My Recent Visit To “The Shack”

Confession: most of my knowledge of the First Testament comes from this book :p

My love for writing first began with my love of reading.  As a matter of fact, the first books I remember reading was the obvious Goodnight Moon, that we’re all (or should be) familiar with as well as the Bible.  Yes, my mother bought me The Beginner’s Bible and I made it a point to sign my name on all of the 500 pages so that I knew I had read the word.

Since then, my love of reading the actual Bible has waned quite a bit.  It was rejuvenated when my stepmother caught wind of this and purchased the New International Version for me several years ago.  Since reading from that version, Bible-reading has become a more enjoyable experience for me since I better understand what I’m reading (the NIV is written in a similar manner to how we speak today; it omits all those “thee’s” and “thou’s” that I struggled to digest).  Despite this fact, I still don’t read the Bible as much as I should.  Out of guilt I’ve found myself praying a lot more, spending more quality time with God and investing in a daily devotional.  While all of this is fine and dandy, deep down I know that while my relationship with God is thriving, my knowledge of him has grown stagnant.

I’m not sure what made me finally purchase it, but a few weeks ago I purchased The Shack for my eReader.  Before reading it, I’d heard my Aunt Lynne (Shelby’s mom) gush about the novel, saying that it was spiritual, not religious.  This intimidated me a bit because my Aunt is one of the most spiritual and religious people I know (example: several years ago she banned Christmas in her house because she’d learned that orgy’s used to take place around Christmas trees and she’d grown to despise how commercialism can overshadow Jesus during the season).  If Aunt Lynne could relate to this novel and take things away from it, surely the message would be over my head and I wouldn’t be able to find nourishment for my spirit, correct?

When I looked up The Shack I read this summary of the novel…

Mackenzie Allen Phillips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in this midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.  Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change his life forever.

That was intriguing enough for me and despite it’s slow start, I must admit that I am now looking at God, spirituality and my personal relationship with God from a new perspective.  While it is a spiritual book, the thing I appreciate most is that regardless of how close, or far away, you are from God, it can, and WILL, speak to you wherever you are.

At this point I’m only halfway finished, but I already know my life has been changed with the small bit I have read thus far.  There is one specific part that has especially touched me.  In the scene, the lead character, Mackenzie, nicknamed Mack, takes God to task for leaving Jesus alone at the cross.  Mack takes it very personally because he sees it as proof that God has also left him alone to cope with his extremely abusive father as a child, as well as the disappearance of his youngest daughter, Missy.  I will share with you all below.

“How can you know how I feel?” Mack asked, looking back into her eyes? (God is a “she” in this novel…a big, Black, woman…not an old, White, bearded man)

Papa (Papa is God…and God appears as a female) didn’t answer, only looked down at their hands.  His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his.  She allowed him to tenderly touch the scars, outlines of a deep piercing, and he finally looked up again into her eyes.  Tears were slowly making their way down her face, little pathways through the flour that dusted her cheeks. 

“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.  Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently.  “We were there together.”

Mack was surprised.  “At the cross?  Now wait.  I thought you left him-you know-‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'”  It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness.  (The Great Sadness is how Mack refers to his feelings regarding the disappearance of Missy)

“You misunderstand the mystery there.  Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him.”

“How can you say that?  You abandoned him just like you abandoned me!”

“Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.”

“That makes no sense to me,” he snapped.

“I know it doesn’t, at least not yet.  Will you at least consider this: When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”

*Tears*

Every SINGLE time I read that passage my eyes tear up.  How often have you been so caught up in your despair that you feel like God is no longer looking out for your best interest?  Or even worse, that God no longer cares about you?  Unfortunately, I have been in that EXACT place more than once over the years.  I have been where Mack is, doubting God’s sincerity, forethought and wisdom.  Thank God I have been pulled out from those dark places and am now on the other side and have seen myself out of it.  To this day, while I still don’t know all the “why’s” about certain situations that God has placed me in, I am able to better trust in him and his purpose as a result of my faith, what I know of his grace and what I am learning in this novel.

I encourage you all to read this book.  Regardless of whether you’ve been a close follower of God since birth, an atheist who choses not to get too specific in your beliefs of anything at all, or anywhere between, I believe that there is much that can be taken from these invaluable, life-changing pages.  Do yourself a favor and go read this book.

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