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.