I remember hearing discussions of bonfires. Bonfires for mass book burnings. That’s the kind of effect it has on you. One way or another it will move you. Change you. Shape you. Yes, once you’ve read The Shack by William Paul Young, you will be affected.
Many of my close friends and family members read it. Some devoured it. Some read it numerous times. Then, there were those who never got past the first couple of chapters. That’s understandable. It’s not easy to read about that kind of pain. That kind of loss. For some, however, it wasn’t the pain and the loss that stopped them dead in their tracks. It was how God was portrayed.
Sure, I struggled with it a little in the beginning. Once you’ve created a mental picture of what someone looks like – someone you’ve never seen before – that picture becomes ingrained in your mind. That’s what I had done with God. I had fashioned an image of Him in my mind’s eye. My own personal rendition of my own personal God. I wonder now if that isn’t a form of idolatry. But, that’s probably a topic for another post.
Being forced to break that mold and take God out of the box where I had put Him was a game-changer for me. It freed me to see Him more as He really is. It also freed Him to work in greater ways in my life. Unfettered by the chains I created to try to control Him. Unbound by the cell where I tried to keep Him contained. Unleashed to do what He wanted in my life. Not just what I wanted Him to do.
How could a movie do such a book justice?
I was anxious to see, yet hesitant at the same time. Because this book had such a tremendous impact on my life in such a personal way, I wondered if its capacity to reach into individual lives on personal levels would be a little restricted in movie form. I certainly can’t speak for others and how this movie affected them, but I know how it affected me. How it impacted me.
The book had allowed me to see these Three in a light other than that of my own making.
The movie did something different. The movie ushered these Three into my here-and-now. It brought them out of past history. It brought them to life.
It was especially the portrayal of Jesus. So approachable. So engaging. So kind. He was available and concerned, but not pushing Himself into anyone’s life. He was near, but not domineering. He was always within reach, but being in His presence required following Him. Because He was moving. Always moving.
Everything about Him captivated me. The way He dressed – just like people I know and feel comfortable with. Nothing flashy, yet nothing so ragged as to draw attention to His clothes and away from who He really is. The way He spoke. Softly, but with weighty and authoritative words. He looked into the eyes of the one He spoke to. Not in an intimidating way, but in a way that made a connection.
Yes, He connected.
The way He moved. He walked with purpose. He never hurried. But then He never dragged around, either. He stood and He carried Himself with dignity and a quiet confidence. But He never took a stance of arrogance.
He was playful, even to the point of engaging in a footrace with Mack. On the water, no less. He drew His friend into a miraculous experience with Him. He stayed alongside him through it all, when He could have run off and left His friend in His wake. Literally.
He liked to fish. He liked to work with His hands. He was creative. He had a personality.
He has a personality.
Just like the Holy Spirit, who liked to garden, but didn’t follow anyone else’s design rules. Like God, who enjoyed listening to Hip Hop music. And like both God and the Holy Spirit, who enjoyed dancing to music from the sixties.
They have personality.
They are living. Breathing. Moving. Smiling. Touching. Creating. Connecting. Caring. Nurturing. Comforting. Revealing. Feeding. Inviting. Relating. Playing. And, above all, They are loving. But, the thing this movie allowed me to see is that They are present.
They are very present.
They are more than historical figures of ancient times. My mind has always believed that, but my soul really hadn’t fully experienced it.
They are friends.
Friends of each other, but most importantly, They are friends of mine. My mind can grasp Lord, Master, Creator, and Savior. But, I’ve always struggled with the friend concept. This movie, in a strange way, allowed me to experience all Three of them as friends.
They are relevant. They matter. Not just in what they have done in the past, or what they will do in the future. They matter today. They matter now. In every moment. In every aspect of my life, whether it seems spiritual or not. They matter. Always. In everything. What’s more, I matter to them. Very much.
And their view of organized religion. Well, that may be the thing that appeals to me most. They don’t want religion. They just want relationship. Religion distracts. It confuses. It muddies the water. It robs my Three Friends of the spotlight that should be theirs.
I write this post primarily for myself. It has never been my intent to have a blog for the purpose of expressing my opinions about things, but for sharing. Sharing my experiences. Sharing my lessons learned from a Holy God. Sharing my encounters. And this encounter was an unforgettable one.
Many of my so-called unforgettable encounters have diminished in detail and intensity over the years. Those things I believed every detail to be branded into my memory eventually began to fade with time. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post. For the sake of my own memory. Because I don’t want to forget this encounter.
The sense of awe that follows an encounter with God is only as far-reaching as our memory… but time and circumstances have a way of blurring the past. New challenges birth fresh doubts. For this reason you need a written record, a detailed account of the times when God came through on your behalf. You need to journal.
I realize that over time the impact this movie had on me will begin to fade. That’s why I recorded these things in my own personal journal. Journaling has become a very important part of my life. After reading what Andy Stanley and Chuck Swindoll wrote about journaling, I understand why it has become that way to me. Chuck Swindoll describes a journal as:
… an intimate record of the journey that the Lord and I are travelling together. A journal is the story of your life with God… furthermore, our journal entries give us rallying points… historical, dated markers that specify God’s dealings deep within our souls as well as His workings on our behalf. We need to preserve a written record of such divine interventions.
The day after I saw The Shack, it was as if my Three Friends were reminding me that my memory can’t be relied upon. I would want to remember exactly how that movie impacted my life – just like the book did. I would want to remember all the ways my Friends spoke to me, especially now that I can fully experience them better.
Today. Present. Relevant. They want to share with me. Live with me. Enjoy me. This unforgettable encounter, like every other I’ll ever experience, is subject to fade. Not because of any flaw in the encounter or of Those I encountered, but because of my own human limitations. That’s why I wrote it in my own journal.
Why did I share it here, on this public platform? Not because I believe my opinion is so important it must be shared with the world. Not because I’m receiving any compensation from the people who made the movie or the theaters that show it. I shared it because I couldn’t keep from it. Because I hope others will experience the same encounter I experienced through both the movie and the book. I share it because I believe it is the thing to do.
The Lord answered me: “Write down what I show you. Write it clearly on stone tablets so whoever reads it can run to tell others.”
Habakkuk 2:2 (ICB)
I shared it because I want everyone to come to know my Three Friends the way I’m still getting to know Them.