Elizabeth Scutchfield Interview

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Elizabeth Scutchfield made a memorable impression the first time I saw her in action. It was the summer of 2008, and she walked into a costume party dressed as an Olympic athlete. Then, she proceeded to behave like a total goofball. The party loved her.

From that moment, I knew she could be hilarious. Actually, I was convinced she didn’t have a serious bone in her body, but my opinion changed over time.

After knowing her for a few years now, I can confirm that her personality has a deep, reflective side that is just as pronounced as her funny side. In fact, friends have characterized her as being mostly serious and only sometimes silly.

What’s remarkable is the fact that whether you catch her in a silly mood or a solemn mood, she is always engaging. That’s the reason I decided to do a story on her this month.

When she arrived and settled in for our interview, my first question stemmed from a brief phone conversation we had.

The other day, I made a comment to you about the busy nature of your life…of all our lives, really. Do you think someday you will meet somebody who makes you say to yourself, “This person is worth slowing things down for”?

The day you said that, I thought: That was a word from the Lord. That is beautiful.

I mean it really is. “When will you slow down to let love into your life?” And that’s what I’m trying to learn. And to be perfectly honest, the person I’m meeting that’s making me slow down is myself.

So, at this point, I am purposefully trying to make time for things I enjoy, without ordering my life around always trying to connect with other people. Instead, I want to order my life a little bit more around trying to connect with myself and God.

And to the next point, loving yourself is the best gift you can give to anybody. When that other person does come along, I’ll be able to that much more give of myself if I take the time to love myself.

And I’ll throw this out there, because this was interesting: I went to a baby shower for my friend from college last weekend, and there was this little “Advice Tree”, where you take a leaf and write any advice you have for parenting or whatever.

So I was reading other people’s advice, and one of them was like, “Make sure to always spend quality time with your babies.” And one was like, “Don’t forget about your husband, because he is gonna feel neglected. So, you’re probably gonna need to make some time for him…” And I was like, “Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to your children.” Bam! Take that!

I think as women especially, your role in this world is to take care of everybody else. And there’s not a lot of permission to know that taking care of yourself is the best thing for yourself and everyone else, in the long run.

When you consider some of the great experiences and people you have encountered over the years, what experience has changed your outlook on life?

Right out of college, I didn’t know what I wanted, in terms of career. At that point, my dad’s opinion mattered greatly to me, and I knew he wanted me to go to graduate school. But I knew I would’ve had no idea why I was there. I would just be going in order to go and feel like I was just doing that next step, which is comfortable and easy because you know how to do the next step, but you don’t know how to do ambiguity a lot of times.

So, I love mountains, and I moved out to Colorado. What changed my perspective was that I was around all these people who had all these different definitions of success. And I had mostly been around people whose definition of success had been education or prestige – prestige associated with position more so than monetary achievement, in a lot of ways.

But then I meet an an amazing chef who teaches me to say the word gnocci, and loves cooking, and does it seasonally at different ranches. I don’t know if he had achieved full contentment with life, but he had found a sweet spot in seeing his gifts play out in the kitchen.

Or somebody else who was a wrangler, and he had never been to college. And he loves being with those horses. And that was what he needed to do for the rest of his life – to be with horses. He taught me how to keep those heels down and let it rip through the valleys of Colorado.

So, that really helped me see that there’s such a broader way to see the world, and achievement, and success, and happiness than in the world I came from.

I try to remind myself of that, though I’m an extremely achievement-oriented person. Sometimes it’s hard not to lose sight of that.

You have been exposed to a variety of church congregation styles. Probably, you’ve been exposed to some things that are not what people around you are used to and comfortable with. Is anything missing from the corporate worship and the community of fellowship you’re currently involved with?

Well, this is what comes to mind: I think we limit the ways in which God can speak to us. When I lived in Charleston, and I was part of an Episcopalian church – it was more on the charismatic side – and they really leaned into the whole idea of God revealing Himself through images. Either asking God for an image for yourself or asking for an image for somebody else you’re praying over.

I moved away from Charleston, and in my life here, I really didn’t know how to integrate some of the things I had learned about the way God relates and connects to His people. I didn’t have other people around me here who were pursuing that. And I’m just now getting back to where I’m asking God for images to reveal Himself to me.

So, in terms of something that’s missing from corporate worship, I think it’s allowing space for people to experience God in new ways. Just like each person has different learning styles, I think people can have different ways of connecting with God and understanding His character and love. I guess metaphors are big for me in how I understand God.

For example, this is a metaphor I feel like recently I’ve been given. I went to a meeting the other day, and I got there late for the meeting, which happens frequently. I’m a late person. It’s not good. I accept that. And I’m glad people have grace for me in this area.

Anyway, I get there, and there are no chairs left. Well, I see that there’s a kiddie table with kiddie chairs. A kiddie chair is there, so I go for it. I start sitting in this little kiddie chair, and this woman leans over and whispers, “You can’t sit there.”

I was thinking: I already don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I was late to this meeting, and now you’re drawing more attention. Don’t tell me that!

Of course I didn’t say that, but I was a little panicked. And she says, “I think there’s a chair across the room.”

So, I had to go across the room and pull a big person chair up to this table. And God was like, “Yep, that’s what I’m teaching you. It’s easy for you to step into a situation and say, ‘I’ll take care of this and grab whatever will temporarily ease my discomfort.”

But it’s often not a fit. And it’s a kiddie chair. And it’s uncomfortable. And while I am not drawing attention to myself, I’m awkwardly sitting in a kiddie chair for the whole meeting.

So, God’s like, “Why don’t you let Me and other people point you towards the big person chair.”

I was like, “Thanks, Lord, for that.” Because it’s harder for me to understand when it’s just in a text. But when it’s in an image, it’s easier to understand for me personally. So, I feel like there’s an opportunity to make more room for people to hear and experience God outside of just words.

I also think there’s a lot more room for addressing the emotional needs of the congregation. I think the church has become a church of reason in a lot of ways, and there’s this emphasis on the intellectualism of faith. Reason and apologetics and things like that. But people’s heart condition is often really struggling in a congregation, and the church doesn’t know how to facilitate working through that for people.

Restore Ministries, I think, is a great answer to that. It’s run out of the YMCA, and it’s really for anybody who is in a place of emotional pain to come and press into what God might want to do with that.

I also have experienced healing prayer through the congregation I was a part of in Charleston. I felt like that was a really beautiful way to invite Christ into the painful experiences of people’s lives and help them see that God is the one who is there – even when their parents weren’t there, or when they were getting abused, or when they were this, that, or the other – that God can liberate them from that.

So, I have seen a few instances where people are trying to address it, but generally I think the church has a hard time knowing what to do with the fact that people are broken in their congregation and allowing space for that. But let’s be honest, brokenness is messy and scary at times for all of us to encounter…I’m glad there is a God to put together the pieces.

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