The Shack, written by William P. Young, is a fictional Christian story written in an autobiographical narrative. The title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain”, as the author explained in an interview with radio talk show host, Drew Marshall. The Shack "is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged...the thing where shame or hurt is centered, it is the “icon of Mack’s deepest pain.”
The story is the tale of Mackenzie Phillips, known as Mack and his family who have suffered the tragedy of the kidnapping and murder of Missy, their youngest child. For 33 years, Mack has been married to Nan, a nurse working with terminal cancer patients. She also lectures about establishing relationships with God when you are dying. They have five children, college aged to elementary.
The book is broken into two parts, before and after the ‘Great Sadness’, which is how Mack describes his painbefore and after the murder of Missy. The author, writes, “Shortly after the summer that Missy vanished, The Great Sadness had draped itself around Mack’s shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt. The weight of its presence dulled his eyes and stooped his shoulders.”
Our story begins four years before the Great Sadness when Mack takes his three youngest children camping, Kate and Josh are in a canoe accident and during the rescue, Missy is overlooked, and goes missing, it is determined that she has been abducted. A ladybug pin attached to her coloring book, is the calling card of a serial killer known as the "Little Lady Killer." After searching the area, they discover a shack where the kidnapper took Missy; her bloody sundress is there, but not her body. Thus, the beginning of the Great Sadness where everything changes for Mack and his family. While the family tries to move forward and Mack attempts to show a brave face and be the strong daddy and husband that he once was, he is lost in the grief of self-blame and what ifs.
We jump forward to present day and during an ice storm, Mack goes to retrieve the mail, and finds a mysterious letter, addressed to him…It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together…Papa, which is Nan’s name for God. Mack assumes it is a joke, but wonders what if it really is from God, without informing his family he decides to go to the shack. When he arrives, everything is the same, even down to the floor still stained with Missy’s blood. He angry with God, who “wouldn’t even let them find her and bury her.” Because Papa never showed up, Mack decides to return home, but upon leaving, everything is beautifully transformed, almost like another world. When he goes back into the shack to investigate he finds God the Father as an African American woman named Elousia, who also goes by Papa; Jesus Christ, a carpenter from the Middle East, and Sarayu, an Asian woman who is the Holy Spirit. God’s reasoning for their appearance is His dislike of religious stereotypes.
Mack’s blame and anger for Missy’s death is directed towards God, and his need for everything to be all better. Mack asks, “How could you let it happen to Missy? ¨, to which God replies, “When all you can see is your pain, you lose sight of me.” He tells Mack that he never believed that God was good, if he did, he would trust and not question the reasoning behind what had happened. Later Sarayu and Mack start cleaning a garden said to be a beautiful mess, signifying Mack’s soul that they were uprooting with a purpose in his heart.
To show him the fact the Mack cannot live in the moment, Jesus has him walk across the water with him and tells him how living for yesterday instead of today means living in the midst of fear. Afterwards, to allow Mack to see how hard it truly is to do God’s work, he meets with Sophia and is asked to pass judgment on others, deciding who should live...
Cited: Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. Loss and Anticipitory Grief. Lexington Books, 1986. 2014.
Worden, J. William. Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. 4. Springer publishing Company, Incorporated, 2008. eBook. 2014.
www.windrumors.com. n.d. 30 March 2014.
Young, William P. The Drew Marshall Show Drew Marshall. October 2007. Radio.
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