“Pain robs you of joy, and the capacity to love.” ~ Papa in The Shack
“I can have peace of mind only when I forgive rather than judge.” ~ Gerald Jampolsky
“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson
I’ve had some pretty fantastic, unexplainable spiritual experiences happen to me, things many people would think are crazy. Because that’s true, I see the world just a little bit differently than most people. For most of my life I’ve hidden this fact because what I believe about life and the divine isn’t the norm. And when I state my point of view, people look at me as if I had two heads.
The Shack, by William Paul Young almost perfectly expresses my belief system so, of course, I loved every page of it. If you haven’t read this one, you have to know that it begins with heart wrenching tragedy and as Mac, the main character, goes through his personal darkness toward forgiveness and healing, we get to go along for the ride. All I can say is, don’t give up on the story. It gets more joyful as it goes along.
In general, I like to watch a movie first then read the book, but in the case of The Shack, I did it the other way around because the movie was yet to be made. But perhaps that doesn’t matter much because for the most part, the movie is just like the book.
The basic story is this. Mackenzie Allen Phillips had a traumatic beginning in life but he finds happiness with a wonderful woman named Nan, and their three children, Josh, Kate, and Missy. It seems as if his past is forgotten, but though his wife Nan talks to Papa (God) every day, Mac can’t bring himself to forgive Papa for what his father did to him. Mac asks that pervasive question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
His life gets worse when on a camping trip alone with his children, Missy is kidnapped. Her blood stained dress is found in a broken down shack not far away. The entire family is plunged into the deepest despair. They are barely able to function, but Mac is in the darkest hole of all.
One day four years later, his family goes away for the weekend to seek help for Kate who blames herself for Missy’s abduction and death. As Mac is clearing the driveway of snow, he notices the mailbox door is open. Inside is an envelop with his name on it. The note invites him to come to the shack and is signed, “Papa.” At first Mac thinks his neighbor friend Will, who also attends the same congregation as the Phillips family, has sent the note. He checks with the Post Office, but no one knows where the note came from. Finally, he asks Will if he can borrow his Jeep to take the trip back to the shack where Missy’s dress was found. Will worries the note is from the killer and doesn’t want him to go. Finally unable to change Mac’s mind, he says he’ll go with him. As they are getting ready to leave, Mac tricks Will into going back to his house for fishing poles, then drives off alone.
When Mac gets to the shack, amazing and sometimes disturbing things begin to happen. He meets Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, or Holy Spirit. Over his visit, he begins to see all the tragic things that have happened not only to him, but others in a new light. For some reason, humans prefer pain to love and joy. We torture ourselves and others because of this pain. The only way to solve this problem is to let go of blame and to forgive. When he does that he’s able to begin the long road to healing.
The movie is almost exactly like the book as I remember it, except that at the end of the book, Mac helps the authorities find the serial killer. We must all face the consequences of our actions after all, but I can see why they didn’t include that in the movie. It’s not the main theme of the story.
The main theme, in my opinion, has to do with all the things we hold onto that cause us so much pain. Our human view of the divine is distorted because we assume the role of God. We hold grudges because we think that’s what God would do. As a result we don’t forgive ourselves or others. Even though I ascribe to all that Mac learns, I fall into those same traps. It takes lots of time and attention to unlearn old conditioning.
I know that esoteric, philosophical movies are sometimes not appreciated. It all depends on how they are packaged. The Matrix, for example, has some of the same themes as The Shack, reality is not what we think it is, but it’s packaged as well done fantasy so it was wildly popular.
The Shack on the other hand, is a story about characters who might live right down the street from us. For some people that brings it a little too close to home for comfort. What if extraordinary, mind bending experiences could really happen to us? That could be a little too weird for some viewers.
One thing for sure about this story is that it shows that spiritual experiences are deeply personal and difficult to convey to others. The only way Nan, Josh, Kate and Will can believe that something significant really did happen to Mac, is by watching him forgive himself and become a completely loving and joyful person. That’s the true evidence of his changed perspective.
If you’re into philosophy, or spirituality, you might be interested in the ideas posited by William Paul Young. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. Neither one is fast paced and I think that’s a good thing. The reader or viewer is given a chance to digest one new concept before moving on to the next.
Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I hope you have a fantastic weekend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.