A “Shack” Observed….
I am not one to jump on bandwagons.
I typically balk at what is popular, conventional, and expected.
Somewhere inside is still that stubborn teenage rebel who refuses to do something just because “everyone else is doing it.”
Proof: I refuse to read anything to do with Hobbits or teenage wizardry; I was never a feminist; I don’t ever buy the latest thing simply because it’s cool; I will never change my stance on Life issues, even though it is not a popular opinion.
I don’t read anything off of Oprah’s book club if I can help it – so I was not really that interested in reading this book I had been hearing about in random Christian circles.
But I am one to watch for “God Winks” in my life and the rebel inside has thankfully matured enough to not completely ignore those moments when the Holy Spirit seems to be nudging me.
Sometime before Christmas I had been reading several blogs and facebook pages that mentioned some book called, The Shack. To be completely honest, I had no clue whatsoever who wrote it, what it was about or why there was such a buzz about it in the Christian world. It suddenly began appearing everywhere: on my in-law’s kitchen table, a good friend was reading it and called to tell me about it. My curiousity was definitely piqued, however, as one night standing around the Athletic Association Bonfire, my good friend Jen was raving about this book she was reading….. yep, you guessed it, The Shack.
I read it.
I liked it.
Enough said? Not really. See there is this bizarre controversy over this book in various Christian circles. Critics claim that it is heretical in it’s theology and that William Young is simply pushing his churchless-religion agenda. Still others claim that The Shack is misguided in it’s attempt to “humanize” all three persons of the Trinity and in particular God the Father, or Papa.
On the other side of the aisle are those who claim that The Shack is new “revelation” of the Gospel, and that it is what true religion is all about.
I suppose I fall someplace in the middle of these two camps. I am not an extremist when it comes to most things, and in particular as my faith continues to mature, I find that there is less and less in life that is clearly black and white but more shades of grey.
The book is a work of fiction. It is meant to draw us in, and weave a story about something that is familiar with things that are not as familiar. It is not a biography of who the Triune God is. This is not to say that there aren’t captivating passages written about the persona of God that simply lift the heart and mind to the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
A popular blogger, “Internet Monk”, writes:
The Shack is a pilgrimage. It’s an allegorical account of one person’s history with God; a history deeply affected by the theme of “The Great Sadness.” The same could be said of many other books. Take C.S. Lewis’s “Grief Observed.” It’s the journey of grieving the death of a spouse. Along the way, God’s appearances are all over the map because the “pilgrim” is moving in his journey through “the Great Sadness.” Young is talking about a God who draws you out of your hiding place. If I understand Young’s own journey, this is the primary image in the book: A God who invites you and meets in the the very place where “the Great Sadness” entered your experience in a way that you understand the love that comes to you from the Trinity. This journey is what should capture the reader.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that art, whether literary, musical, or otherwise should be held to a certain standard for it’s contribution to what is true, beautiful, and good.
2500 The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos-which both the child and the scientist discover-“from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”290
Regardless of any theological flaws in the manuscript (of which there are several), the allegory is one of profound spiritual beauty in that it evokes within us a surge of worship for a God who comes to us exactly as we need Him to, a God that loves us beyond our wildest dreams, and whose self-gift heals our pain, and lifts us out of our own Great Sadness.
What I have found in The Shack are compelling tales of the main character, Mack’s encounter with a God whom he thought had all but abandoned him in his time of greatest need. These encounters were raw and uncensored. They took us on a journey through Mack’s grief and into places where we may not always want to go – at least not alone.
And this is precisely what the book, The Shack, is suggesting. We do not HAVE to go to these places alone. Think of your very worst, most horrific sadness. The most gut-wrenching pain you have ever felt in your life. Perhaps you lost a job, or a spouse. Perhaps you have had a friend or a parent pass away. Perhaps you have struggled with infertility. Perhaps you have lost a child.
Imagine walking into that pain all over again today. Only this time you know how badly it is going to hurt. Now imagine that a loving, endearing, Savior is in that pain patiently waiting for you to say yes. To say yes, and walk into the fire to sit with Him and allow the dross to burn away as He refines you. It is simple. He promises to never leave us. But we so often operate out of our pain that we forget that promise, or we don’t take it seriously. But it is serious. He will never leave us. Do you believe that? Do I believe that?
I admit, like Mack, I often do not. That stubborn rebel is still there, after all, practically daring God to “prove” His love for me. In fact, my favorite quote from the book is not one that makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over, but one that turns me on my ear in reproach and reminds me of a fundamental truth that in my own journey of grief over broken dreams and lost loved ones I so oft forget:
I leave you with an encouragement to dare to go on this journey with Mack yourself. To walk into the fire and see what amazing things our Lord has in store for you.