Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Shack is Interesting

One of my readers, JChristin, suggested I read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, so I added it to the list of books I keep in my wallet on an old gas receipt. There are about six books above that one on the list right now, but when I got to the book store, I went directly to the section for this one just out of curiosity. I've heard mixed reviews on this book, and it deals with a subject that fascinates me: God. So there I was staring at the book trying to decide if I should let it skip up to #1 on my list and just read it first. After reading the back, I put it down, undecided. Maybe it was because I was afraid it would disappoint me on several levels both prose and content related. Maybe it was because it contained the story of a little girl's abduction and murder by a serial killer, which happens to be a fear that puts me in a sweat, (from the perspective of a parent).

Being a sign-seeker, I decided to leave The Shack on the shelf and move on.

If I see this book displayed on discount, then I'll be meant to read it. I thought.

Five minutes later, I found a whole stack of them in the front of the store on a table marked 50 percent off. So I bought The Shack and braced myself for the first few chapters which I guessed would be very frightening for me to read. I decided to read anyway, since I wanted to get to the part where the father meets God, and gets to the heart of his grief to find closure. This all happens back at the shack where his little girl's bloody clothing was discovered.

Honestly, I did like the book. I read it in about three hours, no joke. It was extremely interesting. True, it does not fit my beliefs/perceptions of God, heaven, evil, etc. However, it does make me think critically, and attempt to clarify my view of these invisible matters.

If you don't believe in God at all, then this book will seem dumb to you, (but I think you should still read it because it brings up some interesting questions about what forgiveness does for the human heart). The Shack supports the idea that God does not necessarily look like anything or anyone humans can imagine. Also, I like the personification of the Holy Spirit in this story. The Jesus- God characters, however, is where I disagree. I think Jesus is portrayed as more human than God-like, and I wondered why there is not even a guest room in the shack for the Blessed Mother, who Catholics believe is The Queen of Heaven. At any rate, the message of this book is very good and powerful. It hints at the realm of spirit-world that is the bigger picture beyond human perception. I can't really criticize the author for coming up with a fictitious scenario that I disagree with since no one living knows for sure what comes after this life, and most religions have different teachings on these ideas. The Trinity is a mystery that even the the Pope does not fully grasp- no living human being does. One point that the book makes is that if people can have just one glimpse of the bigger picture, then perhaps the suffering and pain of this life would be bearable and surmountable.

Unlike the protagonist in The Shack, most people never get a miraculous vacation with God. That's where faith comes in. It's believing without seeing. On the whole, I think I benefited from reading this book, again because of seeing the change in the father, seeing how he decided to heal his hurts and move forward after his strange experience.

Dreams play a very important role in this story, and I completely agree that they can be a very powerful tool for change and revelation in a person's life. Does God, or do other souls have the ability to reach living people in dreams? This question interests me. I'd like to say yes. Over the years I have recorded my dreams, mostly for kicks because they are weird, but also because in doing this I tend to figure out situations and feelings that I struggle with in life. I have had some very comforting and amazing dreams.

One such experience was when I was pregnant with my third child. I was forced to rest more than normal when something went wrong during the early part of the pregnancy. One afternoon I was sleeping, facing a window, and tree branches were scratching the pane. I dreamt that I was sitting at a plastic conference room table with a man who I perceived to be Jesus, (because he looked like the artistic Western European version of Him holding a lamb in a meadow that my parents have hanging in her home). The table was grey and beveled, from Staples no doubt. We were in clouds and an office supply store was no where in sight, but below was an intricate web of barren trees. It was not cold or hot, although I was dreaming in the middle of winter. We talked across from each other at the table for what seemed to be a while, but all I can remember of the conversation is my comment on the trees and how beautiful they looked from that height.

"They are not trees, but veins. Earth and all of nature on it is, in fact, part of God's body and when you die, you will really be born." the man said.

I think I responded kind of like a surfer, saying something like "Whoa, that's very cool." Then I woke up, still very pregnant, eager to write that one down. Pregnant dreams are deep, man.

I've had other dreams that were very interesting and which brought me closer to fine tuning my own unique perception of God. Like the dreamer in The Shack, my perception is based on my beliefs and experiences. No one knows the true nature of God. As a Catholic I believe that God's nature is unchanging and it's me who has to change. The transformation is part of the exciting journey called life, and it should include reading books that prompt further thought on the importance of growing toward love and forgiveness. The Shack, on the whole, imparts this message in a very creative way. I would not call this book great, because I just don't think this mystery of God, the Trinity and the afterlife can be explained, plus the prose itself was not skillfully written. In the attempt to make this mystery tangible comes the danger of over-simplifying it. I don't think we are meant to figure matters of faith out entirely. It is, however, very interesting to speculate about these ideas. Therefore, I'd say The Shack is a good read.

Did you read The Shack? What did you think? Send me a comment.


jenX said...

I had a hard time with the book. I loved the portrayal of God as accessible, but I'm impressionable and the tragic events were just too palpable. It's a good read, though.

Loren Christie said...

Hi Jen! I struggled through the story of the daughter, and found myself choked up by the horror of the thought. That's a test of faith I hope I never ever have to face.

rhymeswithplague said...

I have not read the book, and from things I have heard about it, I don't think I ever would. But thanks for your thoughts.

Your dreams are "far out!"

Loren Christie said...

Hello Mr. Brague. Thanks for stopping by here.

Anonymous said...

Loren Christie,

I had a hard time with the subplot of the brutality with little girl. I almost couldn't see past it to read the book. It is a joy for me to be the mother of my children; one benefit of reading this book for me was an even greater appreciation that my children were right there in my day. When something would tug at my heart I'd put the book down and kiss or hug them.

I don't agree with all of the author's metaphors or ideas, but I do love that reading it offers the opportunity to revisit your own ideas about God and then to discuss God and your perception of God with others.

I'm glad you gave it a chance.

Putz said...

yes i read it, didn't like it and then later i thought what the hey, it stirred up somethings, but then was very forgettable and then made me laugh and then horrified at thinking of my family, and then i thought i wonder if my god has a sense of humor and could be a buddie to me to rub shouldedrs with

Loren Christie said...

Personally I have a hunch that God thinks you are a very funny guy, Mr. Putz. I mean that with respect.

Koala Bear Writer said...

My hubby and I read it together a little while ago. We'd both heard lots about it so we were curious. Overall, it was a good book. I agreed with most of it (though I preferred God the Father as the man at the end rather than the woman at the beginning). The kidnapping was definately hard to deal with, though what really choked me up was the scene in heaven where Mack is reunited with his father (made me wish for something like that with my dad). The imagery in that scene reminded me of C. S. Lewis and some of his beautiful descriptions in the Chronicles of Narnia. Good point about the fact that Mary should have been there too. Obviously the author isn't Catholic and I'm a bit curious what exactly his faith background is, as that affects things in the novel.

Loren Christie said...

Great points Koala, thanks for commenting on The Shack. It does give us a lot to talk about!

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Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


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