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Suzie Agustin English 11-R14

October 14, 2011 Ms. Buenavida Tupe

Relationships and The Unconventional: An Analysis of The Shack by W.M. Paul Young He didnt know what he was about to get himself into. At that point in his life, Mack believed that he had seen the worst of the world. After all, what could possibly be as horrid and vile as a crime committed against an innocent child? So, when his precious daughter Missy was unrightfully abducted and viciously murdered in a shack by the infamous serial murderer coined the Little Lady Killer, the question that reigned in his mind was: Why? Why her? Why would an omniscient and just God, allow such a heinous crime on such a pure soul? He succumbed to the desolation, the grief and the feeling of abandonment he felt God had imposed on him. This constant companion of his was what he referred to as The Great Sadness, the aftermath of the tragic murder of his daughter. But then, one icy winter day, a note arrived in the mail inviting him to spend a weekend with Papa the term his wife used to call God - in no other place than the dreaded shack. He deduced the mysterious note as a cruel joke. However, who would know that Nan, his wife, conceived the name Papa as a term of endearment for God? This was the very question that led him to embark on the drive to the shack, on his way to the weekend that would permanently alter his outlook on life and God. He would be set on a journey of finding out the answers to his questions. He was able to resolve his grief with his father and the pent up anger that resided inside him caused by the tragic loss of his beloved daughter. He was renewed. His heart, which was a mess, was taken care of and began the process of healing.

He was freed from The Great Sadness. All this transpired because in that worn-out shack he met three beings that claimed to be one and the same - they were God. There was Papa, who appeared to him in the form of a vibrant and headstrong African-American woman. There was Jesus who was a Middle-Eastern man dressed up in common work-wear. Last but not the least, there was Sarayu, the wafting Asian woman who was the personified form of the Holy Spirit. I found the story to be poignant and an unorthodox take on faith. First off all, the story of losing a loved one always pulls at a persons heart strings. But knowing that Macks loss was his completely innocent and defenseless little daughter, Missy, added to the contempt I felt for the inhumane killer. I found that I once also asked some of the questions Mack brought up like if God truly existed, why does he allow so much pain in the world? Also, how can we see the presence of God in our lives if the events that happen to us make us only feel more alone and unloved? Although before reading the book, Ive fortunately had blessings in my life come in, whether if it was in the form of a good thing or a tragic event that I was able to draw something from, which had already strengthened my faith so this book just reinforced the newfound relationship I have with my God. Ive always seen God in an unconventional way so, reading a book that allows us to know Him beyond the Scriptures and Church doctrines comforted my guilt at deviating from these established norms. Lastly, the book was able to draw out different emotions in me. For example, in Chapter 11, A Festival of Friends, Macks reconciliation brought a waterfall of tears to my eyes as he unrelentingly forgave the perturbed soul that was his father. Countless times in the novel, Ive also shed a tear or two for when Mack would recount the helplessness and pain he felt losing Missy. Another time was when Mack was able to tell Kate that it wasnt

her fault that Missy died. There were also times when I felt invigorated by the newfound insights Ive gained from the book about God. For example, I found that evil doesnt exist because God wants to punish us for our sins, but it is a consequence of our growing independence from Him. Sin is punishment enough, and that Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship. The book dwells on two central themes the unconventional aspects and the relationships that reign throughout the story. The story was unconventional in the way it shattered the norms traditional beliefs and practices regarding faith. One of the unconventional, and probably the most controversial, aspect in the story was the authors unorthodox depiction of God. The Trinity which is comprised of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, were depicted by and African woman, a Middle-Eastern man and an Asian lady respectively, Traditional images of the Father is an aged, Caucasian man whilst Jesus features was deemed to be more handsome in terms of what society dictates as beautiful. Oftentimes the Holy Spirit isnt personified as an actual human being and is more commonly depicted as a dove. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms -- what you believe." (p. 197) is Gods way of saying to not encage the wonder that God in the constraints of human definitions and depictions. We must not be focused on the externals as it can distract as from the true essence of things. The second unconventional aspect presented in the story was the presence of God in tragedies. Throughout the novel, Mack always questions if God is neglectful because of the prevalence of evil in the world. Papa best explains this when he said, "Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't assume that my

using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors" (p. 185) this statement of God meant that tragedies werent planned by God but he works his way to make something good out of the tragic events in the world. In addition, the novel also shattered the conventional perception of rules, responsibility and expectations. In one chapter, Sarayu imparts the importance of verbs versus nouns to Mack. Her example being that if a relationship relies on the nouns of responsibility and expectations, the relationship will be ruined cause it will no longer be centered in the people involved, but in the requirements or standards of the said relationship. Laws which institutions set up were also boldly criticized by the author as God in the novel says, "I don't create institutions: that's an occupation for those who want to play God I'm not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics eitherthey are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about" (p. 179). Furthermore, sin and evil were also given a new depiction in the novel. Sin, which is oftentimes believed to be the cause of the misfortunes in our lives as a punishment from God, is clarified to be a punishment in itself. Evil in the novel is seen as the absence of God in our lives as how darkness is described to be the absence of light. In the quote: All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning [] If I take away the consequences of people's choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all" (p. 190).

God here is telling us that evil is a consequence of peoples ill-formed judgment and choices. Our independence may be the cause of evil, yet God refuses to relinquish our free will because of His great love and his want for us to live in a world where love is present. The relationships that Mac had in the book were significant in conveying the different kinds or relationships and theyre unique and equally important role in ones life. First off, Mack and his relationship with his wife Nan, was a beautiful and trusting one. Nan fully trusted the safety of their kids in the hands of their father. He admired her for close relationship with God whom she called Papa and her understanding and caring nature. There were countless times in the shack wherein he wished that him and Nan were going through the journey together. In the earlier chapters before Missys abduction, Macks could be dubbed as an excellent father who was just truly happy to be spending time with his kids. After the crisis though, Macks love for his children was the only thing that didnt waiver because his faith, his emotions and his relationships were on a downward spiral. In the chapter Here Come Da Judge, we find out about how Mack loves all of his children equally, greatly and differently. This was then related to how God loves each of his children. Despite the wrongdoings, the mistakes and the disregard of most children to the Father, His great love will not falter. Mack related to this as he loved his children in spite and despite of their shortcomings. Now from Mack as a father, we move on to his relationship with his own father. He grew up despising his father because he was a drunk and a brute. Throughout the story Mack would recount his frustrations of not ever really having a father. We come to know that the father would hurt his family in his drunken stupors yet, Mack as he neared the end of his journey in the shack, was finally able to open his heart to forgiveness. Aside from the relationships he had within the family, he also had a great friendship with Willy who knew Mack well and was sincerely concerned for his well-being.

Lastly, the core relationship of the story was between Mack and God. First, there was his relationship with Papa or the Father. In the beginning, Mack contained anger in his at Papa for abandoning Missy and his family in their time of need. He was unable to completely trust Him because he never really had a father figure he could rely on. Papa apologized for this and promised that they would work on closing the gulf between them. Mack eventually became open to a relationship with Him as he discovered the truth of Gods love and why he doesnt persecute the evil ones. He related to Gods love as a father and saw the error of his ways. God in his loving yet, mysterious nature cared enough about Mack to give him the closure he needed. He imparted to him what transpired during Missys abduction and ventured with him in order to find her body and bury her in the garden of his heart. On the other hand, Jesus took an immediate liking to Jesus. He shared more of a brother or friens-like relationship with Jesus. The two developed their relationship in their tall under the stars and their stroll across the water. His immediate liking to Jesus was because he found him more feasible or real than the other two. This is because Jesus is completely human and completely God which made him more relatable. Mack learned to trust him and to walk with him, because through him and in him, he was able to do things he deemed impossible. He also learned believe that Jesus would always be there with him. He asked Jesus if all roads led to him and Jesus answered: "Not at allmost roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you" (p. 182) Last but not the least, was his relationship with Sarayu or the Holy Spirit. She was gentle, ethereal and extremely profound, he at first made Mack uncomfortable in her delicate and insubstantial appearance. She assured Mack that she was always with him and he would still find her in the real world, through his thoughts. "For you to know or nothas nothing at all to do

with whether I am actually here or not. I am always with you; sometimes I want you to be aware in a special way -- more intentional" (p. 195). She collected tears and she said that they were healing waters. She also helped Mack see in through the eyes of God for a day. He was able to see the colors of emotions and ultimately, be able to forgive his father. Basically, the novels unconventional truths and insights on relationships was what truly made it a unique experience to read. It is very rare that one can come upon a novel that not only touches your heart and opens your mind, but also enkindles your spirit. I believe that this novel is a modern way of bringing those lost souls out there back into the arms of God. Lost souls like this often thirst for what they push away. In our world where people grow more and more detached from what truly matters, this book offers us a way home. A way into our very own shack experience of discovering our relationship with God.