Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Shack, pt. I

This is not an academic post. If you read Verily Verily for the scholarly things I write—if you're one of the three people who fit that description—you can stop here.

This afternoon I started reading William Paul Young's book, The Shack. After reading the Foreword and the first four chapters, and I'm not sure how to react to this book. The one thing I cannot bring myself to say is that I like it. I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. Maybe I could like it if its story couldn't be true. If evil and death and sadness and brokenness and emptiness and guilt and loneliness were alien guests in the minds of storytellers. If parents didn't lose children and no one had to deal with losing a sibling. If this book were no nearer reality than Gene Roddenberry's tribbles or J. J. Abrams's . . . well, than J. J. Abrams's anything.

Two days ago I had a very difficult day, and I spent half of it crying in my office. Sometimes I can keep the full weight of the reality of my sister's loss out of mind. But not two days ago. Sometimes I can wrap myself in the warmth of my faith and trust that God has a plan, even if I cannot see it. But not two days ago. Sometimes I can strengthen my knees and my back to support the people around me, especially those who experience this loss as their own. But not two days ago. Two days ago I had a very difficult day.

And then my Dad called. It was good to hear his voice. It's good to talk to someone who feels the same pain I feel (though it hurts to know that he feels more of it). And it is good to have someone know the soothing comfort of that pain. Life shouldn't be normal. Not yet. So this pain makes me feel . . . I dunno, human, I guess. Talking with Dad feels the way I imagine war veterans feel when they talk with one another. Other people sympathize. Hell, everyone sympathizes. No one understands. But Dad does. And that makes it easier for me to let him shoulder my burden, and to try to help him lift his. So it was good to hear his voice.

He told me that someone at work gave him The Shack and that he started reading it. He hadn't got very far, and he didn't really know what it was about. But this someone-at-work had been through something himself, and The Shack had apparently been helpful for him. So Dad was reading The Shack. I had heard of it. I think Andrea had even read it, back when the book was everywhere, like frogs in Egypt. But I didn't know anything about it. Dad didn't ask me to read it. But the idea of reading it with him—really, of reading any book with him—struck me as appropriate therapeutic. So yesterday I dropped two quarters on a used copy at McKay's. And now I'm reading The Shack, too.

And I don't think I can put it down. I don't want to describe the plot, especially if the two people who read Verily Verily happen to also be the two people who haven't read The Shack yet. But let me say, I'm reading this book not primarily as someone who has lost his sister. I'm reading it mostly as someone in love with a man who has lost his daughter, and as someone who has two daughters of his own. I'm reading it as a man who wants desperately to believe that he can keep all of this . . . this mess, this hurt, this filth, this pain, this . . . this sin away from his little girls. I'm scared that this book will make me face the fact of my powerlessness, of my impotence (and that's a rare word for a man to use of himself!).

So, no. I don't like this book. But I can't put it down. Because I don't want to avoid thinking about the things this book wants to make me think about. And because I don't want my Dad to read this book alone. And because I find myself thinking about my sister when I read it.

And because I want to believe that God still writes notes.

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