It was my third time reading this book. First time, my mind was blown. Second time, I was brought to tears by some of the images presented. Third time, a bit less enchanting, but still I was able to glean so many lessons. Another warning: The Shack will probably annoy you if you get uptight about theology.
This novel became popular alongside tons of controversy. When I finally read it, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about, but I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to humans (who are consistently wrong about all sorts of things) trying to figure out good ways to explain the inexplicable: God.
Apparently Mark Driscoll hated it, and a few other “important” people thought it was insulting to the Scriptures, but we all know how Driscoll turned out. In addition, it’s not claiming to replace Scripture. I see it as an attempt to clarify some of the deeply confusing questions that people face when tragedy hits.
It’s an easy read. The author actually wrote it as a Christmas gift for his six children with no intentions of publishing it, but, turns out, it was too good to leave in the hands of babes. I don’t want to spoil the suspense of the story with too many details because my most enjoyable read was the first one, before I really knew what it was about.
What I can tell you is that Mack meets God in 3 persons, Father (Papa), Son (Jesus) and Spirit (Sarayu) at a place where he is most desperate. His emotions have been worn thin after years of raw sadness. He sees the close relationship his wife has with God, but he just doesn’t know if he will ever get there. His pain is too great, and his trust in God has been so eroded, it’s barely holding him upright.
When he finally meets God, his anger and disappointment bubble just below the surface until it erupts in God’s face. But God’s reaction is nothing like what he expected. God is patient and loving, taking the time to explain his very own nature in a way Mack can understand.
God isn’t who Mack expects, and definitely not who we expect. There is beauty in that because none of us will truly know or understand the nature of God until we meet him face to face. We can try, but it’s a pale, sorry attempt.
I find the illustrations used by the author to help us understand to be quite beautiful. The conversations between Mack and God answer such good questions that all of us have at some point. Why is there so much pain on Earth? Why did God allow that tragedy to happen to someone so innocent? How can I help myself from judging those who stole everything from me inside and out? We do have a right to independence, don’t we? And on, and on. I could quote whole passages to you. My copy is quite dog-eared.
I loved reading this a third time. I’ll gladly give my copy to any fellow crewmates on board. After all, I got it from the Boutique anyway.
“When I dwell with you, I do so in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?”
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