I first read “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young in 2011, the year it came out. I was deeply moved by the fictional story, and knew immediately that this spiritually based tale would have to be made into a movie. I couldn’t begin to imagine how they would interpret the miraculous, stunning, and intriguing events which took place in those pages onto the big screen.
Fast forward to today. The movie has finally come out, and is making headlines, but for a reason which honestly surprises me. I’ve read several articles and personal statements from pastors and churches denouncing this movie, and encouraging their congregations not to go see it. I fully respect that everyone is entitled to an opinion. Just as I am entitled to mine. So, after seeing the film for myself, I want to give my own reflections on it from the viewpoint of a Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled woman.
I don’t want to give away too much of the storyline just in case someone hasn’t read or seen it yet. The overview is that a family experiences a tragic loss, and the focal point is how the father, primarily, reacts to the situation. He, like many of us upon coming face to face with a devastating tragedy, blames God for allowing such evil to happen. He lets himself become eaten up with anger and bitterness, and you clearly see the damaging effects it has on his otherwise loving family. His wife is the more spiritual of the two. I love how he describes it. He says that he knows Jesus wide, but Nan (the wife) knows Him deep. She was portrayed as the rock of the family through her commitment to God. His story, his background, was one which contained more pain and anguish. Nan’s term for God is “Papa”. I think this is such a sweet title for Him. Let me tell you why. I feel that the entire premise of this movie is twofold. The first facet is to demonstrate for us the ACCESSIBILITY of God. Oftentimes, I think people view God (and the entire Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) as these untouchable, celestial, otherworldly beings which are far out of our grasp and understanding. But that’s not the God that I know. I know God with Whom I have a personal relationship. I know the God Whom I speak with in a conversation just as I would with a loved one. I know the God Whom, when I was a child and would imagine praying to Him in times of need, would picture in my mind me crawling up into His lap, and Him blanketing me with His arms of love and protection. This relationship is personal. It is the very definition of accessibility. God wants us to have a personal relationship with Him. He is our Father, our Papa.
The second facet that I believe the story points out poignantly is highlighted in one very memorable scene when the father returns to the shack, the scene where an unspeakable act of evil had taken place. One moment you see this shack all dilapidated and run down. It’s a horrible, weather-worn building with large cracks in the floors and walls, and seems as if it could crumble to the ground at any second. In an instant, the shack becomes transformed into a beautiful cabin in the woods surrounded by gardens which are so beautiful I would be hard pressed to describe them. It looks welcoming and homey. The type of magical place tucked quietly in the woods that you’d dream of visiting. At this point in the movie I leaned over to my friend Kelli, touched her arm, and said, “He takes what is broken in our lives, and makes it beautiful.” The spiritual undertones in this film are palpable. Anyone with discernment would pick up on them in an instant.
One of the parts I do want to share, because I don’t think it’s a well-kept secret, is that in the film God’s part is played by a black woman, Jesus is played by a man from Eastern descent, and the Holy Spirit is represented by an Asian woman. I’m not sure if THIS is the conflict that some are having with the movie; but I feel that people who have any knowledge of the Bible would understand that for the purposes of this movie, these character (and their genders) are merely representations. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all spirits in truth. Nowhere in the Word does it say that God is a white man with a white beard, or that Jesus is a white man with brown facial hair. I believe what the author is portraying is that in this story God meets you where you are, and in the way that best meets your needs. Let me explain… when the father first comes to the shack after the run-down building transforms into the inviting cabin, he walks inside to find God, as the black woman, cooking in a kitchen. “She” is preparing food which they later tell us is the best the father has ever tasted. The cabin smells of his own mother’s perfume. Why? Well, here’s my thought- God knew that the father in our story was uncomfortable and didn’t have a deep relationship with Him. God wanted to show Himself in a way which would make the father comfortable and feel welcome. God had to gently make the father feel safe enough to let HIM in. The black woman, and Her soft words, and nurturing spirit, were exactly what was needed for him to start letting down some of those barriers he had built up towards God in his anger. In one scene, the father says to God, “Why did you bring me to this place (the shack)?” God responded, “Because this is where you got stuck.” How many of us can pinpoint that pivotal moment in our life when we got stuck, and just couldn’t move forward out of fear, of anger, or depression? It’s happened to each of us. The beauty of it is, God will meet you right at that spot- right where you are- and He will walk you through. His love for us is unending. His desire for a relationship with us is without limits.
The role of Jesus was undoubtedly one of my favorites. In the movie, Jesus keeps assuring the father that none of this life is anything that he has to walk through alone. Jesus teaches him valuable lessons in faith, which are exquisitely portrayed in the movie. I’m not going to give the details away, but it’s fabulous!
In a scene close to the end, God comes to our father again, but this time God is in the body of a man. When the father asks about the change in appearance, God says, “I’ve come to you as a man, because for what we are about to experience today, you’re going to need a Father.” Yet again, another beautiful example of God meeting us right where we are. We can come to Him in our hurt, in our brokenness, in our sin, and in our ugliness. He’s right there. He just wants us to come to Him. It doesn’t matter what state we come to Him in. He will provide whatever our need is. He just wants to heal us.
I think the message I most got from the movie today is this, we serve an amazing God Who is capable of things behind our wildest imagination. While the movie is fictional, in my opinion, it gives an incredibly accurate account of the relationship potential we have with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit if we open ourselves up to it through the Word and through prayer. I could talk about this book and movie for hours. I absolutely love it. Here’s what I can assure you- it isn’t dangerous. It isn’t false doctrine. It is a fictional account which represents the Holy Trinity in a way which encourages the viewer to open their mind to the accessibility of God.
So, in closing. I know that people have differing opinions. In my opinion these protest against the movie are unfounded. I’d love to encourage everyone to go see it. Even non-believers I truly feel would be sparked by interest just from seeing the relationships this father forms with these Three. So, have your protests about things like “Fifty Shades.” I totally understand that. But denouncing this movie, and all of the spiritual lessons shown so beautifully in ways you’ve never even imagined, is doing a disservice to something that I fully believe God will use for His glory.
I’d love to hear what you think after you read it/see it. Be blessed, friends!