Sunday, July 27, 2008

read The Shack. no, seriously. read it.

this is a beautiful book. i'm not really a traditional christian in my theology, and that's not a good or a bad thing necessarily; it's just how i am, right now, in my life's journey. i was wary when friends recommended The Shack by William P. Young because i don't like christian books usually - especially christian fiction. and i don't like books that use sweetness or emotionality to get me to go along with the theology or doctrines of the author.
The Shack grabbed me right off. it took me to a place i didn't want to go. and i made it through the first section of the book, which is harrowing. but it's part of the story - to get to what happens as this man shares his experience of the transcendent and beautiful presence of god.
jesus is an important person in the book, but not the point. at first it bothered me that jesus is in the book; i wanted a completely non-traditional god, a blank slate, something i could come to with skepticism. and christians love to talk about jesus-as-their-tribe's-hero-and-poster-child as the centerpiece of all theological thinking. but after a while i didn't mind; mr. young's telling of his protagonist's story is so vivid, and so True, whether it's true or not, and it's such an open, strange, deeply affecting portrait of god and god's relationship with us, that it rang deeply True for me. and i liked the jesus in the story - he's middle eastern. not white. as would be the case. and, this book's jesus says he's not a christian. that made me happy.
in the book, god is also african-american. and asian. and hispanic. male and female. that helped me too.
and in this story, god is mysterious, and huge, and while explaining god's self, god is also beyond any doctrine or theology or seminary. the man in the book doesn't have any use for religion. what he wants is real. me too.
by the end, i was crying. the tag line for the book says it's "where tragedy meets eternity," and says the book "wrestles with the timeless question, 'Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?'" - but that, for me, is only a part of what the book's about. it's not an explanation of doctrine; it's a story of transformation, and the world beyond this world that is here with this world. and it's about healing. big healing. i was reminded of c. s. lewis' best work as i read along, and especially now that i'm reflecting on it: not preachy allegory, but deeply imaginative, and spiritually strong, storytelling.
it's not an easy read. i mean, it's an easy read - about 250 pages, not hard to follow, told well. but the subject matter, and what this man goes through - not easy. but worth the work of feeling through it, at least for me.


Scott said...

My wife is only two chapters away from the finished. She has throughly enjoyed the book. From her perspective, it has opened her eyes to the fact that when you really get down to it, God really is in love with people. It seems to me that God has gotten a bad rap, mostly because we in the church are famous for mixing the old covenant with the new covenant.

The end result of course is powerless living! Why because the old Testament preached that it was all based on my behavior and the new testament says it is all about what Christ did for us.

Bottom line of The Shack is of course, relationship. God is all about connecting with His kids. I am sure that the book will touch people in a lot of different ways.

Scott Johnson

William said...

I enjoyed greatly the personal honesty in your blog...made me grin! Thank you for that and for the kindness of your encouragement. Blessing full of wonder and grace on your adventure.
Paul (author The Shack)

journeyingrick said...

holy crap, everybody - behave. we've got grownups present.
paul (not willie, as he refers to himself in the book) is the author of The Shack! welcome, paul! and thank you for posting a comment!

i've talked to lots of people just in the 2 weeks since the book was recommended to me, and they love it. thank you.

(i'm glad i said encouraging things about the book - the brother read the blog post a few hours after i put it out there! let this be a lesson to all bloggers!)

lisa carlton said...

Rick- I'm so glad you posted on this book. We read it a couple of weeks ago and I'm still pondering it. I was so deeply moved by the amazing images of god. Too cool that Paul stopped by- and too cool that the book was self published- no machine involved.

journeyingrick said...

no machine ... just balls. i love that. proud of those men!
what hacked me - didn't surprise me, though - was that on william paul young's website there's a place for comments and among the beautiful notes from people who've been helped tremendously by the book, there are christians who are criticizing the book's heresy and scriptural errors and i was just like WELL, I GUESS THAT'S WHY THESE PEOPLE ARE READING THE BOOK INSTEAD OF COMING TO YOU PHARISEES AND SCRIBES! GOOD LORD!

so, rock on Paul ...

Chiron' said...


You crack me up Rick.

Yeah, it's funny how some people lose their perspective. They mean well, but they have crossed the line between letting information influence them, and then making up their own mind vs. letting information limit them. (without really fully processing the information) They'll learn...someday.

Sheesh! I have no idea where yall find the time to read all these books! Obviously I'll have to add this one to the ever growing list!

journeyingrick said...

wellll the deal with me and books is, for years i was too busy to read for pleasure - small kids, working 1 or 2 extra jobs on top of full-time teaching and then ministry, thinking i had to work all the time, or just crashing and vegging out in front of the tv, avoiding life because i was exhausted - or, at least i THOUGHT i was too busy to read for pleasure. the problem really was, in my judgment as i look back at it, that i was afraid to rest.
it's nice not to be afraid to rest and relax.
now i am learning to let go of more fears. who knows WHAT i'll be able to do after that!

JAC said...

sounds great! send it to me? ;)


journeyingrick said...

HI CUTIE!!! WE'LL SEND YOU A COPY!!! HOPE IT'S NOT AS HOT IN MAURITANIA AS IT IS HERE! although i doubt austin is as hot as africa ....

Anonymous said...

I've read "The Shack" several times now. It has touched my soul deeply. Because I read so much non-fiction, I think it was able to reach me in ways other things couldn't. This book has truly poured grace on my soul -- during a time when I've desperately needed it.
Looking forward to being with Journey one more time tomorrow.

Tim Judkins said...

I, too, have read the Shack and continue to bask in it's fullness! I intend to read and re-read its deep theology masked in story and mystery! We need books like this to rattle our cages of Christendom and open our lives to the God who love us and inspires our lives in love of others!

See ya tomorrow!