The name of Scott Smith’s blog, Banished from Eden, offers clues to his spiritual journey. Raised in a “religious” family where abuse was common and the “prosperity gospel” held sway, Smith was already skeptical of religion; the death of his mother-in-law, who had provided the kindness and unconditional love his own family had not, set him on a path of questioning and defiance that saw him renouncing Christianity for a decade.
But then a series of events—too numerous to be coincidental, he says—caused him to be “radically saved.” Today, through his blog and other social media efforts, Smith draws upon his own spiritual journey and struggles with depression to help men battling depression and addiction find strength, restoration, and freedom through the Lord.
A self-described “bootstrap kind of guy” who says “everybody needs a warm glass of ‘suck it up’ from time to time,” Smith’s call to action is stark, even confrontational (“Biblical masculinity requires men to be assertive, proactive and aggressive,” the front page of his website reads). But by confronting apathy and inertia, he says men can discover the true path God has laid out for them—one that will make them leaders in a church, and world, crying out for direction and purpose.
Was there an “a-ha moment” that brought you back to the church?
Honestly, there were several, and those things began to add up. Some of these signs you can write off as, “Wow, that’s quite a coincidence,” but after about nine of those you’re like, “So we’re past mathematical probability here.”
For example, my wife and I were going to go visit a marriage counselor, and in the midst of this counseling, I realized that I wasn’t able to forgive myself. I had been carrying a lot of unforgiveness toward myself, but in the next moment I forgave my mother for all these past abuses—like, truly and utterly forgave her in an instant.
My grandmother passed away about a month later, and I saw my mom for the first time in many years. She did not look well, she fell ill at the visitation, and told me she was leaving. I said, “Hey, let me know if there’s anything I can bring to you—I love you, so just let me know what you need.” Then the next day, she was too sick to make it to the graveside service, so I called to check on her—I said, “Mom, I love you, and if you need anything let me know.” I hadn’t told my mother I loved her in 15 years, and here I’d said it two times inside of 24 hours. Two weeks later I got a call from her husband that she’d passed away.
I just remember this feeling that my soul had been spared anger and bitterness and resentment, and that this timing was very specific. Like it had been planned that I was going to be able to forgive her, and that the last memory she would have of me, and me of her, was telling her I loved her multiple times.
Another example is there was a lady at my wife’s church who had such an uncanny resemblance to my mother-in-law—not just the way she looked but the way she spoke, even her handwriting was exactly the same. She and I naturally had a bond, and I came to find out she had two sons and one of them passed away abruptly at 25, but he would’ve been the same age as me. It’s like God brought us together to fill those needs for us. One impossible thing after another, leading up to my radical conversion.
With that experience in mind, what does restoration mean to you?
A lot of times, when we say restoration, we’re talking about restoring things to their old state. But when I refer to restoration, I’m referring to restoring what Christ has called us to be—it’s something we have not been. “Restoration” is almost the wrong word, but that’s how I use it.
What’s the message you hope to bring to men who are struggling with things like depression and addiction?
A while back I was in a disagreement with my wife, and she said, “For the last however long, you’ve just had this big chip on your shoulder about things—you’re such an extrovert, but you’ve been acting completely introverted for a year now.” It caused me to pause. She asked, “Do you think you’re depressed?” I said no—I think of depression as the sky’s falling, I can’t get out of bed, life’s not worth living, et cetera. But when I looked it up, I found 10 different ways depression manifests itself in men specifically, and I was seven or eight of them. I had no idea that these were signs of depression. I began to see a counselor, and I have learned so much. I think God placed this particular man in my life, because he has said some words that I needed to hear. Things like, “Depression has to be fought. You gotta fight that.” And I said, “Doc, if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s fight.”
I’m not opposed to medication, but I think we medicate straight out, and when we do that, are we really addressing the root cause, or are we just medicating the symptoms? I’m a big proponent of addressing the root cause. I know God has given us brains, and he has given us people, and we need to take advantage of receiving counsel from both of those.
It seems like men, in particular, are inclined to try to excuse away depression as something else. We’re supposed to be these figures of strength and authority in our households, at our jobs, and we’re never supposed to let on that anything’s gotten to us. So when we’re dealing with real depression, we compartmentalize it or tell ourselves “I just need to work harder” or something like that.
I totally agree, particularly for those of us who have had abusive backgrounds. I think there are some good things that come from compartmentalization and some bad things. I think one of the good things is I am accepting of the fact that I am not in control of this life, and I’m really good about accepting things and moving on. The downside is I’m really good at moving on from them without really dealing with them fully.
I’m a bootstrap kind of guy—I do think everybody needs a warm glass of “suck it up”—but at the same time I think I struggle with the weight of the responsibility I am made to carry. There have been times when I’ve put my hand up and said, “Hey, I need help here,” and people have not helped. And I don’t know where you go from that. We keep wanting men to put their hands up and ask for help, but if they do and no one’s helping them, that just makes it worse.
One of the things I’ve realized is that I have been beating myself up over getting distracted by depression. I end up feeling like I should be doing all these other things, I’ve wasted all this time being depressed. My counselor said, “Hey, when you’re thinking that way, you’re telling yourself every day that you’re a failure—that you have failed because you should have been doing these other things. You need to change the way you see that.” He called that cognitive psychology—how you speak is tied to emotions. It’s a worldly take on a Biblical truth: As Matthew 12:34 says, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
I’ve started thinking in terms of, “I would’ve preferred to have gotten these other things done.” I’ll catch myself thinking, “Man, I shouldn’t have eaten that donut,” and I change that to “I would’ve preferred to have eaten a little healthier—I’ll do better moving forward.” There’s a weight that’s lifted, a pressure that’s released. It’s new to me, but it’s making a difference.
I was going through a period where I was like, “What different is it going to make”…
Oh, man, that’s like the mantra of the depressed!
It is! But something snapped me out of it. I got offered tickets to a college football game. My son plays football, and that’s all he talks about. I said, “I don’t know if I want to go, I don’t know if I want to deal with all the traffic and the blah blah blah.” My son just about lost his mind. He was jumping up and down saying, “DAD, we have to go!” And we went, and it was the greatest day of his entire life, which means it was one of the greatest days of mine.
Same thing with this concert I’d bought tickets to take my girls to, their first one. My wife said “Just go!”, and my girls and I had the best time. I looked back over my life and had to face the truth—“Man, I have really robbed myself of some things.” I realized I needed to do what I enjoyed. Now, every day I do something that I may not feel like doing at first, but when I do it, I enjoy it most of the time. I just have to clear my head and be in the moment.
Why did you choose the name “Banished from Eden” for your blog?
It’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek reference to my life as an atheist, but of course God always gets the last laugh—Banished from Eden, but I returned for the Christian fight. So when I got saved, “return to the fight” became my new tagline.
What inspired you to start it?
After the whole breakthrough of understanding I needed to forgive myself, I was immediately able to forgive everyone else. And in the next moment, I realized the power of being restored as a person. To being restored to fullness and wholeness, a place of healing. And I wanted that for other men, I wanted them to be free. I hadn’t used the word “passion” in a while, but this ember that was still burning somewhere and is catching fire again. It’s really because of God’s timing and his grace.
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