For months, I had tried to get to a showing of The Shack, but each time there was something standing in my way. The kids, a packed weekend, someone who needed me. I started to get the feeling that maybe it wasn’t the right time.
I was sitting at the closing table, ready to sign the papers to the new house when a neatly wrapped package sat closely next to the owner’s daughter. Arrows. Hmmm I thought, certainly a sign of God’s direction.
I had already built a relationship with the homeowner although many miles away. He was a believer and destiny intervened in a transaction that seemed for me impossible. Small gifts from the unknown man appeared in my home, although I couldn’t understand why someone who never met me and was selling me his home could be so kind. But we both agreed that God was at work, the house was a divine sanctuary, and that God’s great hand had brought our lives together. So even though he was absent at the closing table, God was present.
So his daughter slid the gift over to me, one final gift before I was to receive the home I knew was from God. I carefully unfolded the corners with its perfect arrows only to reveal what had been escaping my grasp for so long, The Shack.
I let out a gasp as I held the book in my arms and tears flowed. I explained to his daughter how for some reason God had asked me to wait. The book became more than a book to me in that moment, it was a long -traveled gift from someone I didn’t know and couldn’t even see. It was as mysterious to me as God.
I read the book in a hurry but God was in no rush. He made me take my time to understand its words. It certainly was not a theological masterpiece, and seemed so simplistic, but I was lost, so lost in its pain. I couldn’t imagine anything worse in life than losing a child, especially in a brutal and violent way. I was stuck in so many places where Mack, the main character was stuck and the book seemed too whimsical to read. But I knew the story wasn’t over since it sat in my soul for days. And although I am not particularly fond of movie adaptations, I decided to watch this one, because my friend who I had never met who sold me his house thought that this story was important.
The movie was certainly not well acted and clearly did not have a large budget, but it brought all the senses of the book to life. I have never found movies to be better than their book counterparts, but this certainly was an exception. It reminded me that reading the bible at times becomes stale, not because it is, but because we so often miss the wonder of God when we have our heads buried in the sand. And although the movie was nowhere near biblically accurate, it didn’t have to be. It said enough for me to understand.
One thing that all of us can agree on is that we are all stuck somewhere. Some of us from tragedy, others afraid to take that next step, still others skeptical of God’s existence. That place where we are stuck is the place I felt most alive. My pain was allowed to be fresh and real and reminded me that God was not the cause of it. Not that I ever felt that way, but in so many ways I have asked God why. Why the cruelty? Why the evil? Why the suffering? Things become more localized when your pain turns from war-torn countries and beheadings to the people who have hurt you. This is a different pain, and it is real and way more palpable. Why? Because it happened to you.
I too asked God during the movie Why. Why am I stuck? Why can’t I move past here? That still small voice faint but audible, because you choose to be. Stuck in the mud of hurt, and sorrow and harrowing pain, it is easier to stay there and continue to ask Why rather than ask for God’s help to use it for good. We as Christians may pray for our enemies because Jesus tells us too, but are our knees stuck in the mud while we’re doing it? Mack was stuck, I was stuck, and the pain of that little girl’s death hit every bone in my body. I didn’t think God was evil, I just didn’t think at all.
It is complicated really. Trying to understand a God we cannot see- why God doesn’t intervene and why He does. Why I had to lose everything to gain everything. I know the verse, I just don’t know how to sing the song…
But the movie opened up my heart and mind to these questions. It took me to a different place. It made me reevaluate my relationship with God and where it needed to go. It’s no wonder God has asked me to look beyond the words, I’ve been missing Him for weeks…
So if you haven’t seen it, go see it. Read the book first. Let it come to life. You’ll see soon enough the mud coming off your shoes.
Check out the Shack at: http://theshackbook.com/
***This is not a paid or solicited review. This review was written with the nudging of the Holy Spirit and God’s divine intervention.***