I read The Shack years ago. Sunday, my husband and I went to see the movie. I was very pleased with how they translated the book to the screen. This book and subsequent movie provide a great message about forgiveness and ultimately trusting, really trusting God.
SPOILER ALERTS – I may give away elements of the book or movie so please be warned.
Let me start with a scripture foundation from Exodus 33. Moses tells God, “Show me your glory”. God in turn tells Moses he will pass in front him and proclaim his name. In verse 20 he says, “But, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” We will not see God until we are united in heaven. Our humanity cannot handle God’s glory. Based on that scripture alone, the lead character in the Shack could not sit down and have coffee with God, face-to-face.
Back to The Shack. This family suffers an unfathomable tragedy. The main character, Mac, is stuck in his grief, guilt and the shallowness of his faith. He has an encounter that is very reminiscent of Scrooge in Dicken’s Christmas Carol. We can argue if the events actually take place or if it is a dream…that is not really the point. The change that takes place is the point. In both stories, the events are very real for our lead character, but there is no explanation in the natural for their experience.
The great debate in The Shack seems to be that God is portrayed by a woman. Even the character, Mac. questions this and his question is answered. Mac had a terrible experience regarding his own father and a father-figure was not something he could relate too. God presented to Mac a tangible person he could accept as caring about him…a kind face from his childhood.
The presentation of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in The Shack make me think of my favorite Christmas story. The Christmas Guest. God has agreed to visit with a man on Christmas day. The man busily prepares his home and is interrupted three times by strangers. Each stranger has a different need that the man meets. As the hours of Christmas fade away, the man questions God. “Why didn’t you show up?” God then reveals that he visited three times and each time found a friend. This rings true and strong of Matthew 25:40 “…Truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I am not arguing theology about the book. It is a work of fiction and never claims to be anything else. At one point, God is presented as a Man for Mac, because he needs a father for that component of the story. I believe the Shack shows a beautiful vision of God’s love for his children. It gives us an opportunity to look at God from a different perspective.
Sometimes we forget that God loves us. We get so caught up in our day-to-day drama, sickness and drudgery that we forget God loves us. He grieves for his children just as we grieve for our children. Our role as parents is perhaps the closest human understanding we have of God’s love. Just imagine, he never gets a day off and God has been at it since time began.
So the debate about calling God “Papa” or being presented as a female are just not issues for me. God is going to deal with me in ways I can relate too and generally understand. He is going to protect me, so far as I let him. With our tiny human understanding it is easier sometimes to put God in a box, but there is not a box God will fit into. He will move and work in ways we cannot explain and yes, I think that includes a fictional book that centers around a weekend experience with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He meets us where we are and brings us up from there. He gives us every good thing.
Do not get so hung up on the delivery, that you miss the message. People got hung up that the King of Kings was born in a stable and was a servant to others…they missed the message of love, mercy and sacrifice all because of the packaging.