Marcia's Way to God
Hello. My name is Marcia, and I would like to tell you about how God changed my life—how He gave me life through His Son, Jesus Christ.
In order to show you what He has done for me, I have to tell you about what my life was like before God gave me the gift of His forgiveness. Even when I was a young child, I constantly felt a dark emptiness inside. As I grew up, this painful dark emptiness grew as well. It seemed like I was always on the verge of suicide, and this went on for years. I could not understand what was the purpose of my life or for my life, and I felt that my existence was meaningless. Since there was no meaning, and since there was more pain than pleasure in life, it seemed to make more sense to die rather than to live.
I guess what kept me going was that I was always trying to find something to give meaning to life. The problem was that I felt that I had “tried” God and that this didn't work. Let me explain. You see, I grew up going to church every Sunday. I knew the basic facts. I knew that Jesus had lived many years ago, and that He had died on a cross and rose again on the third day. But I did not understand what this meant for me. I believed these facts in the same way that I believed that George Washington was the first president of the United States.
I always felt that if there was meaning to life, it would be from something outside myself. But since I thought I had tried God and still didn't find meaning, I kept trying other things. When I was about 12, I tried devoting myself to music, and I practiced playing the flute for many hours every day for all my teenage years. It became a “god” to me. Although music never truly satisfied my longing, I used it to try to numb the pain and to convince myself that there was some purpose to life. But when I was 17, I was in a bad car accident, and I suffered a serious injury to my head. The effects of this injury eventually made it impossible for me to pursue a career as a professional musician. This was a huge disappointment to me, and I started to become even more bitter than I was before.
Eventually, I got the idea that I could devote myself to some other career, and the law presented itself as a challenge. So I went to law school, and I was successful at it, but I really hated it. Again, I was seriously considering suicide. In the beginning of my second year of law school, I told a friend that if I had not found something to live for by Christmas of that year, I would kill myself. Well, in September of that year, I met a man named Stephen, and I married just a few days before Christmas. I thought my purpose in life was to take care of him. But just 2 ½ years later, on my last day of law school, my husband died.
After his death, I felt more desperate than ever. My husband and I had purposely done everything we could to exclude God from our lives, because we both were bitter towards God. We tried to pretend that God did not exist, and we made fun of people who believed in Him. But after Steve died, I could not deny what I really believed. I was afraid that Steve was in hell.
I visited a Catholic church with a friend, and I heard something that I had never heard before. The priest said that a living person could do penance for a dead person, so that the dead person could eventually get out of hell. I quickly converted to Catholicism and set out to do as much penance as possible. The purpose of my life became trying to find out what would please God, not just for Steve but also for myself. But doing penance and following man-made rules did not satisfy the longing of my soul. I went from Catholicism to orthodox Judaism. I kept kosher for a year. Then I went to Buddhism, then Taoism. My search became more frantic and more serious. My health failed so badly that I could no longer work. Eventually, I started meditating to try to find peace. But when I started to meditate seriously, I started to have mystical experiences—that is, I started to have experiences where it seemed like my consciousness was leaving this world and entering into bliss. These experiences were very strong, and they affected me greatly. Up to that point in my life, what I had felt was mostly pain and depression. Now I was feeling bliss and happiness. So I devoted myself to finding out what this was all about. Through a series of events that seemed like miracles at the time, I was led to the teachings of a certain guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, who had come from India to the United States in 1920. He had died in 1952, but his teachings were still being disseminated by the organization he had established, called Self-Realization Fellowship. These teachings described the experiences I was having to the last detail, so I believed them. The teachings said that this bliss that I was feeling in meditation was God.
I don't want to give a lot of attention to this guru, but in order to explain all that God did for me, you must understand a few things that happened to me when I was following the guru.
What I want to try to explain to you was that this guru, who was dead, nevertheless was very much alive to me. He communicated with me, and I with him. I made him the master of my life. He gave me a physical healing so that I could go back to work, and he was with me every day. It seemed as though this guru was telling the truth, so I wanted to devote my life to his way.
Because this guru was so real to me, I did not question what he taught. He taught that a person has to reincarnate many times in order to accumulate enough “good karma” to get to God by doing good things—more good things than bad things. But he also said that these bliss experiences I was having were a sign that I did not have to reincarnate many more times before I would just melt into the bliss of God. Nevertheless, he taught that we had to convince God to reveal Himself to us. We were to pray constantly for God to reveal Himself to us.
Also, I need to explain that this guru did not deny Jesus Christ. But he twisted verses from the Bible, and he put himself on the same level as Jesus. It would be more accurate to say, though, that the guru tried to put Jesus on the same level as himself and other historical religious leaders, such as Buddha, Mohammed, and Krishna. One of the things that this guru taught was that there were many ways to God—but that his way was the highest and the quickest.
One other thing: This guru gave me the power to take on my own body the sicknesses of other people. Supposedly, since my karma was so good, I could take on the bad karma of other people, to spare them the results of their own wrongdoing. In fact, this is how he explained the death of Jesus on the cross.
Now that you know this background information, I can explain what happened to me. I thought I had found my real purpose in life, and I wanted to devote myself totally to it. So, I left everything behind and moved 2,000 miles away to be a monastic disciple in Self-Realization Fellowship. The monastic disciples were called nuns and monks. I thought that I would spend the rest of my life in the monastery, or ashram.
However, as the months in the ashram passed, I began to see the futility of it all. I began to see that the motive for all the good things I was doing was not necessarily to please God, but to save myself from experiencing more painful reincarnations. And I could see that while I was trying very hard to cultivate good qualities in myself, it wasn't working. For example, if I did something to cultivate humility, I immediately took pride because I had done something humble. I could try as hard as I possibly could, and I could follow all the rules that nuns were supposed to follow, and I could try to do good things, but I knew that deep inside I was still rebellious, selfish, and evil. I began to feel ashamed before God, and my heart was heavy because I believed that every bad thing I had ever done had to be counteracted with an equally good or better thing—but I knew that I was incapable of doing anything truly good.
Once again, I was in misery. The painful dark meaninglessness was greater than ever. One day, though, I remembered a Hebrew word that I had learned during the time I studied Judaism. The word is “chesed,” which means lovingkindness or mercy. Deep in my heart, I cried out to God for mercy.
God began showing His mercy toward me, but for about a year it did not seem like mercy. The blissful experiences in meditation stopped. Also, I was having trouble with my superior, the nun who was in charge of me, because she wanted me to eat the same food as everyone else even though I have allergies to these foods. My health started to fail again because of the foods I was eating. But my superior kept telling me that she was doing this out of love for me, out of “divine love.” I began to think about this, and a Bible verse that I did not even realize that I knew came into my mind. It was the Bible verse where Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Other Bible verses started coming to my mind as well. These verses made me wonder whether the things the guru taught were really true. I began reading my Bible more and more, and I began to love it. Although I could not understand many things that I read, still it seemed like the Bible was really true. It seemed pure compared to the guru's teachings. But I found that reading the Bible got me into trouble at the ashram. A spiritual battle had begun for my soul. There were times when an unseen force would strangle me and not allow me to breathe unless I chanted the name of Krishna. Eventually, I had to make a choice whether I would follow the Bible or the directions of my superior. I chose the Bible, and it was only a few days before I was out of the ashram.
I returned to my hometown. I was absolutely miserable, because each day for about seven months my life was a battlefield. I read my Bible more and more, but that guru did not want to let me go. I suffered great anguish, but it was worth it because I was beginning to understand by reading verses in the Bible that explained the things that had happened to me. For example, I read in 2Corinthians 11:13-14, God tells us that there are false teachers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ, and that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” I began to understand that the guru I had been following was a false teacher, a representative of Satan, who disguised himself as an angel of light.
As I read the Bible, I also began to understand that there was a huge difference between what the Bible said and what all of the religions I had tried had taught. All the religions taught that it was possible for me to please God by doing good things, and that it was my duty to do good things in order to go to heaven or to be with God. But in the Bible, in Isaiah 64:6, God tells us that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” to Him. The Bible tells us that even if we are sincere when we do good things to try to please God or get to God, even these things will not please God. Even the best things we do are like a smelly, dirty rag to God. The Bible also tells us why. It is because God is holy—He is totally pure and apart from evil. We are constantly doing evil because we do not reflect God's holiness. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God tells us this in Romans 3:23. I came to understand that this is why I felt ashamed and depressed, and why I was separated from God. The Bible also tells us that “the wages [or result] of sin is death” ( Romans 6:23). Although I had contemplated death as long as I could remember, I knew that I did not want to die and be separated from God forever.
Well, I kept reading the Bible and making choices to follow what it said instead of what the guru told me to do. This was very difficult because the guru made my life very painful, both physically and emotionally. Eventually it became clear to me that the difference between following Christ and following other religions was the question of how we can get to God—was it by our good deeds and works (such as meditation, charity, etc.); or was it by God's mercy and grace?
That question was answered for me on March 22, 1998. On that day, in one instant, God showed me what I had failed to understand for forty years. I shut my eyes, and inside myself I could see and feel the same ugly darkness that I had always felt. I started to run away from it, but then I forced myself just to sit there and face it. I asked, “Lord, what is it?” Deep inside, very gently, He answered, “It is your sin.” In an instant, I knew that all this pain was caused by my sin—my rebellion, my bitterness, and my selfishness. In an instant I understood that when Jesus was dying on the cross he felt that pain—multiplied by millions and millions; Jesus Christ was sent by God to be a substitute for me. He came to earth and lived a perfect, sinless life. Therefore, when He died, it was not for His own sin, because He had no sin. I understood for the first time what it really meant that Jesus had died for my sins so that I would not have to be separated from God forever. I also understood that when he rose from the dead, it was proof that His payment for sins was complete. There was nothing more I could do or needed to do to add to His payment for my sins. It was amazing because God's Holy Spirit made me understand this all in just an instant. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God had given me that gift of faith. I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I cried out for Him to save me. He gave me a new heart, and He put His Spirit inside of me. Since that time, God has worked in my life to change me in ways I could never change before. And He has showed me the purpose of life—to live for Him and to enjoy Him. You see, God wants us all to have a relationship with Him. He is not far off and demanding that we do things to please Him. He is very near, and He has done all that needs to be done to make it possible for me and you to enjoy His presence every day while we are here on earth, and forever in heaven when we leave this earth.
But I want you to know something else. God gives us a purpose for living, right here and right now. In the very next verse after the one I just quoted, we are told, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). You see, after God gives us a new heart, a heart that desires to love Him and follow Him, He enables us to do good things to give Him glory. He gives us a way of life that is very satisfying to the soul.
Some of you who are reading this now may be involved in a religion where you are trying to do good things to go to heaven or to reach God. Some of you may be involved in communicating with the dead or in the ways of demons. Some of you may think that what you believe is true because you or someone you know have experienced miraculous or wonderful things, just like I did. Or some of you might be feeling the same dark emptiness inside that I had always felt. I want to ask you to get a Bible and read it. Ask God to show you what is true. God has promised that if you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him. So seek Him today. Find out what Jesus Christ has done for you. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29)
You see, there are not many ways, but only two. One way is to try to get to God by doing things yourself. This way leads to death and hell. The other way is to trust that what Jesus did for you is all you need to enter the presence of a holy God. This way leads to God's forgiveness and eternal life with Him.
Satan and his demons want to try to fool you and to keep you from knowing the truth. They want to keep you from God. Do not be deceived by them. Read the Bible and find out the truth about God for yourself.
P.S.: This article was written in about 2003. By now Marcia has published her own book, going even deeper in many ways and also reflecting her way with God since then. Look for The Heart-Changer by Marcia Shedroff (available also on Kindle or NOOK).
New American Standard Bible