Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: The Shack

A story about how God reveals himself to a man who'd grown bitter toward God after the death of his youngest daughter. His wife appears to be a background strength and though the book doesn't outright say so, I believe that strength is in the area of prayer. His bitterness hasn't consumed him because he still has a heart that is full of questions for God. Apparently, he is still open to receiving those answers.

Mack receives a strange note one winter day that baffles him, inviting him to come back to "the shack". A place he'd never want to return to. This was the very place where he discovered what had happened to his daughter. Yet, the signature on the note compels him to check it out. Upon his arrival, he discovers the shack to be empty and cold. There is no sign of anyone else having been there. He flies through a blend of emotions - anger and pain - spewing forth words I would never recommend ANYONE saying to God, no matter how upset they are at Him.

Mack decides to give up his search for God and determines that God will have to search for him if God cares about him. As he leaves the shack, a remarkable thing happens that compels him to turn back around and return to the shack. This time, he is welcomed by three amazing people whom he never expects to personally meet in his lifetime.

He spends a few days with them, and with an added, unusual guest, in a dark cave, who really gets to the heart of the matter. (I think this is Wisdom.)

He emerges from his visiting days with them (the three) at the shack with a renewed love for God. His heart is changed. As a result, he is able to forgive the killer.

There is much more to the story that I left out, such as the story around the falls, the camping trip, Nan's love for God, the names of his five children and what one is going through, the garden, who the three people are, what the cave guest required him to do, and where we find Mack toward the end of the book.

I don't recommend this book to a non-believer because they may take the book literally and believe God to be someone He isn't. The character who is known as God explains in the book the purpose for His manifesting Himself in the way He does toward Mack. See, Mack had an idea of who He thought God was. He had an image in His mind of God - what he thought God should look like. So God chose to manifest Himself as something FAR from that imagination to totally disarm Mack, in order for Mack to be at ease in His presence.

There were parts of the book that made me cringe.

One was that I could not believe the audacious disrespect in the thoughts and mannerisms of Mack toward God. The God I know from the book of Job would have put Mack in his place immediately, causing Mack to repent and quickly rethink his approach toward God. He would have approached God in humility with a broken heart rather than with the mockery, sarcasm and hostility he showed at times. He was a very disrespectful character toward God -- completely imperfect -- and I strongly believe that God would never have addressed Himself to such a one because God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

But the author apparently chose this character with all his flaws as an example for that God can change even the worst of what Wisdom called "a glorious, destructive mess."

A spirit-filled follower of Jeshua and keeper of God's laws would walk away from this book taking the meat and throwing away the bones. There are some good parts that remind us of the LOVE of God and why He sent His son for us. There's a good reminder included of how our world has become what it is, filled with the kind of dangerous people we may encounter, and that there IS a better way.

Aside from a few cringing items, the dialogue between Mack and the four people (three at the shack and one in the dark cave) produce some really good quotes, thoughts to meditate on, and reminders of the reality we live in and what God purposes in the midst of it all.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes:

"Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place."

"You cannot produce trust just like you cannot 'do' humility. It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved."

"Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing."

"You do need me if you have any desire to stop such an insane lust for independence."

"I am Love and there is no darkness in me."

"Rights are where survivors go, so that they won't have to work out relationships."

"Without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster."

"The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you."

"To force my will on you is exactly what love does not do."

"Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect."

"Is there any way out of this?" ...
"By giving up your ways of power and manipulation and just come back to me."

"As you grow in relationship with me, what you do will simply reflect who you really are."

"Just like love, submission is not something that you can do, especially not on your own. Apart from my life inside of you, you can't submit your life, including [God]."

"So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it."

"Love is just the skin of knowing."

"[God] has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes."

"Return from your independence. Give up being his judge and know [God] for who he is."

"People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, these structures and ideologies, are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn't any. It's all false! Systems cannot provide you security, only I can."

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