universalism ideas, and even a Wiccan (a new-age cult that practices witchcraft) when Jesus found me.
Let me start with my background. My Tamil father came from a Hindu background and my Malayalee mother came from a nominal Catholic background. Both of them were essentially atheists and were against following any type of religion. Growing up I was told not to believe in a God and that religion was a waste of time. Our family lived in Dubai for the first eleven years of my life and then we moved to the United States.
I faced many struggles. I had problems with my parents. They had issues of their own and were always angry. I could never please them or meet their expectations. When I was eight, I was raped and sexually abused several times by a neighbor. I was too young to understand sexual abuse. Scared, confused and humiliated I internalized my deep emotional pain. When I was about fourteen, I started suffering from severe depression and became suicidal. I started cutting my wrists. I hated myself. I felt empty inside and knew my life was a mess.
I often wondered “Is there more to life than this? What is the point of studying hard, getting a high paying job, kids and achievements – in the end what matters?”
I had a desire to find the meaning of life and deeper purpose. Religion fascinated me. I wanted to follow something. I thought all religions are just different ways and I need to come to self-realization. I explored Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and other ideas. My depression got worse; I started thinking about suicide, cutting my wrists and became bulimic. I continued to search for God and started getting curious about Christianity. Why on earth would anyone willingly die on a cross? I heard that “Jesus died for your sins and the sins of the world.” That made no sense to me. I got fed up and gave up on religion and turned into a sour, bitter atheist.
At seventeen years of age, I had had enough and I tried to hang myself. It’s a miracle that I am alive today in perfect health because the doctors estimated I was hanging for about eight to twelve minutes before a friend found me. I had no pulse. The doctors told my parents that I’m most likely to die and if I make it, I would very likely be paralyzed, in a vegetative state or mentally retarded or worse. I was in a coma for eleven days. During the time I was unconscious, I can boldly say I met Jesus. I know it sounds a little out of the ordinary, but this only means we don’t serve an ordinary God. I remember waking up and being shocked that there is life after death. I feared the worst. Will He send me to hell? I’ve always pictured Jesus as a cold, distant and strict God.
The surroundings amazed me. I saw angels of all shapes and forms. I heard music so beautiful, the sound of which cannot be reproduced on earth. I noticed that the sense of time had disappeared. I reflected upon my life, seeing it had been empty and with regrets. Why didn’t I ever listen to those Christians who witnessed to me? I’ve said obnoxious things about Jesus and laughed at Him. I have focused on philosophies and other empty religions. What’s the use now?
Two angels informed me that the Lord wanted to see me. I freaked out! I thought that Jesus would scold me and then punish me. I decided to tell Jesus that I was sorry for not believing and for not living the way I should have been and then take whatever punishment I deserve. I was taken to a vast field and surrounded by mountains. The angels departed. Far away, I see a huge bright golden thing—a sun which must be about six hundred times my size glows. The huge thing moves towards me and takes form. He calls me and I recognize the voice belonging to Jesus. I am overwhelmed by His presence and I feel faint. I fall down crying. Breathlessly I tell God, “I’m so sorry …”
He picks me up and doesn’t look angry at all. He looked concerned and caring. He started speaking to me and I thought to myself, “So, does this mean I am dead?”
The Lord knew my thoughts and replied, “ No, you are not dead and I’m not going to let you die.”
We spent a significant amount of time together. The Lord explained to me about life and death and purpose in a simple conversational way. During this time, I saw the greatness of God and that God is a person not a mystical force or someone that is far away beyond reach. Through Jesus I can have a personal relationship with God. He told me about purpose. Everyone he created on earth has a purpose including me. This is what Jesus told me:
Purpose can be found through Me. Life is like a book with a beginning and an end and divided with chapters. When you read a book, sometimes you’ll see a chapter that doesn’t make sense. You’d question why does it have to be there and question the writer. The next two chapters do not make sense either. As you continue reading, it starts to make sense. At the end of the book, everything comes together and makes sense. Do you see this? My dear, I am the writer of lives and I haven’t even started on your book yet. There is a lot yet to come. You are still young, only seventeen years of age. There is a lot you haven’t experienced. Your struggles discourage you, through Me there’s life. This is not the way to die. The right way to die is finding your purpose through me and living accordingly and then when it’s the end of your life, you’ll die with a peace, knowing that you did it and with assurance.
We had a long talk. I saw hope and a reason to live life to the fullest with a deep sense of purpose. He explained things to me in a simple, comprehensible way and showed me how to live. When God spoke to me, He was approachable and spoke at my level. His words and philosophy were not too complicated and distant that I was confused and find hard to relate to. He knew me all along. I almost forgot to mention, I nearly died five times and He brought that up during our meeting. It was He who stopped me from dying. Throughout my life He sent people to witness to me. He’s been trying to catch my attention for a long time. Then, it was time for me to get back. I remember not wanting to back into my body. I had too much of a good time with God and wanted to stay. The two angels had to convince me to go back. I was sent back and went through a tunnel and when I reached the end of the tunnel I was awake in the hospital.
It took me three months to recover fully. The miraculous thing was that the doctors found nothing wrong with me such as brain damage. A nurse told me, “You have no idea how lucky you are. Rarely, people in your situation would make it.” I remembered the near-death experience clearly and shaken at first. Of all the people in the world, why would Jesus want to talk to me? This was too real to be a dream. When I spent time with Jesus, I remember it like remembering something I did yesterday. I started questioning and thinking about what He told me. The mercy of God really got me. I didn’t deserve to be saved. Why did He give me the second chance and what does He want me to do? If all paths lead to the same road, why didn’t Ganapathy, Krishna, Hanuman or any of the Hindu gods or any of the Wiccan gods help me? None of the other gods (or manifestations of god) came to my rescue or gave me a revelation about my life at a critical time.
I decide to follow Jesus. Confined in the hospital, I closed my eyes and prayed, “Jesus, God. I don’t how to pray but this is what I want to say. I am tired of living my life the way I used to and don’t want to anymore. I want to live the way You showed me; a life with a higher meaning and purpose. I don’t know where to start but I know You’ll show me the way. I believe in You alone. Help me. I want to be a Christian.” I felt fulfilled and peaceful. That prayer sounds simple and innocent but it was genuine and came from my heart. I never felt this way before. In the past, when I have prayed to other gods, I have felt nothing.
After this experience, I started growing in Christ and changing as a person. From an angry, bitter, confused teenager I became a confident and better person. I have an inner peace and happiness that I have never imagined. I experienced inner healing from childhood trauma. I remember my childhood abuse but free from the hurts, so that I can help other girls who’ve gone through the same hurts. I am healed from wrist-cutting and bulimia because I learned that God loves and accepts me and I am beautiful girl in His eyes. I accept myself for who God created me to be. I realize this experience is a little strange and some people will raise their eyebrows while reading this. I did nothing to deserve second chances – its God’s mercy. God continues to speak to me just like how He does to all believers. He continues to guide me to a better life. We can argue several things such as I didn’t have a near-death experience but there was no oxygen in my brain.
To those who may say to me “you didn’t meet Jesus, it was just a dream.”
I can say, if that was the case- how did I find a reason to live, healing from past hurt, childhood sexual abuse, bulimia, depression? Wouldn’t I live the same way? These struggles don’t just go away by coincidence. I am no longer suicidal and completely set free. My friends and family notice significant changes in my life. That’s the power of God. Well, I hope my story encouraged you and from my experience I can say that Jesus is real.