July 25, 2009

The Shack

Filed under: Religion — Adam Heine @ 8:48 AM

I recently finished reading The Shack. I guess people have been talking about it. It’s about a man who suffered a great tragedy, then some years later, he gets a note from God asking to meet him in the shack where the tragedy occurred. The meat of the story is the weekend he spends talking with God.

If you look around online, you’ll see one problem folks have is that the book is poorly crafted. The book was self-published, and it shows, I think. Long, boring passages of their uneventful trip into the mountains. Flat, unbelievable characters. I’ve heard people say they were moved in spite of this, but for me the most emotional parts of the book fell really flat because of this.

But what’s cool about the book is the ideas about God and our relationship with Him. The main character, Mack, meets a physical manifestation of the Trinity. God chooses to show himself as a warm, amiable African woman. Jesus is, well, a Jewish carpenter (dressed in plaids and jeans, of course). And the Spirit is a ghostlike Asian woman. At first, I was put off by this, but I grew to kind of like them. Between the three of them, Mack gets to see a picture of true unconditional love.

Even if Mack didn’t grow on me, some of the ideas stuck in my head, like:

  • Love doesn’t force or manipulate. God doesn’t do it to us (kind of like I was saying about free will before), and we shouldn’t do it to each other.
  • A lot of our time and energy is spent trying to find security, but in this world there is no security (hm, reminds me of another old post). We can’t even trust God to keep us safe, because that’s not what he does. But he does have a plan and a purpose for our lives, and it’s Good. We can trust him.
  • We make religious or social rules in an effort to control the world around us. Responsibilities and expectations (i.e. things we feel we “should” or “must” do because they are expected of us) are just subtler forms of rules, but they serve the same purpose: to control what we can’t control.
  • Nothing is a ritual. God doesn’t want ritual, he wants our hearts. If we go to church every week simply because we “have to,” it’s as meaningless to God as it is to us. Sometimes breaking routine for the sake of loving God might be just what we need.

Even writing that, I can see how some of these things could be problematic, but only because I was thinking how rules could be made out of them (e.g. don’t ever do a ritual, or ignore responsibilities). It’s our nature to make rules out of things. Rules are safe, they tell us what to expect. Unfortunately, life doesn’t conform very well to our rules.

So as much as I didn’t like the craft or the story, clearly The Shack made an impression on me. These are really quick bullet points for things that I’ve been thinking about pretty heavily. I wouldn’t be surprised if these topics came up again soon.

1 Comment »

  1. The whole chapter on Verbs and Freedoms opened up my eyes to relationships, especially the statement that “God is a verb”. Made me do some serious thinking of not only my relationship with God but my relstionship with mom.

    Comment by Heine Patriarch — July 25, 2009 @ 9:16 AM

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