Moving that Mountain to Find Your True Self
By: Susan Deborah Schiller
The journey to freedom tests everything in you. We're talking miles and miles of torturous, narrow paths that point you straight up steep mountain cliffs and across jagged precipices. Sharp rocks and dizzy heights are the unnegotiables on this path.
I don't know about you, but I'm scared of heights. The picture at the top of this page was taken in my neighborhood, while living in Northwestern Montana. My palms get sweaty just remembering the precipice I stood on to take this picture! But that was nothing compared to the real mountain I was facing.
In that little mountain paradise, surrounded by mountains, I created a prayer walk. There was this long, winding path I would climb to get up higher and higher above our valley…. where I could see for miles.
As if by magic, my problems seemed to shrink and dissolve from that lofty height. Maybe Papa God allows us the steep climb to enlarge our vision, to help us see from His perspective. Perhaps he wants us to be enlarged, ourselves, in the process. Not many people choose to take this narrow path, but it leads to LIFE!
That's our little house down there, on the Vermillion River.
The kind of life I want for my family and my world is abundant life. An Eden lifestyle, where you work at what you are passionate about, to the point where the line between work and play is blurred because you love what you're doing and you get paid for doing it!
It's the kind of life where money chases you, instead of you chasing money.
That's the kind of life we were just starting to live, in our little house on the Vermillion. Randy was still recovering from his surgery, on heavy narcotics… but we were starting over fresh. I was working from home, my office facing the horse corral where our gelding, Fire, watched me making sales calls through the window.
Can there be anything more delightful than living next to a rushing river, in a valley surrounded by mountains, where the light piney air wafts through your soul, breathing fresh life into your weary spirit? A whole room for my home office, with bookshelves from floor to ceiling… my own special desk – a unique one I picked out myself. Leather furniture with decor that uniquely tied the outdoors to our indoor living quarters with Indian canoes, feathers, and accessories that fed my wild nature. Drinking water gushed out of the mountain behind our house in vibrant sea-green hues, as if a glacier had just melted inside the mountain. And I was earning the best income of my life, right there.
For once, I didn't have to be Strong Sue, the good girl. I was free to be the real me, hiking through the forest, watching the beavers, avoiding mama moose, joining in the bullfrog chorus, spying Golden Eagles, and laughing at the otters and muskrats… embracing the sacred dance of life.
I was still on 24/7 suicide watch for my husband, who was on heavy narcotics for the chronic pain from failed back surgeries. There was still domestic violence in our home, and the line between narcotic effects and just plain woman-hating was hard to distinguish, back then. But in the midst of the uncertainty a sense of deep awe and wonder embraced my weary spirit, wrapped my hemorraging heart, and filled me with hope!
Randy and me, before his healing miracle… while building our house in paradise.
That's when you know you're living in your truest self… when your mission, your purpose, your hopes and dreams all line up with your daily activities! The line between work and play doesn't exist. Money chases you, instead of you chasing money.
You can't wait to wake up in the morning, and each day is full of wonder and awe. Life isn't perfect and you still have challenges, but when you're living your true self you are free – and that means you are living in Truth. Truth always prevails over any challenge, like Light from Heaven breaking through the clouds and exposing the darkness.
Our front yard while living in Thompson Falls, Montana
For two years we lived in our rural mountain paradise, and then the big city showed up at our front door. Filmmakers from Toronto landed in our small town of Trout Creek, occupying our little home with lights and cameras, shooting pictures and making a movie.
It was time for me to switch roles again. My true self, the real me, was still in the beginning stages of healing from post-traumtic stress… so Strong Sue came to the rescue and Randy and I entered full-time intinerant ministry, selling our home and hitting the road.
Everyone appreciates Strong Sue. She'll work hard for them, she'll cheer them on and support them in their dreams. She'll move heaven and earth to fit into their world. She'll even give up her identity and prostitute her skills and talents for the good of the "team" … whatever team they need her to contribute to.
I didn't realize, back then, that the reason the abuse lasted so long is because Strong Sue was so strong!
“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress….” — Frederick Douglass
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – Sir Edmund Hillary
Yep, I was the mountain in the way of freedom. Strong Sue, the "good girl", could put up with a lot. I'm not angry with her for blocking the way. Just sad.
I'm sad that no one saw beneath the strong good girl facade. I'm sad I didn't know the difference between "Good" and "Great"!
“Good is towing the line, being behaved, being quiet, being passive, fitting in, being liked, and great is being messy, having a belly, speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for another paradigm, not letting people talk you out of what you know to be true,” — Eve Ensler
Even when they made a movie of our lives, right on camera, I spoke the same words all victims of domestic violence say at one time or another. Yet no one saw that behind the strong woman was a bleeding spectre of her true self. Not a single person recognized that I needed a hero, except One Man.
That is reality. Only we can find and rescue our true selves.
To get our attention, God often speaks to us in the night, as our busy mind sleeps.
I once saw the spectre of my truest self in a dream. It was a foggy, dark night and I was walking quickly along railroad tracks, searching for a shelter. I came upon a rail car; it's door slightly ajar. It seemed vaguely familiar, as if I had seen this rail car before. My brain was as foggy as the chilly, cloudy night, it seemed. Pulling the door open, I peered into the dark interior. My heart began galloping like a wild horse chased by a lion, faster and faster, as memories began to surface from long ago… along with toxic shame.
Someone had left behind a woman in this car, so very long ago. The floor of the rail car was covered with a thin layer of straw. Yes, that's where she was abandoned, left for dead… on a small pile of straw right in the middle of the car.
I saw movement in the shadows. My heart leaped upon sight of the woman's prone body lying in the same place she had been left. Correction: Where I had left her. Emaciated and barely breathing, the woman raised her eyes to mine. She was alive! The horror of what I'd done to this woman was replaced by sheer joy in the gift of finding her again.
I had forsaken my true self in the demand for performance. This is always the world's way, even if you are in full-time Christian ministry. Especially if are in ministry.
Many of us women have left behind our truest selves, to play the role we are expected to perform.
We put on the face our society deems acceptable, the face that earns their approval. We wear that face so often and for so long that we forget our true self. We leave her behind. The greatest deception is that we are "doing good" and, worse, the world approves.
Do you ever find yourself chronically feeling lonely, deeply fatigued, restless, like you're running behind and you'll never catch up, as if you're screaming to be heard but no one is listening, that you hate your work, or as if you're invisible?
Those could be symptoms that your true self has been left behind, and that you're living with a false identity.
Traveling with a false identity is going to erupt in trouble, sooner or later. Living your true identity determines the quality of your life, because you are at home in your body. Just as there are no two snowflakes alike, no two faces alike -even if they are twins… so you have an individual identity, a unique purpose, and a mission that you alone were created to fulfill.
You are a daughter of the King! All of earth is waiting for you to be shine, to shimmer, and to glow!
For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. — Romans 8:19
Until I find my true self, there's a mountain in the way, and the mountain is me – all the masks, the roles I am expected to play.
There are six questions you can ask yourself, over the course of time, that will help you to find your true self, and I'm going to share them with you, in my next blog post called "LIONESS ARISE!"
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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