Beauty in the Dark Places
By: Susan Deborah Schiller
Once upon a time I was a productive, high achieving woman who knew her purpose in life and gave her all for her family, for her church, and for her clients. I looked normal on the outside, just like everyone else around me, but the world was like a cancer inside my soul, robbing me of life.
Looking like you have it all together, knowing all the right answers, being in the right places and the right time, knowing the right people, and pleasing people (aka Superwoman). Doing what was expected of me, playing the game, was the cancer that nearly destroyed my soul.
Like an automaton, I played the game of churchianity but it drained my spirit dry. Control and manipulation, power plays, popularity contests, and politics brought the world right into our spiritual place of worship, both at home and at church.
Domestic violence and spiritual abuse escalated, the more I struggled to escape to freedom.
"I don't want to divorce you; I just want to watch you suffer," my abuser said… yet I knew it was a demonic voice, even though it was uttered from my husband's lips. Words like that, repeated over and over, destroy your brain and kill your soul.
It was my soul this enemy wanted – my hopes, dreams, talents, and destiny. He wanted to extinguish my light, close the lid on my coffin, with me still barely alive.
Like Job who testified, "What I feared most has come upon me," I became homeless. I lost everything, including my identity as a wife, mom, and person everyone thought had it all together.
Just as danger and opportunity are two sides to the same coin, so my time of homelessness was one of the greatest adventures of my life, leading me closer to my true self – to Home.
"To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, and to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That's the purpose of life." — From: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
As if it was yesterday, I remember walking along the road, on my cell phone with a friend, saying, "I feel like I'm losing my faith!"
I went to church and pastors prayed over me, saying God was telling them, "Half of your heart is gone". A year later I was praying with Lakota friends and a holy man said to me, "Sue, we've been praying and God is telling us that half your heart is gone." He pointed to the middle of his back and circled his hand to the front of his belly and said there was a gaping wound from back to front.
I remember the day my husband abandoned me alongside the road in a desert, and it felt like a grenade had exploded in my abdomen. The pain cut from my neck to my belly, both physically and emotionally, ripping my gut wide open.
Such was my story. I won't go into the details here, as I've already written chapters about those days:
- Voice of the Moonflower
- The Lone Rancher
- Cowgirl Up!
- Secret Heroes
- Lakota Rescue
- The Art of Goofy Stupid
- Second Chances
I lived in a field, bathed in a hot mineral pool, and worked for one hotel owner after another who exploited me. I set up camp in a broken down Winnebago a local man gave me to use for two months. In exchange, I fixed it, cleaned it, and made it liveable. Every 2-4 months God used diverse people and different opportunities, always at the last minute and in the least expected way.
It was scary. It was hard. It was dangerous. I don't recommend it, but I am grateful for those experiences. I discovered beauty there, too, like the hawk circling the rainbow over the mountain near my camper in the photo up above. Like other homeless people, who became friends.
The photos below are of my "home" along the river. No running water, no toilet, but I hooked up to satellite Internet and a long cord brought me electricity.
It wasn't safe. There were predators all around me. Christian leaders saw my vulnerability and two attempted to lure me into traps with the promise of housing and a job. I trusted them, thinking it was God preserving His daughter's life. One after another, their wicked plots were exposed. One employer, also a pastor, sent me a note saying, "Will you be my spiritual wife?" He was married. I left. But it further weakened me.
My world fell apart. Everything seemed upside down. There was no safe place, not even in church.
A Lakota family hooked up my camper, adopted me into their family, and set me up with a place to live, on their ranch. My pastor shunned me, for four months, for praying with them.
He said, "It's pure witchcraft!" But I only sensed real love. They kept telling me, "It's going to be all right." They were genuine. They didn't exploit me, they didn't judge me, they just loved, laughed, and lavished me with good humor. Some of them were ex-Navy Seals and understood the psychological effects of being in a war zone.
Sociopathic abuse is a war zone. Stockholm Syndrome, gaslighting, smear campaigns, death threats, nightly interrogations… I experienced all of that, and more.
That episode of my life story began in 2011 and it's now 6 years later. I'm in the same town, having left for 3 years and now returned to slay the demons I didn't get to the first time around. There's one thing that is beginning to change…
I lost my fear of losing everything. I lost my fear of being homeless. And somehow, having lost those root fears, the rest of my fears are loosening, too. Not gone, but loosening.
I learned a few things, and I'm still discovering more…
- Your greatest fear is the very dragon you're designed to slay. The provision is already there for you to thrive. You have it within you to rise up.
- The trials in your life have been carefully designed to give you what you need. Your trials turn into provision.
- Your greatest ally is your spirit – your inner being – your true self. Most of us are our own worst enemies. Self-doubt, self-hatred, self-punishment… we criticize ourselves mercilessly. We kill our own souls, one negative word at a time.
- We must learn to love ourselves to life, because until we do, no one else's love will ever be enough.
I know this short article probably isn't enough to give assurance that you're going to make it, that you'll be all right.
Right now it's dark and hiding is preferable to risking your life. I know you need human hands, a hug, and someone to really see you and hear your heart. You need a secure place to live. You need NORMAL!
Why doesn't God just lift us up out of our difficulties, I have often wondered. When we cry out for relief, why is He silent? Where is He when we most need love? Why does He allow the pain, the danger, and the darkness to gain such control over our lives… well, perhaps the pain is a gift in disguise…
Much of your pain is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. — Kahlil Gibran
I don't know the whole answer, but I have learned that He is the kindest person I've ever met. He's teaching me to create beauty out of chaos.
I'll be honest with you, today has been hard. I've listened to several people bare their war-torn souls. One of my dearest friends was cruelly attacked over the weekend. Another dear friend just died suddenly.
When you're hurting, all the rational answers and solutions don't mean much. You just want your world to stop shaking.
The emotional tsunami is relentless. One wave after another – shock waves. That's how it feels… like these waves of deep grief keep washing over you.
But there is a way out. We can choose love. We can choose life. We can worship in the warfare. We can praise all through the dark night. We can dance with Him under the moon. These aren't just words; I lived it.
All I know is that we're not so much escaping our abusers, as we are rising up to live an ascended life. It's not pain that is the enemy; in fact, pain can be a gift.
Crossing over from hell-on-earth to heaven-on-earth takes a passion to keep climbing the narrow path, to not quit, to not complain. For when you see His face, and His gaze pierces yours, and He says, "Are you afraid? Do you want to turn back?" you suddenly realize you are not alone.
Sufferings are to spiritual maturity as the chisel is to sculpture. — Anonymous
My feet were bloody and my body was bruised, but not anywhere near as much as His. So I said, "Yes, I will follow You wherever You go. I'm not giving up. I won't quit."
There is no coming to consciousness without pain. — Carl Jung
I woke up. For me, that's when I began to cross over. I chose love. I chose life. I chose to embrace pain and sorrow, too, because they formed the bridge to this resurrected life. I don't have it all together, not at all. I hurt, I bleed, I feel all used up, actually.
But today as I listen to stories of friends who are bent over, beneath the waves of shock and trauma, a relentless assault on their brains, hearts, and nerves, I pray:
"Abba, your Name is Holy. Let your Kingdom come, let Your will be done, here on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us what we need today. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory – forever and ever. Please give ___ all that she needs." And I pray the same for my enemies.
With all my love,
Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.
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