Naked and Unashamed
By: Susan Deborah Schiller
I have decided to get naked.
I removed all the outerwear that my culture told me would cover my shame. I don't even know where the shame began, except it appeared when I was very little. It made me painfully shy. I knew in my heart I was "damaged goods" and that no decent man would ever want to marry me. I really don't have a clear idea of why I thought that. My family and friends will tell you I was a "good girl" – even a "goody-two-shoes".
In my own world, from a young age, I was creating my reality and setting myself up to become the woman my counselors described as "the most abused woman" they had yet encountered.
I grew up and got married to a Christian man. We were bound by marriage for nearly 20-years and God gave us three amazing children. There was rarely a day when I was not put down, slandered, accused, verbally tormented, and then blamed for everything, all behind closed doors.
Our church taught me to be silent, and that by submitting to my husband's abuse I was being "spiritually mature" and God would reward me. Is abuse the same as "long-suffering" – the same as supporting someone who has cancer or is aging? Abuse is its whole separate category, and that's what church leaders don't quite yet understand.
I fell deeper and deeper into hell as the chains of religion tightened.
My husband's repeated message to me was that I was stupid, worthless, and would never amount to anything. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was projecting on to me what he felt about himself.
Prior to marriage I had traveled on my own to South America, living as an exchange student in a foreign country. I learned to speak Spanish. I flew airplanes from the time I was five years old until age 16 when I got my student pilot's license. I wrote my first book complete with chapters and illustrations at age 11. My dad taught me that I could do anything I put my heart into. After he died I helped my mom, as the oldest of four children. I cooked meals, did the laundry, chauffeured the other kids, and kept the house clean. By nature, I am a caregiver and sacrificing my own needs for the sake of my family is the reason I live.
Twenty years of marriage to an abuser left me a shell of my former self, as I sacrificed to become what my husband wanted me to be. Although I internalized the stress, always trying to change myself to make him happy, it was never enough.
He used to tell me on many occasions, "Sue, you haven't done anything wrong. There's just something inside me that wants to hurt you."
Although at crisis points he seemed to sincerely want to change, year after year rolled by with the abuse only intensifying. I remained silent for most of those years, working on myself… spending hours in my prayer closet (literally, my closet)… memorizing Scripture and praying in my diaries.
I attended conferences, read books, and applied the lessons. Through it all, I remained publicly silent, submitting myself to the church's teaching.
There came a time when I realized that my silence was sin. My passion for God displaced my need to conform to the patriarchal religious system demanding my subjugation.
When I did finally speak up, hardly anyone wanted to listen. They had no grid for understanding so they pretended I didn't exist. Their silent shunning intensified the abuse.
As I listened to God, penning prayers in my diaries, I realized Papa God was mapping a way out for me, a journey to freedom and a life of joy. I was writing to freedom!
It turned out this was the best thing for my husband, as well. In listening to one of his sermons online, he refers to our divorce as being his "wake up" call and how it changed his whole life. The one thing he didn't mention was how much he hurt his family.
In my upcoming book, "On the Way Home," I allow you to peek into my diaries and to walk with a woman who my marriage counselors called "the most abused woman" they had met in more than a dozen years of counseling.
I wish it weren't my story…
I wish I had created a different story. But it is what it is, and embracing reality is the first step to healing. And then the magic begins... when we decide it's not how we want the story to end and we create a new world.
We create our world, with our beliefs, our thoughts, and our actions one day at a time.
Like most women leaving an abusive marriage, a new predator was ready and waiting for me. Many of the women in my support group have had second marriages that were just as abusive, or worse, than their first marriages. Most of them, like me, have suffered 30 or more years of marital and/or spiritual abuse.
Next hardest to living with an abusive spouse is leaving the abusive relationship. It's like volunteering to be crucified and it usually leads to deep psychological scars, with some professionals call post-traumatic stress disorder.
It's during our darkest days (and years) that we discover the nearly bottomless pit of despair within our souls. It's a gift, for it leads us into the deepest reservoir of love in our Papa God's heart.
All of us experience these dark pits to some degree – it's part of the human condition. We try our hardest to fill these holes with whatever we can find to soothe the ache: work, success, achievements, relationships, sex, food, entertainment, spiritual success, etc. If you are exposed to Christianity, you may have been told that "accepting Christ and being born again" will fill that hole and make your life meaningful and whole. That's not necessarily true.
As a woman who has been a pastor, a full-time deliverance minister, and a prayer coordinator in charge of 9 Midwestern states for a large international ministry, I have listened as pastor and church leaders have bared their hearts, and most of them are deep in sin territory, hurting badly.
The man you see in the pulpit is frequently not real. Unless they have plunged the depths of their own brokenness, it's most likely they are living a cover life in public.
I know, because I was a full-time inner healing and deliverance minister specializing in listening to the confessions of Christian leaders. Nearly half of our Christian pastors report being addicted to porn, for example. Christians have a slightly higher divorce rate. Christian homes are just as broken as non-Christian homes. That's the reality we all live in.
This is a cross-denominational disease affecting one hundred percent of us. We can't point our fingers at the Catholic priests molesting children or at the TV evangelists divorcing their wives and marrying the nanny. No, there's a beast in our own souls… no matter how "good" we are! And it's a dragon only we can slay.
Getting naked before God and man slays the dragon.
I needed salvation from sin more than anyone else. The dragons of pride, self-righteousness, fear, self-loathing, control, and so much more had to be wrestled and defeated. Sanctification is hardest for those of us who have been "goody-two-shoes."
Feeling uncomfortable in our skin is a symptom of feeling separated from God (Love).
Being comfortable in our own skin is a sign of holiness, being FULL of God.
The whole entire system is cloaked in darkness when our leaders and people live cover lives. We have all struggled with shame, my dear reader… and some of us have beaten it. We can live in peace and joy in a world where fear does not plague us.
It's a process, a journey… one that I call, "On the Way Home".
My goal is to take as many hurting women as I can on a journey deep into the Father's heart, a place where widows are transformed into brides and orphans receive a family and a home.
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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