July 31, 2017
The nature of God is sometimes so confusing. Is He really out there? Why doesn’t He intercede and stop bad things from happening to good people? Why do big miracles happen for some families, but not for others?
I don’t have any answers to these big questions, but a little fiction book recently touched my soul and helped me understand the nature of God a whole lot better. The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, is a fictionalized account of a man and his journey through the pain and suffering of losing a child to a monster, and his ultimate understanding of the events after he meets God, and his eventual forgiveness of the monster who inflicted such suffering on his innocent child. The story is simple, beautiful, and touching. It’s one of those stories that you almost believe is true. And, get out your kleenex. I had to stop reading it three times because it kept making me cry.
It’s funny because I found quite a bit of criticism of the book out in cyberspace by other Christians, particularly Evangelicals. It’s been called heretical and not true to the Bible, etc. But, I found it beautiful. God is featured in the book promimently, and in his 3 forms. God is a large, nurturing Black woman (who becomes a man-form later in the book.) Jesus is a middle-Eastern carpenter. And, the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman who is all sparkly and hard to really look at. I can imagine that. I can see that and feel it. They all work together, in their own special way, to help the main character, Mack, work through to understanding the nature of God.
What I discovered is that God loves the person who was hurt just as much and the person who did the hurting. (And he doesn’t resort to trite things like “I hate the sin but not the sinner.”) Rather, God feels our pain as we suffer from the sin we commit. It was shocking to think of God loving a child molestor as much as a parent who has suffered from the child molestor’s deeds – but there it is. He really does love each of us in all the same way, just like we all love our children no matter what choices they make.
I was also struck by the way that God continually wants to have a relationship with us. I’ve never entirely understood that piece of things, but this book helped me a bit with us. God wants us to talk to Him about everything, walk with him, and really think of Him as our friend and guardian.
It was also very interesting to realize that God is with us even in the worst of times when we think He has abandoned us. It isn’t his role to save the child from the monster, or any of us from someone else who is hurting us or someone else we love. It is His role to be with us throughout the bad thing that is happening. It is also not our role to seek retribution or revenge. God will work things out for us.
The section about judgment was really interesting. The judge character wasn’t one of the Trinity. This woman was a separate character and her role wasn’t to judge the main character or anyone else. Her role was to ask the main character to look at how he judges others. That slapped me right in the face.
By far, the very best part of the book was the part on forgiveness. The God character in the book is very specific about how difficult it is to forgive someone who isn’t sorry for what they’ve done – maybe they’re even proud of it. We’ve all been there. It’s easy to forgive someone who tearfully asks for forgiveness. It’s insanely hard to forgive someone who doesn’t see that they’ve done anything wrong. Well, guess what? It’s okay to forgive and still be mad. And, it’s okay to realize that forgiving sometimes has to be done over and over again. The book really says it in a way that I can’t possibly summarize:
“‘So is it all right if I’m still angry?'” Papa was quick to respond. ‘Absolutely!’ What he did was terrible. He caused incredible pain to many. It was wrong, and anger is the right response to something that is so wrong. But don’t let the anger and pain and loss you feel prevent you from forgiving him and removing your hands from around his neck.'”…….”‘Son, you may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completed. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness and give him over ot me so that my love will burn from his life every vestige of corruption. As incomprehensible as it sounds at the moment, you may well know this man in a different context one day.'”
The book was recently adapted to film, which I confess I won’t ever watch. (The book is just too real for me.) But, I admit that I loved this little tidbit from the author:
Young wants President Donald Trump to see the film. He said that he was working on making sure that the President will be shown a screening of the film. He believes that the film is important for Trump to watch because of it’s handling of forgiveness and the treatment towards those of various races and upbringings. (We Live Entertainment)
Read the book – you won’t be sorry.
Acts 17:27 (NRSV): so that they would search for God[a] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
Serve all with love.
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