My visiting teacher mentioned she bought this book recently upon the recommendation of Jerry Johnston, a religious journalist for the Deseret News. While perusing the books at Costco one day there it was so, I got two copies one for me and one for a gift. There are two pages of recommendations for the book and the premise looked interesting. It is on the top 10 NY Times book list right now.
This is the story of Mac, who came from a sad childhood and is trying to create a loving home for his wife and 5 children. He has spiritual leanings, but church is not always comfortable. A family tragedy sends him into what he calls "the great sadness," as indeed it would any parent. He struggles to cope for several years when he receives a letter in the mail signed by "papa", which is his wife's name for God. It tells Mac to come to the shack and meet with papa. The shack was an important place in his great sadness. He finally decides to go by himself in a borrowed jeep.
God is there in human form along with Jesus in the form of a middle eastern looking back woodsman in a flannel shirt. The Holy Ghost is also there in the form of an ethereal Asian looking girl who gardens in gossamer clothes. The entire area is transformed into an almost Garden of Eden idyllic setting. During a weekend at the shack Mac is taught by these characters how to forgive in very creative ways. If you need to forgive someone of any sort of injustice this book gives you hope that it is possible through the atoning example of Jesus Christ.
What I didn't like about the book:
1. A few things in the story frustrated me a lot. The author wasted time trying to explain how these 3 characters could really be one, as the traditional Christian view promotes. But, as the story unfolds their personalities are distinct to the point that they actually disagree at times. The three in one concept never made much sense.
2. The author portrays this Godhead as taking three human forms of characters that Mac could relate to. So, it made me wonder: why was it necessary to portray this Godhead with "body parts and passions?" Well of course, because the body is wonderful! Anyone would want one even God. I thought of the parts of the story when Mac saw things in the eyes of God and Jesus; when their touch healed Mac; when Gods arms melted Mac's soul as he hugged him; when God "wiped away the tears," in Mac's eyes as He has promised all of us. Food and eating is an important part of the story. We eat and cook together out of love for each other as well as sustenance for the body. The most spiritual experience a human can have is holding a baby. Oh yes, God would want and need a body for his loving work. How do you wipe away tears without a hand?
3. There was a part in the book when Mac talks to God about religion and God discounts its value. Jesus said in John 7:17: "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." God has a will and he has doctrine. Religious intuitions try to interpret the scriptures as best they can to create a basis for good wholesome God centered loving living. I am personally grateful for a prophet I believe God inspires and directs. I am also grateful that I am intitled to a personal witness for any doctrine. When you read the scriptures you feel God's presence more and are stronger in living a loving life. In the book "love" is all that we need and I do believe it is the most important part of religion. But, evil exists and it is a powerful force trying to draw us away from being loving. We are all naturally self absorbed and self centered. Religion shows us a better way. Once I wrote a 15 page treatise on "A Case for Organized Religion." I feel strongly about the value of religion. I can't resist giving a quote from Harold Kurshner, a Jewish Rabbi, from his book "Who Needs God."
"In congregational worship, regularly scheduled services on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I have come to believe that the congregating is more important than the words we speak. Something miraculous happens when people come together seeking the presence of God. The miracle is that we so often find it. Somehow the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. A spirit is created in our midst which none of us brought there. In fact, each of us came there looking for it because we did not have it when we were alone. But in our coming together, we create the mood and the moment in which God is present." (Who Needs God, p. 149)
"The Shack" had some inspiring moments, some surprises at the end and a lot of thought provoking aspects but it's great value is in learning how we can forgive through Christ.