Thursday, October 30, 2008

"The Shack"

A parishioner gave me a copy of Wm. Paul Young's novel "The Shack." If you are a church person, you have no doubt heard of, read or plan on reading this book.

It's a hugely popular book, which surprised me because at places it is very amateurishly written, and very slow moving. It's like a series of systematic theology sermons stringed together in which God is a sassy black woman who likes to cook, Jesus is a Mediterranean man who works in the woodshop and the Spirit is an Asian woman who gardens.

Do I agree with everything? Of course not? Are there things I agree with? Certainly. Did I enjoy the book? Not really: it took me over a week to finish and it never grabbed hold the way a good novel should.

There are a few parts that I resonated with. On page 179 Mack talks with "Jesus" to discover that Jesus is not fond of organized religion or institutions. Jesus states that "Marriage is not an institution. It's a relationship." Jesus states institutions are for those who wish to play God. Jesus calls religion, economics and politics the "man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about...these terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control...Systems can not provide you security, only I can."

Later, on page 204, "God" calls herself a "verb." " a verb. I am that I am...I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb." God goes on to say her essence is a verb, as opposed to nouns, and she is attuned to words such as "confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun..."

For me, the greatest message of all from "The Shack" is that of forgiveness. Mack must forgive himself for his daughter's death. he must forgive the man who killed her. He must let his other daughter know it's not her fault that Missy died. And Mack must come to terms with the fact that one day he may have to look his daughter's murderer in the face. When I read this, I stopped, and felt my own heart open, and realized that there is someone who hurt me years and years ago who I never forgave. So, I "forgave" that person, then came to realize there were things I had done to them that I also needed forgiveness from.

It felt good to speak those words, to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. if nothing else, I appreciate the author for using his art to turn a light onto my own soiled soul.

Would I recommend this book? Not sure. My ego wants to say "Listen to the sermons and you can hear the same thing." But then again, everyone learns differently. If anything, Mr. Young has done a ministry that has touched millions of folk. Will it stay with them? Perhaps as long as other books like "The Secret" and "Purpose Driven Life".

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