The Shack

disclaimer: this blog is a fractured thought of me after finishing “the shack”. i’m in no way reviewing his book. my desire is to try to process what’s in my spaghetti thinking system at the moment and put it some shape and form. so if you’re confused or feel like this isn’t a proper style of writing, my apology.

last november, a compassion sponsor recommended “the shack” to me. i wasn’t sure what the book was about, and was even skeptic when a review by eugene peterson said that “this book has the potential to do for our generation that john bunyan’s pilgrim’s progress did for his. it’s that good!” well, my friend brought it to me on friday morning…and i’d finished it…in 4 days.

i’m one of those people who get to the core message of certain issues by reading novel and fiction. seriously. i know that a lot of people go directly to the subject they want to know and learn from it. i, on the other hand, have to approach the things i want to learn indirectly – that is through story. i’m very visual and imaginative so i need really vivid pictures to lead me to the center of the topic.

sometimes it can be dangerous, especially things related to God, because story is written from a human’s point of view. though the main idea is derived from the Bible, people can add to their story whichever way they like. a good example is the left behind book series. i learnt a great deal what the book of revelation speaks about without having to read it at all…the rapture, the judgment, the tribulation, the millenium and the prophetic messages. but i had to remind myself that no matter how true the message could be, it was still a fiction (an impressive one, i must say) and that nothing is better than reading from the living Word breathed by the very presence of God and to listen directly from His lips.

anyway, back to “the shack”. my only intention here is to share what i think of or how i feel about this book and how it’s changed my perception about God. so let me start with some quotes i underlined with my pink fountain pen. 🙂

“the problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then call that God. and while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask for or think.”

“We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.”

“no, mack. a child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected…rights are where survivors go, so that they won’t have to work out relationships,” (mack was inquiring Sarayu <aka the Holy Spirit> about his murdered daughter)

“you imagine. such a powerful ability, the imagination! that power alone makes you so like Us. but without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”

“‘to force my will on you,’ Jesus replied, ‘is exactly what love does not do. genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy. that’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu…submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. in fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.'”

“‘marriage is not an institution. it’s a relationship.’ Jesus paused, his voice steady and patient. ‘like I said, I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. so no, I’m not too big on religion,’ Jesus said a little sarcastically, ‘and not very fond of politics or economics either.’ Jesus’ visage darkened noticeably. ‘and why should I be? they are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. what mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?‘”

“love that is forced is no love at all.”

“‘mackenzie, My purposes are not for My comfort, or yours. I purpose to work life out of death, to bring freedom out of brokenness and turn darkness into light. what you see as chaos, i see as a fractal.'”

“Jesus now spoke again. ‘mack, i don’t want to be first among a list of values; i want to be at the center of everything. when i live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. rather than a pyramid, i want to be the center of a mobile, where everythin in your life – your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities – is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.'”

“Sarayu interrupted him. ‘mack, if anything matters then everything matters. because you are important, everything you do is important. every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.'”

i was blown away by these excerpts, especially the ones in italic font (or i guess on the wordpress, the red font. i don’t know why it does this though). first, God isn’t crazy about religion?! what the heck! second, Jesus doesn’t want to be the first?! there must be something wrong with this guy. and last, “if anything matters, then everything matters”?! you gotta be kidding me…everything can’t matter. a butt-head spoiled child thrashing on the floor of the mall wanting a toy on the shelf…matters?

i’ve been taught to prioritize things in my life. first and foremost – God. then my family, my friends, my job, myself…and bla bla bla. but from Young’s point of view, God wants to be “the center of everything” in our life. it hit me hard when i read this, “if you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? how much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?”. i do that. i carved out a half and hour for God every morning to do “devotion”…but my heart wasn’t in it. while my eyes were darting from one sentence to the next, my mind thought of the list of things i had to do today. and, sure enough, the rest of the day, God was forgotten.

i thank God for the wisdom and the insight He gave to the author of this book, William Paul Young, who must’ve racked his brain to bring up the difficult questions and try to answer it in the most biblical ways and with truth and honesty. his narration and how he pictured the Trinity in this book turned my world upside down.

God as a plumb bustling-in-the-cozy kitchen african-american woman? the “not white” middle-eastern-looking Jesus wearing plaid shirt and dust-covered jeans? and the Holy Spirit as a fragile asian woman who loves to work in the garden?…the Trinity in human form…working with their hands…serving from their heart.

not the kind of God i see today who are revered in the well-manicured churches full of rules and traiditions (or regulations and legalism, i must add).

anyway, this is way too long and i apologize for the lengthiness. i still need to precess all of these in my head for a longer while. but i just want to reassure you that if you are still unsure about this book, well, give it a try. you may or may not like it but i guarantee you that at least you will put down the book feeling satisfied, provoked and restless.

remember…”if anything matters, everything matters.” 😉

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About Mink Gough

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9 View all posts by Mink Gough

8 responses to “The Shack

  • Juli Jarvis

    Very interesting observations! And thanks for the excerpts — I read the book a while ago. The amazing thing about the book is that everyone I know that reads it is hardly able to put it down once they start it. That kind of book has much to say about all the questions (about God) that rattle around in our brains! I also enjoyed it very much; it brought out many aspects of God’s character that I hadn’t thought about before.

  • Sharon

    I also read this book awhile back. It was very strange to me at first, then once I got what was going on I could not put it down. It is very thought provoking. After this discussion and my studying in the last year, I think I would like to go back and read it again. Good post Mink!!!
    Thanks!!!!

  • Charlie Taylor

    Mink in your comment you seem surprised that Jesus doesnt care much for religion. The fact is he hates it . Thats what the Pharisees were all about,using rules and regulations and legalism to gain their way to God’s acceptance. All he wants with us is a relationship. The more we get the rules out of the way the easier it is to have a relatioship in freedom with HIm

  • Sharon

    That is so true Charlie, religion is an institution and Jesus is all about relationships.

  • Isaac

    I love your post, Mink! I read “The Shack” last year and I loved it! You’ve inspired me to pick it up again and re-read it. I love the emotions which are stirred up in my innermost being when I read it. I had the same feeling of not being able to fully comprehend everything. I wanted to blog about it last year too, but I just couldn’t write down all that was on my mind. haha! Anyway, thanks for the post. Keep blogging! 🙂

  • Michael Ting

    I’m… confused. Was it a good book? Should I read it?

    • Minkster

      hey, mike, it’s a thought-provoking book full of controversial stuff. i can’t judge for you whether it’s good but you should try. it might not be in your “book catagory” but it’ll give you another view of God through human’s eye. that’s the best i could say. 🙂 plus, it’ll add 1 more book to your to-read list, eh?

  • Minkster

    thanks, guys, for your comments. i, myself, will have to go back and read it again because there’s so much to think about. i’ve heard or read some view/ comments about how controversial this book is. and it somehow saddened my heart just for the thought of people fighting over the “belief”. i know this book is a fiction filled with “theological” stuff. but it shouldn’t be taken more than what it’s supposed to be. rather, it should be for our edification, in my personal opinion…how it resonates with our heart and mind…and how we learn from it.

    @charlie, yes, God is all about relationship. and i’m so glad of that. many i know, who aren’t christians yet, have no concept whatsoever how could christianity not be a religion. lol i’ve picked up a motto from my friend, “it’s against my relationship to have a religion.” 🙂 we just gotta get what-not-matter out of our ways. that’s not an easy part though.

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