Recently I bought a book on impulse. I rarely am an impulse shopper but as I was about to buy a youth ministry book on Amazon.com, an idea popped into my head. About a year ago, a close friend of mine (also in youth ministry) told me about a book that he had read and how he strongly recommended that I read it. I didn’t think anything of it until I was a half of a second away from purchasing the youth ministry book (the only book that I intended to buy that day). I don’t know if it was God bringing that memory and the idea to buy another book to my mind or if it was just a random, unexplainable thing. Nevertheless, I bought two books that day. The book I did not plan to buy was written by William Paul Young and is entitled “The Shack.” I bought it; waited for it to arrive (very impatiently); and when it did, I finished it in two days. I just couldn’t seem to put it down. The only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting was because I had to go to work.
Originally, I had planned to do an entire book review on this book but as I sat in front of my computer for an hour, staring at a few short paragraphs, I realized that I’m not a very good book reviewer and that I would probably give away too much information about the book, ruining it for everyone. So instead, I decided to write about one section at a time. There will be no particular order to the sections. I’ll just be writing as I am inspired to write. The section I am going to be talking about for this months installment of the newsletter is about…you guessed it…limiting ourselves!
Before I get started, I feel that I should say that some people out there take offense to this book. They view it as blasphemy and don’t agree with the theological principles “taught” in this book. From what I understand, this book was written by a Christian father to help his children understand his relationship with God. One review claims that the author never intended for this to turn into a book. I also thought it necessary to give you some basic info about the book. The info that I will give is conveniently located on the back of the book and will not give anything important away…
“Mackenzie Allen Philips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.
Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.”
The main characters in the part of the book that we will be looking at today (and throughout most of the book) are a guy named Mackenzie (Mack for short), and three separate entities that represent each person of the trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). These three “people” that Mack meets at the shack take him on a journey of spiritual transformation; they teach him how to be loved by God again. But more importantly, they teach him how to trust in a God who let this terrible thing happen to his young daughter.
In one section of the book (page 106 to be exact), we see a conversation between Mack, Papa (God), Jesus, and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit). They are asking Mack all kinds of questions about his family and life and during Mack’s answer, he stops mid-sentence and says, “now here I am telling you about my kids and my friends, and about Nan (his wife), but you already know everything that I am telling you, don’t you? You’re acting like it’s the first time you heard it.” To this, Sarayu (The Holy Spirit) says, “Remember that choosing to stay on the ground is a choice to facilitate a relationship; to honor it. Mackenzie, you do this yourself. You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship. You will even lose a competition to accomplish love. It is not about winning and losing, but about love and respect.” To this, Mack responds, “So when I am telling you about my children?” and Sarayu answers, “We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.” Mack then says, “I like that!” And Sarayu replied, “I do too! Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself-to serve.”
To me, this adequately portrays the love that God gives to His Children – to us! God knows everything already, nothing we can tell Him will be a shock to Him or catch Him off guard. But even though He knows everything there is to know, He chooses to limit Himself and He still desires us to come to Him in prayer; to give Him our concerns, requests, desires, hopes, and dreams. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” God already knows the source of our anxiety and fear, yet He still wants us to tell Him about it; to talk to Him and have a living and growing relationship with Him.
In no way am I saying that this book is 100% accurate when it comes to Biblical truths. In fact, I will admit that there are some things that raised a red flag for me while reading it. What I am saying is this…this book spoke to me in a great way. I am nowhere near the level that Biblical scholars are, and I don’t claim to be. I may be wrong in some of the things I said in this article, and I have no problem admitting that. But the simple fact remains: I was reminded of the love of God and the importance of communicating with Him. God spoke to me through this book and even though I know many people are against this book, I feel that it would be discrediting Him to disregard what I got from it. I have to take it for what it is worth, keep an open mind, and continue to love how God spoke to my heart while reading this book. I hope that if you choose to read it, that you all will do the same. Thank you for reading and listening…