We’ve all heard the famous saying ‘don’t judge a book by its film’.
For those of us living in England, The Shack (a 248-page Christian novel) is due to reach cinemas for its movie adaption in June 2017. But seeing as it is currently March, that leaves 3 months of waiting: scrolling through Facebook; a pile of unread books which seem to be reproducing; and an average of 219 cups of tea brewed, de-teabagged, and drunk by you (according to a website somewhere in my browsing history).
So, what are we to do with all this spare time?
- a) read The Shack
- b) don’t read The Shack
A secondary quote from Wikipedia helpfully describes the author William P. Young as “a former office manager and hotel night clerk, with no theological experience.” The unorthodox representation of God in The Shack has inspired strong opinions – good, bad, and sceptical alike (not to mention the word heresy being batted around like a pancake on Shrove Tuesday).
Now, if you have not yet read The Shack, please do keep reading. Here is a collaboration of opinions written by a handful of The Shack’s many readers (totalling over 15 million, to be unprecise). A common theme between these readers is they read the book a while ago; however, these are the things that stuck with them.
[appropriately edited to remove plot spoilers]
I absolutely loved the book! I remember when I read it on holiday, I was struck by the part where even though Mack is still angry he can forgive, and how a relationship with God can change our outlook on life completely. I also thought the part where God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are chatting together was so powerful because it was so helpful to illustrate what the Trinity really is – it’s a bit of a tricky concept … all the characters are distinct but also One.
I remember that God was represented by a black woman which I thought was a very clever thing to do; reminding people that God is not gendered, God is not a race. The whole novel is about overcoming the low expectations you set yourself (of depression and loss of faith), and the author does that from the outset by deliberately choosing a black woman to defy the image of God as a white man, which I think is amazing!
I think that the plot was an interesting look at the challenges of grief and forgiveness. I also think that the presentation of God challenged a lot of my assumptions.
I think that Chapter 11 in particular has so many important messages about God’s unconditional love and the way He suffers when we suffer. The most common thing people ask when I tell them I’m a Christian is “but if God loves us so much, why does He let bad things happen?”. I always think of this chapter. Mack shows how angry he is that this ‘all-loving God’ let something so horrific happen to his daughter. The way this chapter talks about who is to blame for the bad things that happen and who should go to hell as punishment – should it be the man who kidnapped Mack’s child, or the man’s father who made him how he was, or his father before him…all the way back to Adam – where does the blame end?
Even though Missy suffered awfully on earth, God’s love meant she got to live on eternally in Heaven with Him. I am so guilty for being annoyed at God when bad things happen… “why did you let that happen to me, why do I have to suffer”… but just like my parents hurt when I hurt, He is hurting too. And of course, in a perfect world no-one would suffer, but it can’t be like that and so God’s love ultimately saves us from whatever we are suffering with when we are in heaven.
From what I remember I was struck by the patience and gentleness of all three representations of God towards Mack. They showed that God was always available, but waited for Mack to ask questions regarding his daughter, rather than forcing or imposing themselves upon him. The love, acceptance, and joy among the Trinity was illustrated, and you get a real sense that throughout his journey of understanding. Overall, the book demonstrates the concept of ‘relationship’ over ‘religion’, through the deep personal connection and interaction between the characters.
The imagery of heaven with all the colours really stuck me … and also the ‘garden of the soul’ imagery and how there are places where weeds overtake the flowers. But God is the gardener.
God used The Shack in quite a significant way in helping me get to know Him for the first time. I think it helped me to think outside the box that I’d stuck God in – helped me to realise that He is so much more than I think He is. I think you can read the bible with a lens made up of your own preconceived ideas, but it helped me to expand that lens (with prayer). Definitely needs to be read alongside prayer.