Those who know me well, know that I am not much of a reader. That said, I am intentionally reading more especially given that I am a budding author. What author doesn’t read?
Last July I set out to read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. The book was given to me several years ago by my grandparents, but it landed where all books land – on the shelf of forgottenness. At the same time I signed up for a Kingdom Writer’s Conference in San Diego, and Paul Young was one of the speakers. Made sense to read the book; I am so glad I did!
In case you are living under a rock, or just choosing not to be connected to the world right now, The Shack is big news because the movie version released this past weekend. And the movie is just as controversial as the book.
Megan, is this an endorsement? Absolutely! However, I do want to give a couple of disclaimers. First and foremost, The Shack is Christian fiction. It is not a true story, nor does it claim to be a book of theology. There are things in the book that are not in the Bible. Why would they be? It’s fiction. But the underlying message of the book, in my opinion, is very Biblical. The themes of mercy, grace, forgiveness, understanding, and love are all throughout the old and new testaments. Yes, the Bible does have judgment and punishment, and I believe God is the only Judge we will all stand before. That said, I do not believe God wants us to live under a cloud of unworthiness and despair.
The Shack paints a picture of God Who will go to great lengths to demonstrate His love for His children, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. In turn, He desires us to love Him freely and to experience true freedom in Him while roaming planet Earth.
TheShackBook.com‘s latest blog discusses all the reasons Christians are afraid of The Shack. I invite you to read Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Shack? The Shack collaborator Wayne Jacobsen does a great job of dispelling some of the misgivings about the book and subsequently the movie.
WHAT IT MEANS TO ME
For me, the movie is about our Heavenly Father’s undying, unyielding love for us. When we do not understand the why’s of life and feel like screaming at God, God takes it, and still, loves us through it all. It is a message of grace. It is a message of forgiveness. It is a message of hope.
The Shack is an interesting take on how God, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit are perceived. They are real and not just figments of the imagination. As a believer my entire life, God has always been Someone out of reach, not so personal. I knew He cared, I knew He was watching after me, but I never understood how close He really was/is. After reading The Shack, I bawled my eyes out because for the first time in my 39 years I saw and understood God in a more real, more tangible way. He became personal – not just a deity sitting on a throne somewhere up in the clouds. He also is a Master of details, and EVERYTHING about my life matters to Him. Everyone’s life matters to Him. YOU matter to Him.
All throughout the book is a down-to-earth dialog between the main character Mack and Jesus, as well as between Mack and God who is also known as Papa. The following conversation between Mack and Jesus strikes me every time:
“I don’t have an agenda here, Mack. Just the opposite,” Jesus interjected. “I came to give you Life to the fullest. My life.” Mack was still straining to understand. “The simplicity and purity of enjoying a growing friendship?”
“Uh, got it!”
“If you try to live this without me, without the ongoing dialogue of us sharing this journey together, it will be like trying to walk on water by yourself. You can’t! And when you try, however well-intentioned, you’re going to sink.” Knowing full well the answer, Jesus asked, “Have you ever tried to save someone who was drowning?… It’s extremely hard to rescue someone unless they are willing to trust you.”
“Yes, it sure is.”
“That’s all I ask of you. When you start to sink, let me rescue you.”
It seemed like a simple request, but Mack was used to being the lifeguard, not the one drowning. “Jesus, I’m not sure I know how to…”
“Let me show you. Just keep giving me the little bit you have, and together we’ll watch it grow.”
SPOILER: At one point Mack asks God if his little girl had to die for him to change. The response from God is incredible:
“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedy doesn’t mean that I orchestrate the tragedy. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions of me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering, you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
The movie just brings the book to life in such a touching way. It was excellently cast, and the characters embodied the pain, anger, hope, joy, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love; everything I experienced when I first read the words.
I will never be the same after reading The Shack – it was that profound. When it comes to my faith, I often struggle to articulate how I feel, what I know, or believe to be true. This book expresses everything that is in my heart. It embodies the relationship I desire with my Creator; a relationship that is real, not complicated, not full of religion just full of love and acceptance. The book also best portrays what I want others to know about Christ – He loves you and wants nothing more than to walk alongside you on the road of life.
How God in the book loves people – loves me – is how I genuinely desire to love people, especially women. I know that my book Discovering Me will never be the incredible masterpiece The Shack is, but if my story can be a vehicle to give others hope, then I couldn’t possibly ask for more.
- If you have read The Shack, or seen the movie, how did you feel when you walked away?
- If you haven’t read The Shack or haven’t seen the movie, why not? Simply not interested or perhaps afraid to feel something? Sensing God maybe?
- As a believer in Jesus Christ or as a non-believer, what is your perception of God?
- Can you imagine having an in-person conversation with Jesus as candid as Mack did in the book? How would that change things for you?
BUT WHY ME?
If you see God as someone Who punishes and is mad at you, then I encourage you to engage with The Shack and begin to see God in a new light. I have never believed that God punishes me, but I have wondered why He would put up with me. I think this excerpt in the book best illustrates the truth about how God sees you, sees me:
“But why me? I mean why Mackenzie Allen Phillips? Why do you love someone who is such a screw-up? After all the things I have felt in my heart toward you and all the accusations I made, why would you even bother to keep trying to get through to me?”
“Because that is what love does,” answered Papa. “Remember, Mackenzie, I don’t wonder what you will do or what choices you will make. I already know. Let’s say, for example, I am trying to teach you how not to hide inside of lies, hypothetically of course,” she said with a wink. “And let’s say that I know it will take you forty-seven situations and events before you will actually hear me – that is, before you will hear clearly enough to agree with me and change. So when you don’t hear me the first time, I’m not frustrated or disappointed, I’m thrilled. Only forty-six more times to go. And that first time will be a building block to construct a bridge of healing that one day – that today – you will walk across.”
Amen! In some things, God is waiting for me to get to the to a-ha moment, but that’s what is key… He is waiting, and He will always wait for us. This is part of discovering the truth about WHO you are, and for Who you were created. Could anything be more beautiful?
*Italicized excerpts quoted from the book The Shack, written by Wm. Paul Young in collaboration with Wayne Jacobsen and Paul Cummings.