The Shack is a movie, now in theaters, that follows a distraught man, Mackenzie Phillips, as he struggles to find his faith and get through a great tragedy. It’s based on a book by William Paul Young that I was lucky enough to be recommended when I was in middle school. After seeing the movie last night, I cannot get these themes out of my head.
If you haven’t seen the movie and are not familiar with the story, not to worry. No spoilers in this post, but check out this trailer.
Now that that’s all cleared up, here are:
My Three Takeaways
1) We are not supposed to “play god”
Most of the really controversial debates in our world, especially around politics, are people arguing over what is “good” and what is “evil.” We think we have the wisdom and power to be the judge, but we do not. We don’t know everything and often we are selfish with our decisions. Not only are we not qualified to be the judges, but it is not our job. God didn’t create us to judge each other and decide right from wrong. He’s already done that.
The Shack’s main character, Mack, spends a lot of time criticizing God and how He takes care of his children. Mack soon realizes that he can’t even fathom what all God has to consider. It’s easy for us to condemn one person and reward another. What Mack and we often forget is that all people are God’s children. He can’t simply choose which of his children are evil and which are good for the same reason that parents don’t abandon their children when they rebel. This concept was tough for me to grasp, as I imagine it is for most. How could we possibly save the soul of a murderer? A terrorist? A rapist? The answer: we can’t, He can.
2) God does not make bad things happen, but He is with us when they do.
Unfortunately, a lot of people imagine God as a puppetmaster, pulling the strings. They hear that He is all-powerful and assume that he controls everything that happens. Yes, he could, but he doesn’t. He gave us free will. He gave us choices. With that freedom comes sin and sometimes sin leads to pain for innocent people. God has a plan for each one of us. A plan that includes joy and everlasting life. A plan where we choose Him. Does He try to guide us to that path? Yes, but we are stubborn.
He doesn’t make these bad events happen, but He is still there. God never turns His back. It’s easy for us to blame him and feel that He has left us in these dark times. He never abandons his children, even in dark places, even when we put ourselves in those places.
3) We have to let go of pain and anger
The Shack follows Mack on a journey through The Great Sadness. He is, understandably, in incredible pain. Pain from his loss. Pain from his guilt. Pain from his anger. This pain is debilitating. Mack quickly figures out that he cannot move on with his life and be a good father to his children until he lets this pain go. Is it easy? Of course not. God isn’t expecting us to do it in one move. We have to make peace with the past. It’s over.
The part of the movie and book that struck me most was the theme of forgiveness and its importance in relieving our pain. Whether it’s a small grievance or an act considered “unforgivable” in your mind, we have to forgive.
Let’s be clear about what “forgiveness” entails, as The Shack establishes it. Forgiveness is not forgetting and it doesn’t excuse the act. It does not establish a relationship. “It means letting go of someone’s throat.” Holding onto a grudge is not healthy. Keeping negative thoughts in your head towards them only poisons you. Following Christ is not only done in words, but in a holiness of heart.
Disclaimers: In this post, I refer to the Holy Trinity as “God” and I refer to God occasionally as “He.” I recognize that there are three parts to the Holy Trinity and fully accept that God’s gender is ambiguous. This language is to make the writing easier to understand and more to the point. All the quotes are from The Shack book, though similar things are said in the movie.