I’m CSPC Associate Director of Counseling Ministry Stewart Scott, and this is how I’m living deeply.
I grew up in a pretty hard environment, pretty abusive home, experienced some pretty hard things. I saw, and broke up, a lot of domestic violence and experienced sexual abuse outside of my home. It was like this until I was a teenager, and I was involved in sports so much that I was never at home- I made sure of that. It wasn’t until I got into college and was at a friend’s house that I could even start to think through my upbringing. Watching the dynamic between my friend’s parents -how gracious and loving it was- I was like, ‘Is this normal?’ They were like, ‘Yeah. What do you mean ‘Is this normal?’’ That was when I kind of began to put two and two together. But I had a long way to go. Fast forward a few years: I was in the Army (I enlisted after college) and newly married. If you were to be a fly on the wall in my home, you would have seen my anger -a whole lot of anger- which was most often directed at my wife; to the degree I don’t think our marriage would have survived if my behavior persisted. It was during a heated argument with her that God got my attention and gave me pause. I can’t even remember what we were arguing about. She was on one side of the bed, and I was on the other. She looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ She had every right to say that- I was overheated to the point I was out of bounds. I was ashamed of my own behavior, finally recognizing I had serious unresolved issues and hopeless that I would ever change. I didn’t know what to do. Not long after, in 2017, the Lord began to answer my prayers for healing, but not in the way I expected. At this point, I had served my enlistment, left the Army, and was working as an executive pastor at our church in North Carolina. We were faced with the heartbreaking task of having to remove one of our pastors. It was messy and deeply painful for our church and family. But true to His character, the Lord didn’t waste this hardship and began to use it for His redemptive purposes.
Because of the turmoil that everyone on staff at our church experienced, we were all encouraged to seek out counsel. I was put in touch with a counselor who was a very kind Christian man. I started with an intensive (multi-hour, multi-day session) with the expectation that it would be helpful- but primarily just through discussion of the current difficulty at hand. However, as we began to talk about what was most challenging, the theme of feeling powerless and helpless continued to come to the surface. It was such a familiar narrative. He helped me to understand that the reason this particular event was so incredibly disruptive for me was because it stirred up the very feelings I had struggled with my entire life. Loneliness. Shame. Fear. Anxiety. Inadequacy. Powerlessness. Helplessness. Feelings I worked hard to cover up so that no one would see. No one would have guessed that these things were at my core, because what most people saw was a tough, big guy. It was easier to project toughness and attempt to prevent anyone from getting close than to risk somebody really knowing me and then rejecting me. You risk love, you risk rejection. I was trying to hide my feelings of helplessness in so many different ways, but I couldn’t hide it from the counselor. For the first time, all the junk, brokenness, sin and shame that was in my heart came barreling out. Both the pain I had endured and the pain that I caused. I was like, ‘Here, this is me.’ But he didn’t say, ‘Get out of here, you evil man’ like I thought he would. He said, ‘Tell me more. That sounds really hard.’ He gave me a place to begin to be honest, to say, ‘This is not okay, but we can work to change it.’ I was so surprised by his kindness.
Largely through counseling, God has shown me He’s not angry, distant, or abusive. He’s kind, gentle, and invites us to come to Him repeatedly as children. And He never gets tired of that or frustrated with it. He calls us to obedience and offers grace when we fail. Ever since I started getting honest about my struggles, Jesus has really been sending people to help me along the way. I don’t have a ten-step process of how this happens or how God has done it, but He’s softened my heart and removed a lot of my need to prove myself, pretend and perform. Repentance is a gift. He’s impressed on me, ‘I created you uniquely and wonderfully, and I’m really proud of you, and I want you to live out of that. And when you don’t, I want you to bring that to me, and I want you to tell your community about it, because you still are my child.’ And so, I began to feel drawn to discipling people through counseling because of how it had affected me. I sensed Him calling me to something greater, like, ‘Hey, get your eyes up off yourself. Look to others, serve others, meet others in the way that I have met you and just see what happens.’ That was why Lindsay and I left the church I’d been serving to pursue a counseling degree at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Florida. During my time there, as we thought about where God might lead next, Knoxville kept coming up on our radar. (Lindsay is from TN and had gone to school at UT, but it was a variety of factors that had us thinking Knoxville; long story for another time.) One day in 2021, I was in our library there at RTS, and a friend came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I heard you might be moving to Knoxville, and I think you should consider Cedar Springs.’ I remember looking up CSPC’s website from there and really began to fall in love. We took a vision trip to Knoxville that fall and visited CSPC. In my personal devotions, the Lord had me in the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount. Wouldn’t you know, that Sunday, CSPC was starting a short series in the Sermon on the Mount?! I just remember losing it right there. We moved to Knoxville and started attending CSPC in 2022 while I worked full-time for Ebenezer Counseling Services.
What has become abundantly clear to me is that we aren’t meant to live in this broken world alone. We belong together in community. I tried almost my whole life to grit my teeth and do it myself and I just can’t. We need the Holy Spirit to work in us and we need one another to walk with us. We need forgiveness and we need to forgive. The local church is designed to be a gift to us, and I have always felt like the Lord might call me back into ministry in a local body. So, when Summers McMurray presented that opportunity to me late last year –to join the staff at CSPC – I got emotional. I love being on a team and knowing I’m not alone. And I love that in the counseling ministry, I get to be a part of a team that invites other people to know that they aren’t alone either. And that there are other people here who want to know you and know your story, too. People who want to get coffee with you and pray with you. And who might need you to do the same for them at some point, too. CSPC is a place where people can finally step out and confess their need for help. I am so grateful that the Lord has led me and my family here. We couldn’t be happier. There is so much more to the story- so much more to how God has redeemed brokenness from my past and present. And for anyone who would love to talk, in our offices at CSPC or out over coffee, reach out to me. I’d love to hear your story.