I have checked out the video in which the author William Paul Young shared his heart on why and how he wrote the novel “The Shack”. It is interesting to learn that he originally wrote the novel for his young children, and the novel was meant to deal with the character and nature of God as it relates to us in our processes of healing, and the concept of trinity in the story is included because it makes sense to him as the trinity is about relationships as being central to the nature of God. So he had intended “The Shack” to be a suspense-wrapped mystery story that deals with questions such as what if there is a God who is deeply involved in the details of our lives, and who is good all the time.
It is also interesting to note that the main character MacKenzie is a representation of the author himself, who also lives in Oregon. According to the story, MacKenzie lost one of his children during a camping trip, and four years later, received a mysterious note in his mailbox, which could be from the perpetrator, or could be a bad joke, or could be an invitation from God to go to the shack. The author noted that in the Bible, Romans said no one even sought for God, so sending us an invitation is how God relates to us, and any movement on our part for God is because there has been an invitation – and that is the story of Jesus becoming incarnated. He added that the incarnation of reality is part of relationships, which is different from religion because religion is about us going to find out and hear all the rules and regulations to become better to win God’s approval and affection. whereas relationships is about Jesus leaving the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep. (Perhaps it is about listening to our inner self or highest self and learning to know ourselves and embracing the fullness of our own humanity and divinity, which is something that organised religions cannot offer because they tend to propagate the false idea that we are separated from God or our highest self.)
I learnt that the characters in the story are influenced by the author’s own multicultural background in which he grew up, and they are portrayed outside the conventional/theological box. I agree that God can be likened to the mother hen protecting the chicks (since Jesus once said he longed to gather his children under his wings). He explained that even though God is often portrayed as Father, it is not necessarily referring to a male character but rather the character of a real Father, which reflects the nature of God that is loving, caring and nurturing.
The interviewer noted that the novel was not meant to be a theological treatise of the nature of God but about something deeper. The author agreed that it is not meant to be a theology 101 course, but meant to be a big picture about God where people can put together pieces of a puzzle, and the underlying metaphor of the story is that the shack becomes the soul of our being, whereby we go inward and face our fears and shame, and discover that God is in the midst of our life’s experiences and is with us all the while, which gives us hope. I think that even though the story is a fictional story, it carries a powerful message that is relevant to us because the characters and the underlying message of the story are something that we all can relate to in our everyday lives in some ways, and we too can find hope and meaning in our own lives, especially when life doesn’t seem to make sense during challenging times. I also think it testifies to the fact that we are all connected because while the novel was originally meant to be written for William Paul Young’s own children, the rest of the world also benefits eventually from the love he has for his children through reading and reflecting on his heartfelt story about the loving and caring nature of God (who is in us, as us and around us).
- ‘Cross Roads’: A Writing Career Built On Faith (npr.org)
- Some thoughts on the historical Jesus and the archetypal Christ (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- What Does Christmas Mean to You? (susannenelson.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: “The Shack” by William Paul Young
- A Quick “Review” of THE SHACK by Paul Young (sharefaith.wordpress.com)