On Wings as Eagles

We Shall Overcome

Part One of "Secret Heroes"  Part Two of "Secret Heroes"  Part Three of "Secret Heroes"

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

One of my church leaders threatened to rape me. A second leader claimed he was going to torture me with knives, beginning with my feet and working up. In cohoots, my husband threatened to take piano wire and slice off my breasts. It was church as usual, once you expose illegal and immoral activities, through appropriate channels

Two of my friends died "accidentally", after speaking up.

I moved out of state, trying to forgive and forget it all. But that wasn't the end of it. As it turns out, it was about to get much worse. My marriage counselors told me they had never met a man as dangerous as my husband, and that I was the most abused wife they had yet counseled. Not quite the legacy you want to leave for your kids… but anyway… post-traumatic stress.

I was barely crawling along, and it was all I could do to keep moving forward.

In early 2012 when I was homeless, God sent some unusual heroes to teach me some unforgettable lessons about overcoming.They said they specialized in helping people through post-traumatic stress. They were also a family that worshiped in the Lakota-Sioux tradition and they adopted me into their family.

And really, for a survivor of sociopathic abuse, this is exactly what she needs! 

Christians usually have a hard time accepting and embracing other Christians let alone people of different skin color and worship expressions. And I admit, it was really stretching me out of my spiritual skin. But the more I learned, the more I discovered we have a lot more similarities than we have differences.

My first lesson is that we are NEVER ALONE!

We are all interconnected. We are One in our Creator. So when the Lakota enter the prayer house, they say out loud, "And all my relations" before they sit down. Well, that's the English way of saying it. In other words, whatever we do, say, or think affects all of our family and friends.

If we submit to evil, as I was once taught to do as a Christian wife in the name of "submit to your husband", we open the gate for evil to invade our homes.

The Lakota taught me that we are never alone, and that everything that we do and say has a ripple effect to the whole world. Hmm… that means this little story is changing the world, in some little microscopic way, beginning in my own heart. Your story, too, will have the same ripple effects!

We create our atmosphere with love, belief, joy, or the opposites of fear, unbelief, and worries. Our personal atmosphere affects the collective atmosphere of our towns, cities, states or provinces, and countries.

My second lesson is that we are ALL UNIQUE!

Jacob, the elder of the family, helped me to understand the Lakota way, and he said I was not allowed to use a voice recorder! He told me that he was allowing the Creator to use him to teach me, but that the teaching was custom-designed for me alone, in that particular moment in Time.

"Mass teaching" or big auditoriums and schools is not the primary Lakota way. Mentoring is one-on-one because each person is unique. He said it wasn't important that I remember everything he taught, because it was spirit-to-spirit teaching and the parts of it that were needed would penetrate my spirit, for this moment in time. If I needed more later on, there would always be more.

I think I know why Indians in my community don't place high value on traditional academic teaching, although they do push themselves to complete our academic programs.

When I think about all the mass education I received beginning in public school and through all the Christian conferences, seminars, and ministry schools… I cannot but agree that relationships are God's central focus, and you can't mass-mentor effectively… and mentoring is the most effective form of teaching!

Jesus was always taking his disciples apart, spending the most time with the three, and then the twelve… not the crowds. In fact, he tried to avoid crowds.

My heart was held gently and carefully under their kind mentoring. They taught me to think for myself and empowered me to believe in God's Spirit living and moving within me.

My third lesson is that LIFE IS FOR SHARING!

Jacob taught me that all are welcome, at least once, in the home of the Lakota. Hospitality is taught in every home. If you make roast beef for dinner and friends or strangers unexpectedly show up, you invite them to eat with you. Your roast beef becomes stew. If more friends or strangers show up, then the stew becomes soup. And you just keep adding water, if needed. Same with beds. No one is much concerned about appearances or tidiness. It's the dance of love that matters… the worship, the teaching, the fellowship.

How many opportunities for real relationship building have I missed due to being overly concerned about the state of my house, the fullness of my pantry, or the quality of my cooking? Image versus open heart. 

My fourth lesson is that CHARITY MUST BE GIVEN IN THE CONTEXT OF HONOR!

The Lakota honor their elders. When a person is too feeble to work and to provide for themselves, the Lakota will care for their elder in creative ways, so as to preserve their dignity and to honor them. For example, Jacob taught me that if you see an elder who may not have enough fuel for their wood stove, you knock on the door with an apology. It may sound something like, "Grandmother, I've been so foolish today. I cut too much wood and I don't have enough room to store this. Will you please take some of the load for me?" Grandmother smiles and says thank you. She knows it's not the truth, but it's the acceptable way to give and receive charity and she is grateful.

How many times have I witnessed people brought up to the altar of a church as we line up to squeeze cash into their hands. Or we throw cash into an offering plate, trusting that it will get to the needy person. This alternative way of focusing on honor in charity sounds like a needed ingredient in the recipe for overcoming the evils of this world, including poverty.

My fifth lesson is that WHAT YOU NEED WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU ON THE PATH AS YOU GO AND DO WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!

The Lakota trust in their Provider. They believe that if you are busy doing what He wants, then he will cause your provision to appear along your path, as you are going and doing His will. They do not believe in hoarding or storing up provisions.

This sounds like what Jesus taught us in Matthew 6… except that most of us don't heed the words of Christ in Matthew 5-7 – the best sermon on earth.

My sixth lesson is that WOMEN ARE VERY SPECIAL and to be cherished!

The Lakota honor their women, for women carry and bring forth life. Their flesh tears, at birth, and in great pain and self-sacrifice they produce children from their bodies. The men go through special ceremonies of tearing flesh during the Sun Dance because it's their way of being part of the "tree of life". They recognize the need for some level of pain and self-sacrifice. Since they can't give birth, they attempt to fill the deficit of suffering by tearing their flesh, while offering up prayers for the life of their people.

Everyone listens to the Grandmothers. Grandmothers are at the top of the command chain! In my Christian world, women are at the bottom. It's slowly changing, but in my background, women were most definitely second-class citizens. Women, historically, have been the most exploited and abused in most cultures, including the United States.

My seventh lesson is that LIFE IS ALL ABOUT CIRCLES!

I've always been puzzled about squares and boxes. We divide our land into squares. We call them states and cities and suburbs and subdivisions and real estate. We build our squares houses and fence our yards. Our houses have square rooms. We live by hierarchy. We have those on top, those under us, and those on our level. Everything divided, separate, in its place.

The Lakota believe we are all connected. First, there is the nuclear family. Then the extended family. Then the clan. Then the tribe and the nation. Circles!

How nice to find the circle people when you've been trying to fit into squares and feeling like a misfit!

Okay… so it's getting late and I must finish this article and get to bed. There are a lot more lessons. But you know what? All of this, so far, that the Lakota taught me is straight from the heart of God. I'm not saying I agree with everything I heard… and I'm not saying that all Lakota live according to their beliefs… but I love these truths!

Why do we fear people of different skin color? Why do we judge someone who wants to worship with paint on their face?

Maybe we can all learn from the Lakota how to look below the surface. How to look beyond the natural. How to look underneath clothing and hair and skin color and language.

Today I was out walking and a perfect feather lay undisturbed in the road. I picked it up and snapped a picture, sending it to Bodie, who confirmed it was a hawk's feather.

Feathers are very important to the Lakota. The winged creatures know how to FLY!

To me, it's a reminder for me to FLY! We fly as we look beyond the natural, at the real world – what the Lakota call lthe Spirit World. We look beyond outward appearances to matters of the heart. We look beyond our natural circumstances to what is causing those circumstances. We look beyond ourselves, to our Creator, and He causes us to FLY!

Isaiah 40:31: "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

A dream from many years ago was to help me to understand why the Lakota took me in and adopted me.

The dream: I was taken into a War Room, where a general commanded me to memorize certain facts regarding the future. A tall, lanky man then came to me, putting his hands over my eyes. My vision had been snowy, like the static on an old television with a bad signal but as this man prayed my eyesight became sharp and clear.

I was sent out with these instructions: "People you thought were your friends will betray you. And people you thought were not your friends, will befriend you." I saw a long – very long – list of well known local Christian leaders. They were on my list of betrayers. I remember closely examining the list and disbelieving what I saw. Surely not!

Suddenly a hoard of demons descended upon me and it was clearly a losing battle. No one could survive such heavy artillery. But yet I did, somehow. The key was flying. I had the power to fly! The demons were bound to the earth's surface, so once I was airborne they could not touch me.

It's time for us to fly, and if we can't fly, we can run… and if we can't run, we can crawl, but whatever we do, we'll keep moving forward, as Martin Luther King Jr once spoke.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

What does flying look like to you? To soar on wings as eagles, to overcome this world's wicked systems, what does that look like, to you? For me, it means telling my story. Confronting the darkness, exposing it, and declaring God's Word into my situations. 

It means walking in these simple truths… and imagining what could happen if we all lived Matthew 5-7, 1 Corinthians 13, and Ezekiel 34 – which, in essence, is what the Lakota folks taught me.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Revelation 12:11

My story is my testimony… of how God reached in and rescued me, even from Christianity gone bad. WE SHALL OVERCOME by the BLOOD of Jesus and all the martyrs, including our own suffering… and the WORD of our TESTIMONY! Your testimony has power to help others overcome, even as you are overcoming!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have reposted this story in honor of Jacob, who adopted me into his family. Jacob died yesterday flying on his Harley with the wind in his face. It was an accident and his body was thrown from the machine into a canyon. I will never forget Jacob and his unique teaching, nor his cooking and how he graciously shared his home, his family, his faith, and his life. I know he's not really far away and that he is now free from the chronic pain he endured. But he is dearly missed right now, by his wife, family and friends all across the world. So this story is reposted in honor of a man who truly knew how to live, despite a life of chronic pain and suffering.

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With all my love,

Sue

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.
 

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Claudia August 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Great post on love, awareness,spirituality and healing. Your questions make me think deeper about looking beyond our skin color, language, style and preferences in life.  

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Sue Glashower August 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I commend you for putting yourself out there and sharing your story. I think that others will find encouragement and inspiration that healing is possible through Christ. I love Isaiah 40:31.

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Susan McKenzie August 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Thank you, Sue, for your encouraging words!

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Olga Hermans August 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I so agree with Matthew and Carolyn; I can see that you are touching many lives with your awesome testimony of your past and how you came out of it. I know a pastor here in Vancouver who is an American native and has a great church. They do things differently; God has made us all different to reach out to each other. I love it that they honor their women….and honor their men in a different way again.          

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Susan McKenzie August 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm

It’s for those who feel they have no voice that I write… thank you, dear Olga!

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Matthew Reed August 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

I am always amazed at the rawness with which you express yourself here, and how healing your transparency obviously is! 
The reminder to believe in God as our provider is profound to me. As I have launched my own business, in a challenging economy no less, I have had to constantly lean in on God, the Provider and I have not ever been disappointed!

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Carolyn Hughes August 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

I never ceased to be amazed at your story Susan. What I find incredible is that you were still open to healing through faith after everything that had been done to you by 'religious' people.
I love what you say about connecting with others and being open enough to look beyond the surface of what someone looks like. A great lesson. 
Thank you!

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