I read the book “The Shack.” Twice. I also saw the movie … with a friend who also read the book. We both teared up watching God’s love in action. For one broken man, lost in his grief and drowning in his anger. A man who lost much, including his faith.
A fictional story. But one I believe is totally possible.
Now let’s stop here for a minute. Because you may want to argue and fuss and disagree with me. To convince me I am wrong. To badger me into changing my mind. But you won’t. So please save us both the headache. I am not asking you to agree with me. I am not asking you to affirm I am right (or good). I am only asking you to respect my faith as I respect yours. I know who I am, and I know who God is – and these deeply rooted truths cannot be swayed with any argument or persuasion. So if you don’t agree with me about this book, please, let’s agree to disagree – respectfully.
Yes, I know “The Shack” is a work of fiction. But I believe “The Shack” can happen. Today. To anyone. Because I believe in an all-powerful God who performs miracles all the time. I believe in an agape-loving God who loves us more than we will ever know and works us toward maturity within that love. I believe in an omniscient God who knows all and therefore knows how to get us to the best version of ourselves.
I believe He is a loving Father who meets us exactly where we are. In our mess. In our anger. In our suffering. In our pain. In our fear. In our hardheartedness. In our apathy. In our indifference. In our carelessness. In our selfishness. In our angst. In our hopelessness.
And none of this scares Him away from wanting to be with us. None of this causes Him to leave us or walk away from us. None of this effects how much He loves us.
In fact, I think any of these things compel Him to pursue us. Because He knows we need Him. Because He knows only His love can fill in our gaps.
Which is, again, why I believe “The Shack” is possible. Because Mack was lost. Mack was angry. Mack was hurting. And Mack was so wrapped up in his great grief that he wouldn’t let God’s love, mercy, and hope in. Mack was so consumed in his great anger that forgiveness would never be an option.
And Mack’s darkness and anger were so great that he was stuck. He was clinging to the past and slowly destroying his family in the present. He was constantly reliving his grief, slowly massacring hope and peace in the present. He was refusing to forgive and let go, slowly eroding his sanity and compassion in the present. And as he ruined his present, he was also ruining his future and that of his children.
And here is the brutal truth – we are all Mack. We all have at least one person, place, or thing that has hurt us deeply. Possibly shaken the core of our faith and caused us to doubt God’s love. We have all come to the intersection of pain and truth and had to choose which way we would go. We have all had to wrestle with our feelings that were pulling us away from God. Just like Mack.
And eventually, like Mack, we come to the place where our pain is so great that we have no choice but to face it. We return to the shack, the place or event that broke our spirit, and we wrestle with truth in the quest to find it.
And there we find ourselves. For we are the shack. A broken place more prone to darkness than light, with an air of desolation and unworthiness. A place of pain and sorrow – whether self-inflicted or at the hand of someone else. A lost place in the middle of a forest, stuck in isolation and separation.
And just as God met Mack at the shack, at his lowest point, so too He meets us. He invites us back to our place of pain – and mixes our tears with His love to sprinkle it over our desert-laden heart. Where He plants the seeds of love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, endurance, steadfastness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness within us – cultivating out the weeds one at a time as we accept His work in us. And the whole time He whispers “I am especially fond of you” to us, encouraging us to (once again) believe in His love and surrender to His grace.
God wants us to love at all times. Just like He taught Mack. The man whose hardest moment was having to say, out loud, “I forgive you” toward the man who killed his youngest daughter. It was so painful for him, having held on so tightly to his anger, to even consider opening his heart a little to let love in. But he had come to the place, with God’s help, of wanting to be free of the pain that was eating him alive. So he said it. And with every step he took from the cave containing his daughter’s body back to the shack, he repeated it. Praying with each declaration that it would take root in his heart and he would be able to say it and mean it and finally be free.
And the best part of the story is that Mack does find freedom. He does come to embrace the love God so openly and graciously offers him. The love that he realizes never left him. The love that inspires him to go back and live life to the full.
And so too can we. As individuals. And as a group of believers.
Because we are each part of God’s story. We are included in His chapters of love, grace, hope, and forgiveness. We are worth redeeming. Just like Mack. Just like the shack.
So if you didn’t read the book or see the movie, here’s my takeaway – God loves you. More than you can ever imagine. Mack is proof. His story may not be real, but God’s love always is.
Marie Fremin. 6/4/17