What you gain from the cover/back of "The Shack" tells you it's a story about a father who's daughter has been abducted. A tragedy no doubt. It also talks about a note from God, telling the man to meet him at the shack that weekend. The front cover tells you it's altogether a story where "Tragedy Meets Eternity". It does sound just a little cheesy altogether. The forward doesn't help much either. I braced myself for a painfully predictable, albeit flowery and intense, story with a pretentious picture of God himself. (I think it's difficult to present God as a character with dialogue in a creative/human way, without seeming at least a bit pretentious - unless you're the Bible)
Thankfully, I'd already committed to reading the entire book. Because after you get past the covers, and the forward, it's a great book. Understand, I've not finished it yet. It may become horrible. But the 3/4 of it I've read so far are worth reading even if it does. Maybe a little pretentious/cheesy in a few of the interactions with God, but I think in this case it's okay.
One part of a conversation with God, speaks about freedom. There is some dangerous ground here, but good ground to put out there none-the-less. Jesus is speaking (as the human that he is) about institutions, and saying he never tried to form any. That institutions are human-invented, and can end up working against God's Kingdom, even if they are the church.
If someone reads this book (close mindedly) looking for permission to leave/not be involved in a church, they will get a pat on the back, and permission granted. Unfortunately, I'm sure that will happen with some. For me, it was quite the opposite. Understand, this is only one small part of all that connected with my soul throughout the book. That same conversation of freedom, talks about the freedom to exist within those institutions. I believe that to be where God has led me, and can free others who desire the community a church offers, but are cynical to the "institutional-ness" of it all.
Do I agree with all the weights and measures and organizational red tape found in serving God through professional (and paid) ministry within a specific denomination? Not always. But do I love, and commit to this community as a family member wanting to serve his own? Yes. I'm not perfect, and in no way do I see my involvement as "bringing genuine Jesus-ness" to an institution that ignores Him. I actually think highly of our leadership, and the direction we are going as the Free Methodist Church. If I ever believe we are not being led towards the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, I pray that I will be faithful to yell loudly.
For this, and many more reasons, I recommend "The Shack" highly to anyone who had been wanting to read it, but due to where it's sold and who's recommended it so far you've chosen not to. It's not perfect. But it's challenged, impacted, connected me with my emotions in many ways, and revealed aspects of God to me that resonate with what I've read in scripture. I like it, and I think you will too...
A Song For the Lent Season
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