Several years ago, I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Paul Young. He shared how he felt led to write a book for his kids. His idea was to give it to his kids as a Christmas present, but when the time came, he didn’t have the money to print it at the local FedEx Kinkos. When he got home one day, there was an envelope on his floor that had been slid under the door. It contained just enough money to print out copies of this book for the kids.
After reading it, his kids shared it with their friends, and they with others. People started offering him money for copies of it. He went to publishers, but none of them wanted to publish it. Some friends offered money and convinced him to have the book published non-traditionally. They created their own publishing company and sold several thousand copies out of his garage. . It caught fire after that and has sold over 20 million copies. Before long, Hollywood called and wanted to make a movie.
They wanted to send camera crews to interview him and to get video footage of where he wrote it, but problems prevented them. After going through several crews and having issues with each one, they decided on a local crew to help out. When the man wanted to get shots of the house, Young explained they had moved from where he was when he wrote it. As they pulled into the drive, the man in charge asked when he wrote the book. When he told him the year, the man about broke down.
That year, he had been praying and felt God ask him to give some money away, but he didn’t know who to give it to. As he was driving, God led him to that particular house. He got out and knocked. When no one answered, he slid the money under the door. Little did he know that God used him to birth “The Shack”. Since that time, God has opened numerous doors for Paul to share that story and the Gospel. This work of fiction for his kids has allowed him introduce people to God that most of us will never get the opportunity to reach. If you’ve not sure if you should read it or see the movie based on what people are saying, here are some things you need to know.
One of the strongest elements of “The Shack” is that God wants to have a relationship with you. The main character is bitter against God and has an incorrect view of who He is. In response, God approaches Mack in a way that will give Him the opportunity to get past His prejudices against God and get to know Him. Over and over, God tells Mack how much he is loved and that He wants to grow their relationship. The only way for the relationship to grow is for Mack to deal with his anger, hurt, bitterness and unforgiveness.
In one of the most powerful scenes, Wisdom invites Mack to sit on the Judgement Throne. Since Mack is so quick to judge people and God, he is told to sit there and pronounce judgement on people in his life. He quickly realizes why it is so important for God to be the judge. He also learns why God had to send His Son into the world to pay for our wrong doing. He experiences what it must have been like for God to love His children enough that He would sacrifice Himself for their eternity no matter what wrong they’ve done.
In Mack’s struggle with God, he accuses God of abandoning his child in their time of need. He then tells God that He abandoned His own Son on the cross. In that moment, Papa says, “You misunderstand the mystery.” Papa then shows wrists with nail scars in them. “I never abandoned my child or yours in their time of need. I was there.” Just because God didn’t intervene in horrific events, it didn’t mean that He wasn’t there or that He doesn’t care. Mack had to learn that bad things happen as a consequence to sin being in the world and not as an act of God.
Finally, the way to forgiveness is through forgiveness. Papa becomes a father figure for Mack to help him forgive the person who had wronged him. He had to take all his bitterness and anger, give it to Jesus, bury it in the past and offer forgiveness. Mack had to learn to let go and trust God with the things that didn’t make sense and the things that hurt him deeply. His life was stuck and going nowhere until he found forgiveness from God and offered forgiveness to others.
From the beginning of “The Shack’s” story, God has orchestrated its path. It’s was never intended to create or give doctrine, but to open a discussion with people. Paul created space in this book to give the Holy Spirit room to infiltrate people’s minds and lives. Before we attack it and other works by believers, let’s also give the Holy Spirit room to speak to us and to use us in whatever way He chooses. We might be surprised by what He does through us when we take Him out of the box we’ve put Him in and give Him space.