Well, the other day I finished reading William P. Young’s The Shack and I have been trying to figure out what I would write about in a review for it.  I mean this book is almost as talked about as The Purpose Driven Life was at its peak (except blogs are much more popular now, so probably more is written about The Shack- all you have to do is google the title).  This book  elicits all ranges of responses from readers, the subject is at once heavy, beautiful, incomprehensible, wonderful and funny.  The book’s theology breaks out of modern theology’s box and  many claim it is too liberal, even heretical in the way that God is presented specifically not white and male, and others cite the book’s irreverence toward Christian culture as another picking point.

I personally have read many reviews of this book that pick it apart.  They criticize the editing, the story’s resolution, and just about anything else you could possibly nit-pick.  I personally don’t see the benefit of random bloggers picking apart a best-selling novel, so I will mention my reactions and one part of the story I particularly loved.

I will preface by saying that I have a hard time getting into things that are popular, especially things that are popular in Christian culture, however, I really loved this book.  It is sad, beautiful, and joyful; it’s a picture of God’s love for humanity, of divine restoration; and it’s a great view into God’s big picture.  I Love that in this book God has a sense of humor, loves to cook, garden, and work with his hands.  I love that time and again the book shows God’s beauty amidst deep sadness; either through brilliant, glory-filled flashes or soft, quiet glimpses, Young reveals God’s redemptive heart in the middle of terribly sad situations.  I will say that this book made me cry quite a few times, but when it did, there were always combined tears of sadness for the situation and joy for God’s healing and love for us.

I will also say that I love how this book works to break our perceptions of God as a white male, because truthfully, the bible shows us that God is spirit, and that both male and female are created in their (to quote the Genesis plurality) image.  God is the story clearly states that he/she can appear in any form the man needs, but doesn’t ever claim to be anything more than the omnipotent creator of all and intimate pursuer of our souls.

As for the editing, I had been tipped to it and barely noticed it because that’s not the point.  Their were a couple times when I felt the story got a little slow because the mind bending discussion of the incomprehensible continued on a little long, but that does not change the fact that I really did enjoy this book.  I also wanted to quote a passage that I really feel like Young hit on the head, and that I think modern Christian culture merely glosses over, namely God’s place in The Cross Event.  It seems like so often we Christians talk about God giving his only son as a perfect, sinless sacrifice; we also talk about God’s need for a sacrifice in light of God’s impenetrable righteousness, goodness and holiness (in short, God is 100% holy and good; evil and sin cannot even be near God, so sins must be covered by sacrifice).  Christians frequently discuss God requiring the sacrifice for us to be restored to God, but we mentally omit the fact that we claim Jesus to be fully God.  I’ll let Young take it from here…

“How can you really know how I feel?” Mack asked, looking back into her eyes.

Papa didn’t answer, only looked down at their hands  His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his.  She allowed him to tenderly touch the scars, outlines of a deep piercing, and finally he looked up again into her eyes.  Tears were slowly making their way down her face, little pathways through the flour that dusted her cheeks.

“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.  Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently. “We were there together.”

I love Young’s discussion of this.  So often we paint God to be angry, needing our sacrifice to restore us back to God.  We say God required the sacrifice and Jesus lovingly and willingly filled it.  We forget though, that (as John’s Gospel tells us) Jesus was with God, and is himself God.  We forget that the one willingly dying on the Christ and rising again three days later is the very God we worship as creator of the universe.  We don’t make the connection that God is that beautiful, compassionate God who will literally break the rules so that we can live eternally in relationship with God.  We miss out on that sweet, loving aspect where the holy and righteous creator of everything breaks all the rules, willingly taking on sin and pain and hurt, all so we simple sinful humans can live forever in relationship with that very God.

Anyway, enough of my yammering, I will say that I loved the book, am thankful of Young’s work and the refreshing picture of God it presents. I absolutely recommend reading The Shack, though you should keep the tissues close by and get ready to put aside the box you may have mentally placed God in.