I read the book while I was in inpatient treatment. The Shack was a wonderfully helpful book. It allowed me to breach the subject of God for the first time in a long time. I had really pushed God out of my mind. The only time I thought about my faith was to become angry and resentful. I no longer felt love and joy from my faith. Instead, I felt deceived and robbed of the faith I previously had. I no longer could relate to worship music. It felt fake to sing songs of praise and the songs about difficulty made me angry. I couldn’t believe people would sing these worship songs, as I myself had done so many times before. They sang of being willing to suffer, and still rejoice. They talked of hope despite pain. They talked of walking through the valley of the shadow of death and God meeting you there. I just couldn’t relate or I didn’t want to sing such words, as they may come true and things would get worse. I wanted to look God in the face and scream at him. I wanted to physically wrestle with him, hitting him with all my might and crying out. But I couldn’t feel it either way. I had become numb as a form of self preservation.
The Shack, however, opened the door back to my faith. It was non threatening, as it was fiction. It is a story written by a man who was a missionary kid and experienced horrible abuse and suffering as a child. He had written the story, The Shack, due to encouragement from his family. His story telling made God and suffering relatable. Mackenzie Phillips is a father whose daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer, while they are on a camping trip. The death threatens the superficial faith his does posses and threatens to tear his family apart. The Great Sadness overtakes him and he can’t see anything else besides his pain. One day, he gets a letter in the mail to return to The Shack where his daughters body was found. He believes it may be from the killer and he sneaks off to The Shack for the weekend, while his family is away. While at The Shack, he encounters God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. Each of them play a different role in his healing.
God appears to Mac as a middle aged back woman. God decides to appear this way because he is neither male nor female. However, Macknezie grew up with an abusive father and God meets him as a woman to take on a nonthreatening form that will bring him comfort. As well, it is to show Mackenzie that he only thinks he knows who God really is. He view of God has been warped and skewed by his life experiences. Mac spends time with the Holy Spirit, gardening and realizing that though the garden appears a mess, from above, it is been turned into a beautiful pattern. He just cant see it because it is not his design. Jesus spends time carving in the woodshed and then takes Mac to see The Judge. She helps Mac to see that he is angry because he believes his own ways are right and good. However, he is biased and selfish. She shows him that Mac needs to forgive the killer for what he has done. Mac disagrees and wants to tell God to judge this man harshly. As an example, He asks Mac to choose which of his own children should go to hell, as they have sinned against Mac through lying, anger, withholding love, amongst other things. Mac resists the choice, finding the suggestion bogus. The Judge forces him to decide, since Mac seems to want to tell God what to do in his own life. Mac, finally, decides that he would rather go to hell himself than allow his children to pay the penalty of their own sin, because he loves them all. The Judge helps Mac to see God in the same light. Both Mac and the killer are God’s children. God wants redemption for all, he wishes that none should perish. That is why he gave his own life instead. Mac realizes that when we hold onto pain, hold it against God, and think our ways are better, we become trapped. We get bogged down in our grief. We have to learn to trust that the Lord loves us and everyone else. When we forgive others and ourselves, we walk into freedom.
At the end of the weekend, God takes Mac on a walk to find Missy’s body. They bring her back and bury her in the wooden box Jesus had carved and place her in the middle of the beautiful garden the Holy Spirit has created. Mac is able to forgive the killer and trust that God is for him.
Mac returns home and on the way back is in a car accident. When he wakes up in the hospital, he finds out that the car accident occurred on a Friday night and he never made it to The Shack. He, however, refutes this story and shares what happened with his family. In the end, he follows the markings God showed him in the woods. They lead to Missy. As a result, the police find the other girls whose bodies the killer had hidden. The killer is caught as well. In the end, Mac is able to forgive the killer and rest knowing that his child is safe with the Lord. He realizes that God never left him and his faith is changed forever. He becomes a free man and walks in a lighter spirit, as a result of his time at The Shack.
This story was so life bringing to me. I had spent so much time being angry at God. I was determined that his way was wrong, and was showing him to be unloving toward me. I had decided to be the judge in my situation, as well. I didn’t want to forgive the hospital staff for killing my brother and I didn’t want to trust the Lord that he was doing what was best for my life. That anger had separated my heart from embracing the love of Christ. It had drawn me deeper into a place of darkness, where I could no loner hear from the Lord. The destruction my anger had caused threatened my very life. After surrendering to God’s will and trusting in his love for me. I began to have a renewed spirit. A peace returned to my heart and mind, and I was able to begin seeking the Lord again.