Last Wednesday, I posted the first in a series of three Wednesday posts titled “Not Especially Fond of The Shack? The Shack Facts.” For those who know little or nothing about this runaway New York Times bestselling book, I shared some facts about its history, story line, and author, William P. Young.
In today’s post, I share what I believe to be the positive aspects (pros) of the messages communicated in both The Shack book and The Shack movie (spoiler alert).
To read or not to read The Shack book? To watch or not to watch The Shack movie? These are the questions that are going through the minds of many evangelical Christians right now. I took a Facebook poll on my personal page (not my author page) on Monday, May 15, 2017, asking the question,
I’m wondering how many of you have read and/or watched The Shack and, if you have, what your take away was from either or both?
I wasn’t surprised to get quite a bit of engagement, with a variety of responses. They ranged from, “Haven’t read the book or watched the movie,” to “I couldn’t get through the book, and I won’t watch the movie,” to “Loved the book and the movie!” There were as many unique responses as there were responders. Not surprising either. Every person on planet earth has a different way of looking at things, influenced by their own genetic disposition (nature), their life experiences (nurture), and their spiritual (or nonspiritual) views.
I appreciated (and am still gleaning from) all the honest input. There were those who recommended the book, Finding God in Shack (there are actually two books on Amazon.com by the same name, but two different authors), as well as the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) series, Restoring the Shack, to learn more.
It’s not unusual to hear a movie goer who has read a book from which a movie is based say, “The book was so much better than the movie!” I believe one of the reasons for this is because of the time limitations placed on its big-screen adaptation. In my opinion, The Shack movie remained, for the most part, true to The Shack book. There were a few minor discrepancies that I noticed, but nothing major worth pointing out.
A novel is as good as its ability to imprint impacting images in the minds of its readers. I first read The Shack in 2007 at the recommendation of a good friend. Anyone who knows me well at all, knows that I don’t just “read” a book; I become intimately acquainted with it. It just doesn’t feel natural to me to read a book without a pen in hand. I’m always ready to put asterisks, smiley faces, hmmm … , wow!, I agree! and so on in the margins beside the content I especially enjoy. On the other hand, I put sad faces, what?! I don’t agree! or Are you kidding me?! in the margins beside concepts I can’t (or won’t) accept.
In addition to reviewing the notes in the margins of my book, I enjoyed rereading my hand-written “review” (from 2007) on the first blank page at the end of it:
I believe the reason this book has had such an overwhelming impact on so many hearts is that it engages the imagination—the movie theater in our minds–with a more genuine picture of the authentic, affectionate love that Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have for humanity than has ever been portrayed before. This book provides a wonderful picture of grace and will be a very special addition to my already growing library on the subject.
Ten years later, as I sat in the movie theater watching this anomaly come to life, I was mesmerized (and wishing I would have packed my purse with Kleenex!). And, of course, it made me want to reread the book the first chance I got. Which I did. But this time with different images.
There is a line in the foreword of the book that encapsulates the reason, I believe, so many are drawn to The Shack (it resounded with me!):
I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing. And I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.
This morning, I woke up to the captivating theme song of the movie, “Keep Your Eyes on Me,” a duet written and recorded by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, playing in my mind. Go ahead and take a listen for yourself if you would like:
The words to this song convey a very simple biblical message:
When the hurts of this life seem much more real than your faith and hope in God, keep your eyes on Him.
Right after Steven and I got married in July 1997, one of the Scriptures that God kept bringing to the forefront of my mind was Hebrews 12:1-2 (I even had a coffee mug with the passage on it), which says,
We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. (NCV)
God used this passage in Hebrews along with several others to remind me of the importance of keeping my focus on Him (Isa. 26:3; Col. 3:1-4; Phil. 4:8). During that time in my life, I was experiencing great sadness. My only child told me he wanted to go live with his dad. He had lived with me for the first five years following the divorce. Although I was shocked and devastated when he shared the news, I understood his need to be with his dad. (A twelve-year-old should never have to choose between his parents.)
In addition to The Shack’s message on the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus when our personal world is being rocked to the core, I found the following to be positive takeaway:
- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are portrayed as a warm, compassionate, joy-filled Trio of Perfect Love who long for an up-close-and-personal relationship with every person on the face of this earth (John 3; Rom. 1:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
If you have read/watched The Shack, you already know that I included its endearing catchphrase in the title of this series of Wednesday posts. The line is Papa’s (Father God’s) and He (well, she) says to the protagonist, Mack Phillips,
I’m especially fond of Missy, and you, too.
Then, at some time later, Mack says to Papa,
Is there anyone you aren’t especially fond of?
To which she replies,
Nope. Haven’t been able to find any.
This line of dialogue reminds me of John 3:16, which says,
God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 is likely the most well-known Scripture in the New Testament. It embodies the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. I wrote an entire post over the importance of this single verse. The gospel clearly requires a response from each person, whether to believe in (into) Jesus and experience eternal life or not to believe–remain outside the life of Christ–and perish. It’s that simple.
In next Wednesday’s post, The Shack Cons, I will be sharing what I’ve learned about Young’s personal beliefs about salvation. And I will tell you, he and I are definitely not on the same page concerning the most important aspect of life—and death—and eternity.
Another positive takeaway I got from the message in The Shack was:
- The Godhead cares deeply about humanity’s suffering and will go to great lengths to be our healing and restoring Agent through pursuing a personal love relationship with us (Psalm 23; 34:18; 56:8; 91; 147:3; Jer. 29:11-13; John 14:26-27; Rom. 8:18-28; 2 Cor. 1:3-8; Rev. 21:4).
I loved the representation of Father God’s consoling empathy (tears) toward Mack in the suffering he endured throughout his life—from his childhood abuse to the gut-wrenching tragedy of losing his youngest daughter to a sadistic serial killer–and the great lengths He went to in order to bring healing and restoration to his life. Two quotes really stood out to me, words that I believe reflect Father God’s compassion for us in our deepest wounding:
Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly (He longs for us to experience a fulfilling life on this earth).
Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors (He is not the Author of tragedies, but can bring incredible healing in the midst of them).
Although there were many aspects of The Shack that warmed my heart, I’m going to wrap up my discussion of the positive takeaways with this one:
- God knows every sin, every failure, every dark thought and emotion we’ve ever experienced, and yet He still pursues a personal love relationship with us–even when we could care less about Him (Luke 15).
Mack was blinded by his intense anger and hatred toward Missy’s killer. And by his anger toward God for allowing these horrible events to touch his life. Yet God loved him so much, he longed for and pursued an intimate relationship with Mack. God understands our extreme lack of understanding (because He’s omniscient) and wants to help us learn to trust Him with every facet of our lives, regardless of whether or not we understand everything. In short, trust always requires unanswered questions.
When I think about all the years that I could have cared less about what God thought or wanted for my life—the years that I spent trying to milk my love, value, and acceptance from this world, I am in awe of the amazing grace, love, and patience that He exercised toward me. He pursued me and waited for me to want an intimate relationship with Him as much as He wanted an intimate relationship with me.
My two greatest personal takeaways from the book and the movie? I closed The Shack book longing for more intimate interaction with my Beloved, and I walked out of the movie theater filled with an abiding sense of joy. Both the book and movie reminded me that my Beloved is especially fond of me, Kimberly Kay Francis, who lives at the top of the Texas Panhandle in the United States of America. He knows my name and my address and chooses to live where I live–right in the center of my new heart in Him!
In today’s post, I shared what I believe to be the pros–the positive takeaways–from reading The Shack book and watching The Shack movie. While I savored the book (twice) and the movie (twice), there were places in both that raised very important red flags of concern in my mind about the author’s personal beliefs, especially about salvation. I’m looking forward to sharing my concerns and the answers I found through my research with you in next Wednesday’s post.
In the meantime, I would love to interact with you concerning today’s post content.
- Have you read The Shack book and/or seen The Shack movie?
- If yes, what was your take away from either or both?
- If no, would you like to see the movie and/or read the book? If not, why not?
If you prefer to interact with me through personal email rather than commenting below, you can do so by clicking here.
Until next time,
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and want to know more about me and the types of content I will be posting, please visit my About Page.
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Kim K. Francis
P.O. Box 357
Perryton, TX 79070