Friday, February 5, 2010

Reflections on & beyond THE SHACK

     At times while I was reading this novel, I would close my eyes and do my best to picture the transformed shack as it is described in the book. The language and imagery is beautiful, very poetic in spots. The conversations are rich and filled with love. Yet, there is a heaviness and a seriousness to what’s happening because the main character Mack has some doubts, questions, and even some unresolved anger towards God because of what’s happened to one of his children.
     I believe many of us can identify all too well with Mack’s trouble accepting God’s unconditional, unlimited love. When faced with illness, injury, and injustice, we are often inclined to wonder why things happen. We all have periods in life when we desperately need to be reminded that we are precious to God, that He can bring good out of absolutely any situation.
     The Shack provides a good combination of interesting characters, action, and suspense with otherworldly experience, spiritual revelations, and theological discussion. It’s a fascinating story that draws you in, yet this work of fiction incorporates many of the age-old questions people have had about God, religion, good vs. evil, and man vs. man.
     Actually, in many places throughout the book, the author eludes to various famous philosophical questions and discussions I studied in a course I took in college called the Philosophy of Religion. Reading this book reminded me of the hours I spent reading arguments and discussions by philosophers who lived and wrote a number of years ago.
     That semester I went to class with all of these different theories, questions, and debates in my head, then my professor would ask us questions that would make us dig even deeper to understand and explain what these men were proposing, what line of logic they followed, and if it made sense.
     At times, I could almost feel my mind stretching to new lengths and expanding when faced with these universal questions about God and man. Even if the answers weren’t clear, just knowing the questions people thought to ask made me feel like my brain would have to grow in order to contain all the possibilities.
     My favorite day of this course was on Friday. Why? Because Saturday was sure to follow? No, it was because after doing my best to sift through, consider, accept, and/or debate so many concepts, I would get into my light blue Pontiac 6000 and drive through a very picturesque valley. I would get out at the top of a hill and could feel God welcoming me, His mother outside waiting for me to enter.
     I always arrived just in time, gave a quiet nod to the other regulars who had come to worship, and sat down ready to let the clutter in my mind exit, so only faith would remain. Before long, the reasons and questions, some of which reason may never understand, were replaced by truth, hope, and love. I couldn’t help but smile as I said the Creed, reached out my hands to others to say the Our Father and do the kiss of peace. I yearned for the Eucharist. I had answers and could embrace, even appreciate, the mysteries inherent and perhaps necessary to having faith.
     I would walk out of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church after Mass feeling refreshed in my faith and grounded in the truth. It was a great way to put the philosophers’ voices and nitty-gritty debates to rest so that the Holy Spirit was easier for me to hear in the present.
     If we spend time actively participating in our relationship with God, it may very well come to our attention that the rotted out beams, broken floorboards, and rusty pipes in our soul need to be replaced. Without fear of condemnation or a demolition crew showing up on our doorstep, we can allow our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to assess the damages. It can be uncomfortable or even painful at times when we are called to be aware of the desolation, the places in need of repair, and be willing to let the Carpenter in. The difference is the price quote for the damages is beyond anything you could pay. Fortunately, you have a lifetime warranty that covers any and all damages, including that of natural disasters, human misfortunes…and it’s been paid for in full. Are you ready to let God transform your shack into His tabernacle?
     You can purchase this book here.  I wrote this review of The Shack for the Tiber River Blogger Review program.  Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.
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