3.12.2010

Currently Reading: The Shack

"But --" Mack could feel his control getting away as he drove his shovel in hard -- "Didn't Missy have a right to be protected?"

"No, Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected."

That stopped him. Somehow, what Sarayu had just been saying seemed to turn the whole world upside down, and he was struggling to find some footing. Surely there were some rights that he could legitimately hold on to.

"But what about --"

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

"But if I gave up --"

"Then you would begin to know the wonder and adventure of living in me," she said, interrupting him again.

Mack was getting frustrated. He spoke louder. "But don't I have the right to --"

"To complete a sentence without being interrupted? No, you don't. Not in reality. But as long as you think you do, you will surely get ticked off when someone cuts you off, even if it is God."

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Synopsis: Mack has never been on great terms with God, whom he pictures as someone unreasonable and abusive as his own father -- an image exacerbated by his wife's tendency to refer to God as "Papa." When a serial killer abducts his youngest daughter from a campground, what Mack calls The Great Sadness takes over his life and drives him further from God. Some years later, a note signed "Papa" appears in his mailbox and draws him to the mountain shack where the police found his daughter's bloodstained dress; a strange place to meet God, but God will refuse to abide by any of his expectations.

Notes: I had -- shocker here -- mixed feelings about this book.

For Mack, who finds the image of a father God terribly problematic, the three he meets in the shack catch him off his guard: Papa, an exuberant African-American woman fond of her kitchen; Jesus, a Semitic-featured everyday guy with a tool belt and jeans; and Sarayu, a moving, shifting Asian woman whose name means simply "a common wind." The three take him in turn to explain what it means to have a relationship with God, working healing and forgiveness in his heart in the process, and seeking to redeem both his relationship with his father and the death of his daughter.

The tale is interesting, well-told, and capable of shattering many an expectation. It contained some stunning insights and some lovely thoughts, some good pictures of forgiveness and some truth.

It also contains some things that appear to be grave, if popular, mistakes: the idea that authority and hierarchy are man-made things that God does not ordain, for instance. Young's concept of relationship as a circle without hierarchy is great where all participants have reached the ideals of thorough wisdom and righteousness. Until we all get there, I'm not quite ready myself to say that God doesn't ordain any authority.

Then there's the concept of the "personal relationship with God," which made for some enjoyable conversation in my Catholic women's book club. I love those girls. We don't all have the same taste in books, but we can think together, and we had a great discussion on the importance and the problems of that term.

As for the idea that we all attempt to make God in our own image -- so true. So very true.

I would totally be up for lying on a dock in the middle of nowhere and staring at the stars with Jesus. Walking on water sounds like a lot of fun, too.

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