The Shack and thoughts on freedom...

Yesterday I finished a book I never really wanted to read; "The Shack" by William P. Young. Here's why I did and what I thought...

This book came up one night in our small group. I had heard about the book. I already knew that most people who had read it loved it and thought it was very powerful -- some would even say "life changing." A lot of people feel so personally moved by the book that you can offend them by pointing out your reluctance to embrace it. So I tried to choose my words carefully while sharing my convictions. I truly did not believe it was necessary for me to read the book, since I knew details of its theme, characters, premise, etc. And I had also read a variety of reviews.

I explained that I really don't have much interest in reading fiction because there is so much "real" stuff out there to learn from. I feel like fiction is kind of a waste of my time. Even if I wasn't going to read a book about God or spiritual growth, I would still choose a true story, a biography or an autobiography, over fiction.

One friend in particular urged me to read it for myself. It had meant a lot to her. She thought I would feel differently if I read it. I guess she doubted that I would buy it because the next week she presented me with a copy she'd picked up for me. So I promised to read it with an open mind. I thought it was the least I could do. And I hoped I would get something positive out of reading it so I could relate to her and agree with her and be honest with her, all at the same time.

The first half of the book was hard for me to get through. For me, it wasn't a page turner. I knew what was coming and I have to admit that I was just making myself continue reading. I kept hoping I would at some point love the book because I love my friend and I knew she wanted me to love it. But I wasn't loving it. I am uncomfortable with the idea of an author putting words into the mouth of God and providing answers to questions as though God is supplying the answers. Many of the answers given by Papa were not Bible based. They were speculative. I'm not okay with that, whether the answers make me feel good or not.

I also don't want to see God the Father behind a stove making pancakes. It's not the gender or the race depicted in the book that I object to. I don't want to lower God to my level so I can relate to Him more easily. I want to see God in His majesty, reaching DOWN for me -- not across the table.

When I was about halfway through the book, I was starting to dread my friend asking me what I thought. I knew I couldn't be dishonest with her and say I liked it if I didn't, no matter how much it disappointed her. If she had not bought the book for me, I would have stopped reading it by (or before) the halfway mark. But I was determined to read to the end for my friend. And then I had an idea. I decided to read the ending and then finish the middle part. Once I read the end, I was able to read the encounter from an enlightened perspective (which helped). I don't typically fast forward, but in this case, I'm glad I did.

I finished the second half of the book in one stretch. And with the ending in mind, I have to say the book was a little bit more palatable for me. I was even inspired by some of the "life lessons" put forth by the author. I still didn't like the idea of his putting words in God's mouth. But there were a couple of subjects in particular that God spoke to my heart through, subjects very pertinent at this season of my life.

I didn't need to read this book to feel God's love for me in a more personal way. Truthfully, I feel God's love for me the most profoundly and personally when I reflect on the cross and when I read a book about confronting my sin. When I think about what Jesus did to redeem me from my sin, I am overwhelmed by God's love and mercy. It's so personal. It's so real. It's so amazing. Having God speak in a warm and fuzzy way through these types of characters doesn't have near the impact on me that the the biblical gospel does.

However, I did finally come to a point in the book where I got something good from it. I know that God can use anything to speak to our hearts. And the part that God used to speak to me most was about not living in the present (too much reflection on the past and too much worrying about the future), as well as wanting to control things (outcomes) I cannot control. On those two subjects, I can honestly say that God spoke to my heart through certain statements in this book. And for even those few passages, I am glad I read it. (I'm also glad I've finished it so I can get back to my preferred reading.)

I love the way God times things. I listened to a sermon Saturday night on slavery and freedom. The person speaking reminded all of us that we have been set free, but most of us don't live like we know we are free (from sin). We live as though we believe we are still slaves. I don't think I am living as a slave to sin. But I have been a slave to reliving my past bondage and oppression in a variety of ways. And I told John this week that I am determined, with God's help, to start living in the freedom Christ has given me. I'm tired of being a slave who will not embrace my complete freedom.

Tonight my husband told me that since I said this to him and have taken some steps toward that goal, he sees a complete change in me; even in my countenance. He told me I look so much happier. I know I feel different than I have in a long time. I told him I feel like like I'm really free. He said, "You were set free a long time ago. You just didn't run with it like you should have." I know it's true. But I intend to run with it now.