I'm a member of a book club with some co-workers and I realize this makes me both a total nerd and also really old. I'm okay with it because I love to read and really, what better way to discuss a book but with some appetizers and booze in the presence of friends? Last night we had the meeting at my place and aside from freaking out all day about how to arrange the food, which wine to serve, and whether or not Nate would clean up his CRAP from the living room before the girls arrived....it was a fabulous time. We read The Shack this month and I knew our discussion would be intense and enlightening. This book is 'theological fiction' which means that God and religion and faith all play a huge part in the plot. I guess it could be considered a 'Christian' book but then again some traditional conservative Christians are the book's biggest critics. They say the book is heresy, dangerous, and simply incorrect. I'll admit that the drama surrounding this book is one of the reasons I wanted to read it for myself, to form my own opinions. And now you have to read about them.
I'm not going to go too deep into the plot in case someone out there wants to read the book without me spoiling the fun. But here is the bottom line [that is all over the internet and even the back cover, so I'm not ruining anything]:
The main character, Mack, is totally ticked at God. His youngest daughter, Missy, gets abducted and brutally murdered at The Shack and even though I'm not a mom yet, I believe that would be every parent's worst nightmare. So then a few years later he gets this note in his mail box from God suggesting that they meet at The Shack. The fact that God sent him a note via the USPS isn't even the weirdest part.....just wait until Mack actually meets God face-to-face. All I'm going to say is that the Trinity is ethnically diverse, full of personality, and they love to eat home-cooked meals made by God the Father. You definitely have to remind yourself that this is FICTION and keep an open mind. But it forces you to think outside the box and has a few great take-home messages.
Forgiveness, for one, is a huge theme of this book. I know I've personally struggled with forgiveness in the past because it's just so easy to keep a grudge. I also think us women tend to harbor negativity more easily than men. Come on ladies, you know we like to bottle up our feelings and let them accumulate until we explode. We hold onto past mistakes far too often and I honestly think it only hurts us. Sorry to generalize here, maybe it's just me but I think our gender tends to do this as a whole, too.
So one of my favorite quotes from the book about forgiveness:
"Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly."
It's true, isn't it? When we hold onto past mistakes of our own or of others we only hurt ourselves. We're just denying ourselves happiness that exists in the present moment. Deep thought, huh?
Another interesting theme in the book is the famous question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" I must say that I've been incredibly blessed in my life with amazing parents, a great childhood, an enjoyable career, and a wonderful husband. I really can't complain about too much in my life but when Keri was diagnosed, I really struggled with the whole 'Why, God?' question. It just didn't seem fair and my whole logical world turned upside down. I cried a lot and was angry and just didn't understand [and of course, my emotional experience was peanuts compared to Keri living through it....love you, Ker!].
The Shack doesn't directly answer the question as concisely as I had hoped. I definitely wanted a black and white answer as to WHY these things happen in life, like an epiphany of sorts saying, "Oh....that makes total sense now, I understand why crappy stuff happens." But really, it's not that simple. All the book says is that God does not want us to suffer and it's not his plan for bad things to happen. But he also doesn't intercede on our behalf every time we get in trouble, for reasons we just can't understand. We live in a sinful world but I'm still naive enough to think everything happens for a reason, even if we don't get it right away. I still don't know why Keri had to get cancer.....but I can definitely see some positive outcomes she's experienced through her journey. It's still a tough question, isn't it?
I could go on and on about the book but I won't. I will just say that I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Good Reads and would suggest reading it just because it makes you think. I'm all for the mindless feel good books because easy reads make me happy. But sometimes the books that aren't so happy, ones that really work your brain a bit, are even better.
I know everyone has a different type of faith, a unique relationship with God and religion and churches. I myself have been exposed to numerous Christian denominations and am still trying to figure out where I fit in the best as I grow spiritually. But this book affirms the fact that you don't have to sit in a church pew to know God and heck, you might even find him in the craziest places imaginable.
And with that, I'm onto reading Eclipse. Nothing like switching from God to vampires with the turn of a page. :)