I just finished The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. This is one of those books that kept cropping up in different conversations over the course of a year. I think I jotted it down here and there two or three times before I added it to my summer reading list and went to the library to find it. The foundation of the story is enough to make any parent crumble; I almost crossed Oregon off my bucket list. But the teasers presented in the forward kept me turning pages. Definitely read the forward. And the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. DO NOT skip the quotes. Furthermore, I think the horrific nature of THE EVENT is necessary to carry the rest of the plot. And is it a plot? Or is it an experience? …..
I liked it. I liked the way that Deity pursued one individual in order to give him understanding. I’d like to think that God is doing the same for me. I liked the treatment of agency-our acceptance of God is always an invitation, never a coercion. In all of my study/reading/pondering, I’ve never found a God that treads on agency. (I’ve concluded that learning to honor agency is one of my greatest challenges of mortality.) I liked the transparency of Deity. I liked how Their greatness was clothed in normality and personality. Books like this make God seem more real, more touchable, more mine. I liked that. I liked how we are given a glimpse of the eternal perspective on mortal challenges and I liked how the principle of absolute dependence is given space. There was plenty of food for thought. Plenty. (Example: ‘Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.’ That’s a conversation starter-if only with yourself.) But, I think I liked that beautiful, chaotic garden the very best.
When principles of truth are written up in story form, I think we all rejoice. Wouldn’t we rather see the unfolding of true principles through someone’s story instead of a bullet point list on the Sunday School chalkboard? Yes, we would. Because then we get a tangible glimpse of what might me happening for us too.
The one tricky part of this novel that I suppose most of Christianity has grappled with is the idea of the Trinity. It’s an interesting idea that is very hard to get around and explain. Young does a fine job of expressing the three distinct ‘jobs’ of the Godhead by using three very distinct ‘beings’. My Mormon theology is already there with a belief that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one in purpose, but three very different and absolutely distinct beings. That representation of the Godhead already spoke to me. One element of the story that some might find bothersome is the shifting nature of God the Father-which I will let you discover as you read. But even this was alright for me. It’s one author’s interpretation of how God can be exactly what we need when we need it. Which is what we are all hoping for…aren’t we?
Another thing I noticed is that Young doesn’t really make a case for organized religion. No, in fact, quite the opposite. That might bother some. Personally, I have strong convictions about a VERY organized religion but I also believe in radical individualism inside the structure. I think that God does too. That might seem contradictory, but isn’t that part of our love affair with religion: entertaining and trying to nail down the contradictions? C.S. Lewis beautifully states: ‘Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.’ (The Business of Heaven, Dec 19)
And then there’s that ambiguous ending that leaves us all wondering…. wondering… wondering…my tidy red personality doesn’t like unknowns-but I’m getting used to them. #sevenchildren
I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside. (p 11)