Not (yet) on Oprah’s Book List

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  The Shack
I guess I’m probably the last person to read
The Shack” by William Young. If I’m NOT the last, and you haven’t read it either, it’s the fictional story about a man (Mack) who loses a daughter in a horrible twist of fate, and as a result, blames God…blah blah blah. The story details how Mack receives a personal invitation from God to return to the scene of his daughter’s disappearance where, over the course of the weekend, he meets with God and eventually reconciles his relationship with him. The location isn’t as plain as it would seem, and neither is his meeting with God. I won’t spoil it with more details.

CareerMom bought this book for me over Easter and as I pulled it out of my basket, she said, “I got it at Sweet Spirit. It was on the Best Seller’s list, so I just got it. I don’t know if it’s good or not.”

Normally, I might believe her lackadaisical attitude about why she purchased the book, but the back cover of the book explains… well…you read it:

shack excerpt

It’s a not-discussed non-secret between CareerMom and I that my personal beliefs about God, while still strong, don’t run towards the “gotta go to church every Sunday” direction and that my frustrations with God generally stem from a seeming lack of interaction (or interest) on his part. Given the facts, I’m pretty sure her wish was that this book would hopefully give me some answers, while guiding me back towards a closer relationship with him. Having read a number of these “Where’s God” books, I didn’t hold out much hope.

Surprisingly, it may actually work out that this book provides some insight, if not actual answers, but not in the way she thinks. This book, a piece of fiction containing “real conversations” according to the author, won’t come as a shock to the millions of us who have grown up and cast aside the traditional religion we grew up with and who, have instead, embraced a more personal God, according to his or her own views of spirituality. It will, and has, cause a visceral reaction among those (like my mother) who believe God is up there diddling his finger around in everyone’s business and who also believe he has a plan for absolutely everything that happens.

The shack doesn’t portray God in a manner that fulfills any one religion’s perfect ideal, and some of the theology taught by “God” in the book would probably give even the youngest Pope a heart attack. What it does do, is tend to bolster the agnostics’ belief that we’ve gotten religion all wrong (and I’m talking about Eastern and some Western religions) and that there are many paths to God and not everyone will get there the same way. The shack portrays God as more a relationship oriented being, rather than a rules oriented being.

There’s a part of me–the part that went to a Bible thumping, fire and  brimstone church when I was a kid–who wants to scream “HERETIC!”, but then there’s another part of me that wants to believe what is written here. But despite all this, what I haven’t found in the book, is a concrete answer about what a person needs to do to gets on God’s eternal good side. Is there a prayer I need to say to ensure I go to heaven? Do I need to get sprinkled with water again, turn around three times and do ten pushups? What?

I’m not quite finished with the book yet and these answers may still reveal themselves. Either way, I have gotten one thing from the book and it came in a very offhanded passage where I don’t think the author was actually trying to make a point; which actually lends authenticity to some of the book’s tenets.

From my own church background, I know that the Bible tells us to model our prayers after the Lords prayer:

  1. start by praising him (“…hallowed be thy name…”)
  2. next comes our submission to him (“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”)
  3. then we ask him for things (“…give us this day our daily bread…”)
  4. ask for forgiveness (“…and forgive us our trespasses…”)
  5. ask for guidance (“…lead us not into temptation…”)
  6. Conclusion

In following this, I always find myself thanking God over and over for the same things. In fact, I’d bet most of us use the same prayer playbook–generally speaking–and honestly, I get bored with it and I figure he does too. But, in The Shack, it details how Mack is sitting around the table eating dinner with God and he’s telling God all about his friends and then he says, (I’m paraphrasing) “Hey wait a minute…what am I telling you all this for. Don’t you already know everything about them?” And God answers (again…paraphrasing) “Of course we know, but in this moment, we are turning off that part of us that knows all about them, so that we can enjoy listening to you tell us in your own words.”

I must say that was a bit of a revelation to me. What if that’s REALLY how it works for God? What if each time he hears our cries and our praise, it’s as if he’s hearing it for the first time? Sort of brought back a renewed interest in prayer for me.

So as I finish the book, we’ll see. If I’ve gotten you interested in more, then great. Hope I didn’t turn anyone off though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “Not (yet) on Oprah’s Book List

    Rose said:
    April 2, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    You have piqued my interest. I think I will head over to borders tomorrow before picking my husband up a the airport and purchase this book.
    I have always been put off by all the pomp and circumstance of Catholocism. I was raised in the church until I was allowed to make the choice to not attend at 18. I ran to and vowed to never return. So far I have kept my word–however I feel that I may be doing a disservice to my children.
    I am interested in the idea of God being a relationship oriented being rather than a rules oriented being. I felt that if there is a God the relationship should be more of a personal worship than a performance.
    I look forward to reading this book.

    Re: For even more insight, I recommend checking out the discourse concerning the book over at Amazon. You’ll get a good dose of both sides of view. Enjoy.

    Allison said:
    April 3, 2008 at 8:45 am

    I’m always intrigued by how our religious (or lack thereof) upbringing colors our beliefs and practices as adults. My husband and I had very different religious experiences as children. He was reared in a very pious Catholic home…attending Catholic school and church as directed by his parents. I was reared in a very non-religious home. My dad was (and still is) an atheist and I don’t know what my mom was (is). I started going to church (a Baptist one) in the 1st grade because a cashier at a local grocery store invited me to go with her. I continued attending church over the years with various friends from the neighborhood. I didn’t go because anybody was making me…quite the opposite in fact. I felt like I couldn’t even talk about my church or my beliefs at home because my dad criticized people who brought up religion with him. The only references my mom ever made to religion was to say things like, “For a girl who’s supposed to be Christian, you sure don’t act like it.” I was a closet Christian at home. I wanted very badly to have parents that believed in God and went to church with me. I love my parents, but this is one aspect of my childhood that has always bothered me.

    My husband no longer practices Catholicism (which distressed his parents before they passed away). We attend a non-denominational church. Sometimes I think he takes for granted that he grew up in a religious household. I stopped attendinding church after college….I still prayed and believed in God…I was just lazy and nervous about finding a church. We became serious about finding a church when we were expecting the imp. I tend to be much more emphatic about regular attendance than my husband does, and I think it’s because of our different upbringings. I want to give her what I didn’t have, and he doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up without what he had. I don’t, however, want to be so strict that she will want to rebel someday. How do you know how to impart religion on your children just enough, but not too much to feel stifling or incite rebellion?

    Anyway, I’m sorry to take your book review (that I will definitely look into when I get over my own book surplus) and go off on a personal tangent.

    Re: Not at all. My background was very strict and I’m constantly at war with myself over my beliefs then and now. So, it’s refreshing to hear other’s backgrounds and personal experiences. Like I said, the book doesn’t put anything to rest really, but it might provide some much-needed insight.

    romi41 said:
    April 3, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    It was great to read your perspective, and I’m actually pretty interested in this book now. I am not religious at all; like my parents just kind of assumed a religion on us from birth (Sikh), but we never went to temple regularly, and I never learned a lot about it…I don’t know where I’ll be going when it’s “all over”, so I just tend to focus on trying to be non-jerk-like in my existence, which is a daily conscious effort of course 😉 …as the same time, I consider myself to be somewhat spiritual, I just don’t have all the answers (and I don’t really know if I need to…..)

    CuriousC said:
    April 7, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Fascinating! I haven’t read this book and am now adding it to my tbr list. Thank you. You have a fun diverse honest blog here. 🙂

    Re: You’re most welcome. I’m glad you enjoy the blog, and I hope you similarly enjoy the book! Shoot me an e-mail when you’ve read it. I’m curious to hear others’ comments.

    Noel Dear said:
    August 26, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I ran across your blog. I appreciate the way you approach things. If you would like to read my review of The Shack, go to my blog.

    Noel

    RE: Thanks for dropping by and commenting Noel. Read your review of “The Shack” and generally I’d agree, although I will say that despite what “The Church” would have us believe, the Bible was written by men. And while I know it was supposedly written under divine guidance, if that were true, then why was there a big hooplah by the Catholic church to toss out a significant number of letters that were originally included as teachings before there was an actual “Bible”? Despite whatever divine authority had a hand in the writing of all of these letters that comprise the Bible, the bottom line is that MEN decided which ones to bind together and sell to the masses (and don’t think they don’t continue to make a pretty penny off of it).
    But, I do think the Trinity is one of the least understood concepts in the Bible; falling under the “it’s too complicated for man to grasp” category, so we tend to simplify it rather than just accepting it. Kinda like we do with all of those metaphors in the Bible. But ya know, sometimes a rose is just a rose…not a metaphor for life, death and the many layers of purgatory a soul must travel through on a way to spiritual cleansing.

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