Well, I finally got around to reading The Shack. So much of my time is spent reading unpublished manuscripts that sometimes it takes a while for me to find time to read the published ones on my list. 🙂 Anyway, I didn’t start reading with any expectations. I’d heard a few things about it and read a few blogs, enough to know that The Great Sadness stemmed from a really sad and disturbing tragedy. Lately I’m just low on my ability to handle reading about that sort of thing without falling apart, so I decided to start about halfway in. I read a bit of the beginning, then skipped over the upsetting parts and onto the main character’s encounter with the Trinity.
I found the story to be so comforting. And I was sort of wishing that God would send me a letter and meet up with me somewhere just to talk. I know that He’s given us the Bible and He’s supposed to be with us everywhere we go–but does it really feel like that? Like the Bible was written just to me? And of course, it wasn’t. Me and billions of other people. Which is okay, but it sounds so nice to have a letter from God just to me. And knowing God is around us all the time is sometimes comforting and sometimes frustrating. Because when something terrible happens and you ask the question “Where was God?” and the answer is that He was right there, letting it happen–well, that can be frustrating . . . and really confusing.
That was something I appreciated so much about The Shack. We could visualize God being there with Mack’s daughter throughout everything–calming her down, holding her through the whole thing. Don’t you hope that’s how it really works? That God is there, holding those people who are hurting or scared, and that His presence is strong enough to get them through it? I hope so. People have asked me if I thought there was anything sacriligious about the book–and I honestly can’t see that there is. I can tell you something that really moved me. There was this one part where Mack asks God/Jesus if all roads really do lead to Him (in other words, does it really matter which faith you choose?). He answers Mack by saying “No. But I’ll travel any road to find you.” (Okay, that’s me paraphrasing.) I had to read that paragraph over and over because I just loved that realization. I think we can easily forget that aspect of God’s character. And when so much about Him is confusing, I need to be reminded of that part of Him I can understand and absolutely appreciate so much.
Every time I’ve seemed to turn around lately, I keep being confronted by stories of atrocities people (children) have experienced. I can’t tell you how draining and doubt-inducing that can be. In fact, I was at my desk this past week and had to set aside a book proposal because I was crying and feeling sick and so shaken. And the fact that there are no good answers–well, it makes me frustrated when people even try to come up with answers, because none are good enough. And so when a story like The Shack comes along, where the author isn’t so much giving us an answer as he is giving us a glimpse into who God just might be, what might be going on–it’s not surprising that so many people connect with it, myself included.
I think what so many of us are missing is that personal connection to God. Like a letter that He wrote just to us, like time reserved just for helping me deal with what I’m going through. Even if there are no answers, that personal attention matters. Like in the book of Job, where God doesn’t really respond to Job’s questions with compassion or patience–but His response at all tells Job that He’s there, aware of what’s going on, still in control, and He hasn’t forgotten him. Just that can be comforting–at least to me.
So, to sum it all up, The Shack is a great book. A lot of people seem to say that, but with the disclaimer that it’s not great, literary writing. But I don’t care so much about that. Because when a message spreads like wildfire and resonates with readers–that’s more important than sentence structure and vocabulary.