I guess I’m probably the last person to read
“The Shack” by William Young. If I’m NOT the last, and you haven’t read it either, it’s the fictional story about a man (Mack) who loses a daughter in a horrible twist of fate, and as a result, blames God…blah blah blah. The story details how Mack receives a personal invitation from God to return to the scene of his daughter’s disappearance where, over the course of the weekend, he meets with God and eventually reconciles his relationship with him. The location isn’t as plain as it would seem, and neither is his meeting with God. I won’t spoil it with more details.
CareerMom bought this book for me over Easter and as I pulled it out of my basket, she said, “I got it at Sweet Spirit. It was on the Best Seller’s list, so I just got it. I don’t know if it’s good or not.”
Normally, I might believe her lackadaisical attitude about why she purchased the book, but the back cover of the book explains… well…you read it:
It’s a not-discussed non-secret between CareerMom and I that my personal beliefs about God, while still strong, don’t run towards the “gotta go to church every Sunday” direction and that my frustrations with God generally stem from a seeming lack of interaction (or interest) on his part. Given the facts, I’m pretty sure her wish was that this book would hopefully give me some answers, while guiding me back towards a closer relationship with him. Having read a number of these “Where’s God” books, I didn’t hold out much hope.
Surprisingly, it may actually work out that this book provides some insight, if not actual answers, but not in the way she thinks. This book, a piece of fiction containing “real conversations” according to the author, won’t come as a shock to the millions of us who have grown up and cast aside the traditional religion we grew up with and who, have instead, embraced a more personal God, according to his or her own views of spirituality. It will, and has, cause a visceral reaction among those (like my mother) who believe God is up there diddling his finger around in everyone’s business and who also believe he has a plan for absolutely everything that happens.
The shack doesn’t portray God in a manner that fulfills any one religion’s perfect ideal, and some of the theology taught by “God” in the book would probably give even the youngest Pope a heart attack. What it does do, is tend to bolster the agnostics’ belief that we’ve gotten religion all wrong (and I’m talking about Eastern and some Western religions) and that there are many paths to God and not everyone will get there the same way. The shack portrays God as more a relationship oriented being, rather than a rules oriented being.
There’s a part of me–the part that went to a Bible thumping, fire and brimstone church when I was a kid–who wants to scream “HERETIC!”, but then there’s another part of me that wants to believe what is written here. But despite all this, what I haven’t found in the book, is a concrete answer about what a person needs to do to gets on God’s eternal good side. Is there a prayer I need to say to ensure I go to heaven? Do I need to get sprinkled with water again, turn around three times and do ten pushups? What?
I’m not quite finished with the book yet and these answers may still reveal themselves. Either way, I have gotten one thing from the book and it came in a very offhanded passage where I don’t think the author was actually trying to make a point; which actually lends authenticity to some of the book’s tenets.
From my own church background, I know that the Bible tells us to model our prayers after the Lords prayer:
- start by praising him (“…hallowed be thy name…”)
- next comes our submission to him (“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”)
- then we ask him for things (“…give us this day our daily bread…”)
- ask for forgiveness (“…and forgive us our trespasses…”)
- ask for guidance (“…lead us not into temptation…”)
In following this, I always find myself thanking God over and over for the same things. In fact, I’d bet most of us use the same prayer playbook–generally speaking–and honestly, I get bored with it and I figure he does too. But, in The Shack, it details how Mack is sitting around the table eating dinner with God and he’s telling God all about his friends and then he says, (I’m paraphrasing) “Hey wait a minute…what am I telling you all this for. Don’t you already know everything about them?” And God answers (again…paraphrasing) “Of course we know, but in this moment, we are turning off that part of us that knows all about them, so that we can enjoy listening to you tell us in your own words.”
I must say that was a bit of a revelation to me. What if that’s REALLY how it works for God? What if each time he hears our cries and our praise, it’s as if he’s hearing it for the first time? Sort of brought back a renewed interest in prayer for me.
So as I finish the book, we’ll see. If I’ve gotten you interested in more, then great. Hope I didn’t turn anyone off though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.