The Shack

I just finished reading an amazing book. It is The Shack by William Young. I admit it, I love fiction. However, I particularly love fiction that is not just a story but gets under my skin. I love fiction that grabs me and makes me think. The Shack is just such a book. It has a basic story line. It is about the journey of a man whose youngest daughter is abducted and murdered while they are camping at Willowa Lake, near Joseph, Oregon.

He (Mack) is overcome for a few years by "the great sadness" of the loss of his daughter. He is ridden with personal guilt for not protecting her. And he is overcome with hatred and anger for the "scum bag" that stole her, and murdered her. One day he receives a note in his mailbox inviting him to return to the "shack" where his daughter's bloody dress was found. It was simply signed "Papa," the name that his wife and family had for God.

He decides that he will accept the invitation and return to the scene of the crime. What happens then is an amazing journey of the healing of his broken spirit. He encounters God in the three persons of the Trinity: Papa, Jesus, and Saranyu (Holy Spirit). The writer catches Mack and us off guard from the beginning--God is portrayed as a woman, interestingly enough called "Papa." And this is simply the beginning of the twists that keep you reading and thinking.

The novel is not so much a story but rather a dialogue in theology. It is not systematic theology but rather "spiritual" or relational theology. The entire encounter with God is to help Mack to heal so that he can be in relationship with Trinity, with his wife, and with his children. Each of these relationships have been significantly impaired by "the great sadness" that had ruled Mack's life. As the silent observer to the story, your emotions will cover the entire gamut or range possible.

Besides the emotional impact, readers will evaluate, argue, and review their own theological ideas about who God is and how God interacts with creation. One of the great truths in the book is that God calls us to "be" rather than to simply "do". God's desire for us is to allow Jesus to live through us and in us. This is possible by submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit within us, enabling us to be Christlike.

One blogger on the Shack web site said: "This book has offered me a level of insight into the nature of God that I have never even dreamed possible. Everyone—no matter his or her relationship to Father—should read this book. Besides the Bible, this book has done more for my faith and understanding of God than anything I’ve ever consciously experienced."

While I might not go that far, I will admit that I truly found the read to be exciting, interesting, engaging, and stimulating. A great man once said that it is easy to agree with something that agrees with what you believe. Well, this is true for me of The Shack . Throughout the read, I often thought to myself "right on," "this is how I view God." The author brought me into the tale and then carefully and with great literary skill expressed my own thoughts regarding the Trinity, God's intention for creation, God's great love and desire to redeem everyone, and God's own pain when we suffer unjustly or sin or do evil.

I commend the read to you. And when you have finished, I would love to have dialogue about what you heard and how you reacted.

Gary Waller