Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Shack

This book was recommended to me by my brothers wonderful wife Ruth. I have no idea where she heard of it but what I do know is that more people need to hear of it. It is a cracking book that is such an easy read full of incredibly uplifting thoughts about who we are and who God, Jesus and the Spirit (aka The Trinity) are.
The book centres around a man called Mack whose daughter is kidnapped, raped and murdered (he gets straight to the heart of the matter which i respect) by a serial paedophile killer. harsh stuff, but REAL life. A few years later he receives a letter from God (yes, God) to meet him at the Shack where his daughter was killed.
Mack goes to the Shack (yes, I hate that that rhymes too!) and meets the Trinity. God is in the form of a big african american woman called 'Papa', Jesus who is a carpenter who wears check shirts and the Holy Spirit who is an asian lady who floats around the place. Sounds strange and in some ways it is, but Papa explains why he appears as a woman and Jesus makes sense as in some ways does the spirit. She's great. If you happen to come across Mark Driscoll's teaching on how it's herecy that God appears like this and as a woman - don't listen to it. Open your heart to the good things of the book.

“Jesus?” he whispered as his voice choked. “I feel so lost.”
A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn’t let go. “I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.”

The conversations in the book are beautiful, and really describes the heart of the trinity so well. They discuss many different things; from religion to marriage to how eating too many greens can "give you the trotts" to the problem of pain and evil.

“I don’t create institutions—never have, never will.”
“What about the institution of marriage?”
“Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship.”

Mack is really honest about his emotions and some of the book can be an emotional read. Sometimes it is due to the sadness and horror of the event that has Mack at the shack and sometimes it is because of the sheer tenderness and warmth in how Jesus, God and the Spirit treat Mack. And how they come out with the most beautiful understandings of who we are as humans.

When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique give shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that 'expectancy' to an 'expectation'-spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that mets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements.

The theology in the book could be unfamiliar to many, but I loved it. Evil, pain and suffering does NOT come from the hand of God as many Christians believe BUT God responds to it. He can work all things that happen for our good, even if he doesn't cause them. In the easy read, there are many incredible theological insights, such as the ripple effect of sin and choices and also the irrevocability of our free-will.

"Whose choices should we countermand, Mackenzie? Perhaps I should never have created? Perhaps Adam should have been stopped before he chose independence? What about your choice to have another daughter? Or your father's choice to beat his son? You demand your independence and then complain that I love you enough to give it to you."

Whatever you've heard about the book, pastors like Mark Driscoll are annihilating it, read it! If you don't like it, tell me and I'll send you the money as a refund. I won't send you any tissues to wipe your eyes when you read the more poignant parts of the book, you'll have to find them yourself!!

It is true that relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you.