This post isn’t meant to convince you to see the movie, The Shack. As I said last time, make up your own mind. I also believe you don’t have to agree with everything in the movie or book to derive benefit from it. But what I would like to do is talk about the main point of the story, share my own testimony in that regard, and then add some points about this from a theologian and a highly respected author in the body of Christ—C. Baxter Kruger, PhD and C.S. Lewis, respectively.
Author, William Paul Young, states that the “Shack” represents Mack’s Great Sadness, but it represents ours, too. It’s the inner brokenness we all carry and keep under lock and key.
This brokenness may be not always be evident, and it’s probably different for each of us, but we all carry it, nonetheless. It places an unwanted governor on our soul which limits the vibrancy and fullness of life we know in our heart is waiting for us, but fear keeps us from ever opening the door.
We hope beyond all hope that God is good and fully loves and accepts us, but our mind irrationally rebels, suspecting that we’re more likely to be a disappointment to Him. Only Love can free us from this prison, and He’s always ready to do this very thing…if we will trust Him.
My “Shack” encounter came in late summer 2001. God didn’t meet me as an African American woman. I didn’t need a mother; I desperately needed a father. Unlike the author, William Paul Young, who had been sexually abused as a boy, or Mackenzie Phillips in the story, who was beaten by his drunken father, my father was mostly absent and distant.
So, after 23 years of trying to be a “God-fearing born-again” Christian (including being a leader and pastor for ten of those years), Papa met a 45-year old broken little boy in the middle of his darkest “hell.” No, it wasn’t a fantasy weekend with God in the mountains like the book, but it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I cannot begin to explain to you how radically my life changed and how grateful I am for the constant affirming love and faithfulness of our Abba Father.
But even if we had a good earthly father, we all have a “Shack” hidden within us. Ours may be different but it’s still there, nonetheless. We can stuff it, deny it, even theologize against it all we want…but the only person we’re fooling is ourselves. This is the enemy’s doing. His goal is to dis-appoint and dis-courage us, in order to rob us of the freedom Jesus came to give us.
I talked about my “crash” at length in my book, Sonshift, and how the “The terrorists of my soul who had lured my orphan heart into this darkness had now flown their planes into my flimsy religious house of cards and it was burning down.” (p.35). Everything in my life was failing and all I wanted to do was run away. My deep and hidden wounds were not about abuse, they were about abandonment and rejection, which led to feelings of being an utter failure…to God, my church, and to my wife and family.
It’s in this place where “Papa” met me and became the Father I never had, showing Himself to be more wonderful and more gracious than I had ever hoped for! As C.S. Lewis would say in his own autobiography, I was “surprised by joy!”
Along these lines of unexpected joy and transformation, theologian C. Baxter Kruger makes the connection between Young’s experience and that of C.S. Lewis in his book, The Shack Revisited:
“Both Young and Lewis write as grown men who have learned to play again; they write, as someone said to Lewis about his writing, “as though you enjoyed it. (1)
What Paul [Young] knows is that Papa is good, and that you are accepted as you are, and he knows that you believe that you are not. For me, Paul’s voice, his grin, his eyes anticipating your surprise, all come together when Papa shouts, “Mackenzie Allen Phillips!” on the front porch.”
Here’s where Kruger describes the “Shack” using Lewis’s writings:
“Within us all there lies a broken dream, “our inconsolable secret,” (2) as Lewis calls it, that is so precious to us we protect it with a thousand defenses. “The secret which hurts so much,” Lewis says, “that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence.” (3) We know that we are made for glory, but we’ve only known hints of its joy. In the midst of life we long for more. Something is missing; creation is aflame with a glory we cannot touch, but we know it’s ours. We are moved by ancient music, but cannot find the great dance. So “we pine,” as Lewis says. (4) But such pining is too much to bear. So we bury our longing, and protect our dream’s sleep.” (5)
As already mentioned, I awoke from my “dream’s sleep” in 2001. I read The Shack in early 2008. This was on the heels of three significant encounters I had with God in 2007 that helped put me on the path I’m on today. Needless to say, my heart resonated with the story at a deep level.
So, I would encourage you not to get caught up in how the movie depicts God. None of us are authorities on how God wills to reveal Himself in situations we cannot fully understand. Only Jesus rightly explains who the Father really is (Matt.11:27; John 1:18; 14:6-7; Heb.1:3).
Instead, let’s focus on the main thing…the furious love of God who’s for us and not against us…Who walks right into the middle our deepest pain and darkest hell…not to condemn us, but to heal us and free us. It’s encounters with God like these, that The Shack allegorically tries to communicate, that are the motivation behind why I write this blog (see also “Why I write.”)
Could one reason The Shack is so popular (approx. 22 million copies sold) be because Mack’s story resonates so deeply with all who sense this “inconsolable secret” in their own soul; this “dream’s sleep” they’ve either already awoken from, or now have hope they’ll one day awaken from? Could it be we’ve finally found the “great dance“?
No matter where you are on your journey right now, know that God really is “particularly fond of you!”