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Susie & Paul Luchsinger recount healing from abusive marriage

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following two articles focus on the topic
of overcoming abusive marriages.

ATOKA, Okla. (BP)–Susie Luchsinger is doing what she
enjoys most.
The words, “There’s nothing I like better than singing
about Jesus,” flow from the songstress’ lips. Winner of
Entertainer of the Year and Christian Country Artist of the
Year awards in Christian country music, Luchsinger makes
nearly 100 appearances a year singing gospel songs and
giving her testimony along with her rodeo-star husband,
It’s been only in about the last three years, however,
that their lives have been something they wanted to talk
about. The happy-appearing Luchsingers — the perfect couple
in public — were harboring a secret life of mental and
physical abuse.
The couple tell their story in a recently released
book, “A Tender Road Home,” published by the Southern
Baptist Sunday School Board’s Broadman & Holman publishers.
About six months after their marriage in November 1981,
Susie, an Oklahoma native, saw a side of Paul that seemed to
appear out of the blue.
“At first Paul began venting his anger by simply
smashing things around the house,” Susie recalled, “but
before long, he moved to grabbing me and shoving me to the
floor, kicking me in the rear and utterly humiliating me by
his demeaning words and actions.”
Paul said he thought his anger was just “the way I am.
I thought what I was doing was normal because it’s the way I
grew up.”
Susie said she was puzzled by Paul’s abusiveness
because she knew he desired a good marriage and happy family
“He did not want to treat his wife like that,” she
Paul and Susie met in 1980 at a party following the
National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City where country
entertainer Reba McEntire — Susie’s sister — sang the
national anthem. At the time, Susie, an Oklahoma State
University graduate, was working for an oil lease company in
Oklahoma City and Paul traveled with the rodeo circuit.
Paul and Susie began dating, but saw each other only 11
or 12 times during the next year.
“Whenever possible, Paul visited me in Oklahoma City,”
Susie said. “He was always a perfect gentleman and was so
much fun to be with. I could feel myself doing something I
vowed I would never do — fall in love with a cowboy.”
Looking back, Susie said it is easy to see how
artificial their courtship was.
“We didn’t become friends by sharing ideas, thoughts,
feelings and emotions,” she said. “We moved quickly to a
‘semi-married’ mode, thinking, talking and planning to get
married, without really taking the time to get to know each
other on a deeper level.”
The lack of depth in the relationship, she said, would
come back to haunt them.
A Christian since age 12, Susie said she realized “I
had drifted further and further away from the Lord. A man I
met at the oil lease company where I was working realized I
wasn’t doing well spiritually and encouraged me in the
renewal of my spiritual life.
“One night, I told the Lord I felt so empty and asked
him, ‘If you are there, would you show me your love.’
Instantly I felt a warm sensation enveloping my body. With
one touch from God, everything looked brighter and better.”
Paul, who was raised a Catholic, said he accepted
Christ after a 300-mile trip with rodeo competitor Jim Bode
“We drove 300 miles that night, and Jim Bode talked
about Jesus almost every mile of the way,” Paul recounted.
“He asked me if I wanted to pray. We knelt and I prayed
sincerely and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life. I had
done something right for the first time in my life. There
was something different in my heart. I just knew.”
Paul acknowledged his Christian life at that time was
“When I would do well and win at my rodeoing, I’d often
get away from God, get into my pride and then crash,” Paul
said. “Then I would come crawling back to God and repent and
do well for three or four months before slipping and going
back on a bad binge of some sort.”
Shortly before Paul and Susie married, Susie began
traveling with Reba, singing backup with her and acting as
her traveling companion.
“I performed on stage with Reba for nearly two years,”
Susie said. “It was a tremendous time for me being with my
sister, doing the shows and meeting all the great people.”
Paul visited Susie, who was living with Reba and her
husband, Charlie Battles, as often as he could. They married
Nov. 27, 1981, and Susie pursued her singing career with
Reba, while Paul continued traveling the rodeo circuit.
Susie said during the early months of their marriage
when they were together, they basked in their newlywed bliss
and did all sorts of simple things together.
“I wanted to please Paul and be the best wife I could
be,” Susie said. “I was a classic picture of ‘Susie
Homemaker.’ I spent my days at home cooking giant meals for
Paul, sewing his shirts and doing all the other things that
went along with being a housewife. And I loved it!”
She said several months into their marriage, she began
to notice a change in Paul’s attitude.
“We argued over anything, silly things, nothing,” she
One night changed the tenor of their relationship.
Susie said Paul grabbed the bed covers with her in them
and started jerking them all around the bed, “tossing me
back and forth, rolling me over and over like a mummy
wrapped in grave clothes. Finally in a fit of rage, he
pulled the covers and the sheets — and me in them — right
off the bed.”
That’s just one of the many incidents that would put a
strain on their marriage over the next years, through the
birth of their three children and through their ministry of
gospel singing and preaching.
“People ask me why I stayed in the marriage,” Susie
said. “I believed in commitment and I believed my children
needed their father. I knew Paul’s heart was to have a good
marriage and not have this happen in our relationship.”
Susie emphasized there wasn’t always the abuse.
“A lot of people get the picture that he abused me
every day, and every day was awful. That wasn’t the truth.
We still had good days which encouraged me to stay in our
The abuse continued more than 10 years. After each
fight, Paul, truly sorry for his actions, would plead with
Susie to forgive him. She always did.
In the meantime, the couple was on the road nearly
every weekend, speaking and singing about the Lord.
“We ministered wherever there was an opportunity — at
rodeos, state and county fairs, churches, school and civic
group functions,” Susie said.
It was at a professional athletes outreach meeting in
1994 that the tide began to turn for the Luchsingers’
marriage problems. Ken Hutcherson, a former professional
football defensive linebacker and now pastor of a church in
Kirkland, Wash., spoke about studying the Bible. Agreeing to
counsel the couple after they told him of their problems,
Ken told Paul, “If you ever hit that woman again, I will
come wherever you are and let you know how it feels.”
Paul said he learned how to be accountable to someone
else, how to be accountable to himself and, most
importantly, how to study God’s Word. “I realized how
practical God’s Word is and applicable to everyday life,” he
said. “There’s a big difference in reading the Bible and
really studying and meditating on it like your life depends
on it, which it does.
“When I began to know and understand God, wisdom came
from studying the Scriptures which showed me my sin, which
was an expression of inappropriate behavior.”
Paul said he learned it is OK to be angry, but his
problem was in expressing it inappropriately.
“The abuse was the first layer,” Paul explained. “The
second layer was the screaming and hollering. You can’t get
to the hitting stage unless you get to the screaming stage.
If you can’t get to the screaming stage, you aren’t going to
get to the hitting stage.
“It’s a process, so if I can eliminate the first two
steps, I’ll never get to the hitting stage. I can’t say I’m
never going to do it again, but recognizing I do have that
capability, I have to stay under control of the Holy Spirit,
stay in God’s Word and keep my focus on him.”
The Luchsinger’s book, “A Tender Road Home,” can be
purchased in Baptist Book Stores, Lifeway Christian Stores
and other Christian bookstores.

    About the Author

  • Dana Williamson