It’s been a while. I’ve missed you.
I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together there.
God invited Mack to the shack (p. 16). His first gut feeling was nausea but it quickly turned to anger. He had always tried to avoid thinking about the shack; he never went to the shack. He insulated himself from the shack in every way.
The shack created turmoil in the pit of Mack’s stomach. The shack was a dead and empty place; it had a twisted, evil face. It was a metaphor for emptiness, unanswered questions, and far-flung accusations against God (p. 77).
Yet, God wants to meet Mack at the shack.
“Why the shack–the icon of his deepest pain?,” Mack rages in his inner thoughts. “Certainly God would have better places to meet him?” (p. 65).
The shack is Mack’s deepest pain. The shack, metaphorically, is his own woundedness, his hurt.
We each have our own shack.
The shack is Young’s metaphor for his hidden, wounded self. It is his real self; the one he hides behind a facade as if his life were a beautiful, well-kept house. But the shack is actually Young’s soul. It is something which he and others built, just as we build our own shacks through our own experiences and choices, joys and tragedies. William P. Young, the author, is Mackenzie Allen Phillips, the main character in the story.
Young’s soul is pictured in The Shack as a shack. The story is fictional, but true. It is a modern parable. It is the story of a soul–wounded, filled with hidden secrets, addictions, and lies. In this story Young’s true soul meets God.
Young has told his story in several settings, but the most powerful telling I have found on the internet is to a small group in the home of a friend. His personal story is worth 75 minutes of your time.
He was a preacher/missionary kid in New Guinea in early childhood. Without cultural identity, afraid of his angry father, sexually abused by other children, he himself became a predator of sorts. He became a religion addict–a perfectionistic performer, and ultimately sexual sin was revealed while a minister of the gospel.
The years of guilt and shame took its toll on Paul. He built his own shack where the shame could reside, where the woundedness could hide. He attempted to win God’s approval just like he attempted to earn his own father’s approval. He went to Bible College, then to seminary, and then into the ministry.
But he lived filled with shame. On the outside, it looked like his house was in order, neatly kept as God’s good minister. His perfectionistic attempts at performance hid the shame as he attempted to achieve some kind of self-worth. Maybe God would forgive him, love him, and accept him if he worked hard to compensate for the sin and shame which he found unable to control. To do this, he had to stuff and numb his feelings. He did not know how to feel. He was empty on the inside except for anger and shame, and he was mostly angry at himself.
He had built a shack surrounded by a Hollywood front. The front was a lie; the shack was the truth. But he could not speak the truth because it was too shameful.
The Shack is Young’s parable about how God met him at his shack and rocked his world. God invited him to the shack. God met him in his pain and shame–not to judge it, but to heal it. God does not invite us to the shack to shame us or express his disappointment; he invites us to experience his mercy and love. He invites us to let us know that he is “especially fond” of us.
The Shack invites us to enter into this metaphorical journey to the soul. Perhaps, and it is Paul’s prayer, that through this story we will hear God’s invitation to meet him at our own shacks and discover him anew.
The last paragraph of the book–the last paragraph of the Acknowledgements in the back (p. 252 if it were numbered)–expresses this hope and reveals the purpose of the parable itself for readers beyond his own children for whom he originally wrote the piece.
Most of us have our own grief, broken dreams and damaged hearts, each of us with our unique losses, our own ‘shack’. I pray that you will find the same grace there that I did, and the abiding presence of Papa, Jesus and Sarayu will fill up your inside emptiness with joy unspeakable and fully of glory.
William P. Young