Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Shack

Book: The Shack
Author: William P Young
Edition: Paperback, 2007
Read: August 2008
258 pages
Rated: 4
out of 5

I have a mixture of reaction to this book. It started with the Eugene Peterson’s plug saying “this could be this generations Pilgrim’s Progress”. Is The Shack that great of a book? Well, no. As literature goes, it is sort of clichéish. It reads more like an action pack spiritual thriller.

But at a different level, once you get beyond the writing style, the author has a lot to say, at least to me. Such as what is God’s relationship to me—or more importantly, what relationship do I have with God? Young portrays God’s more folksy than I care to think about—there is none of the arm’s length, holy whole other, but closer to some real sensitive folk who want the best for you.

What Young does well is to portray God wants the best for you and will go to great extremes to not only reach out to you, but pursue you. This is not a chase by a lion after his prey, but a burning stick scorching the innards of your soul. Young shows that God knows our inward thoughts, but will allow you to expose them in your time.

A big part of this fictional story is tragedy avoided – tragedy occurring. Where is God in all of this? Young’s answer is God is along side of us. While he does provide some insight, he tries, but unsuccessfully, to work through the “why” question.

A theme plays through out the book is joy vs. sadness. Young’s protagonist, Mack, has experienced a great tragedy—the loss of his daughter. He has entered in a period of his life which he calls, “The Great Sadness”. As Mack goes through the story, joy replaces sadness, culminating in the reunion of his estranged father. But joy is not happiness. It is deeper. Young starts the book noting that joy inhabits the storms in nature. The stuff God makes shows the nature of God.

The book wraps up all loose ends: relationships healed, people changed, missing body laid to rest. I have not seen that life is so neat and clean. Maybe I am not that spiritual-actually I know I am not. Yet when you read the lives of the saints, their lives are not serene, but full of turmoil. They know the path to take—I read and do not detect indecision. May be a sequel is to show a life lived works.

Something I appreciate is Young acknowledgements. He names off many of my favorites. He starts each chapter with a quote from an author or songwriter. In many paces he seems to lift ideas—if not the words—from other authors. Page 80 sounds like Lucy coming into Narnia; page 99 is similar to L‘Engle’s Walking on Water. When Young talks about nature, there are remembrances of Annie Dillard. Sometimes you make a cookie with everything you like in it and it just does not meet expectations. Some places it works, other it does not.

This is a flawed book—but one which has caused me to rethink my relationship with God. Do I try to experience Him? Do I value Him? Trust Him? Love Him? In that respect, it is a successful book.
By the way, there are surprises for you when you read the book.

Notes from my book group:
The reaction is mixed. To some it was unreadable because it was too corny. TO others, they found meaning here.

Good Quotes:
  • - Sometimes honesty can be incredibly messy. pg 68
  • - It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while. … Don’t ever discount the wonder of tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak. Pg 83, 228
  • - Love always leaves a significant mark. Pg 96
  • - Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself—to serve. Pg 106
  • - Sin is its own punishment, devouring you form the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish; it’s my joy to cure it. Pg 120
  • - It’s not the work, but the purpose that makes it special. Pg 131
  • - The choice to hide so many wonders from you is an act of over that is a gift inside the process of life. Pg 132
  • - Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right. Pg 169
  • - Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors. Pg 185
  • - Faith does not grow in the house of certainty. Pg 189
  • - It is not the nature of love to force a relationship but it is the nature of love to open the way. Pg 192
  • - If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes, every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes… pg 235

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