God is Shouting, Anyone listening? by Paula Brasfield
Controversy has once again reignited with the movie release of “The Shack” which is based on the surprisingly successful book of the same name. Though church leaders and Christians alike are weighing in on the theological points raised by the movie, the most important question has often been overlooked – what did the author himself mean? Delving into this question adds a new perspective as to what the story is really about.
While the theological critiques debate whether William Paul Young’s portrayal of the Trinity is biblical or the appropriateness of personifying God as a black woman, that was not Young’s intent. The Shack was not originally written for publication. It was written as a story based on the author’s experience of God speaking to him through another human being.
A Washington Post article reveals the story behind the choice of a black woman. The story behind the story is Young suffered his own personal crisis that resulted in him being cut off from friends, and fellow church members. In the midst of this crisis a black woman, the former worship leader at his church, appeared at his door step and told him, “‘I think they’re making a huge mistake with you, I think we need to love you and be in your life. I don’t care what the rest of them do, I’m committed to you and (your wife), and I’m going to be your friends through this.’” It is through this event that Young felt the presence of God reaching out to him in his crisis.
This woman made the presence of God so real for Young that He realized God could make Himself known through anyone. Young heard God speaking to him through this woman. This is the idea of God that Young tries to break through in The Shack, that God can speak to us in our pain and suffering through other people. This experience is where Young gets the story for The Shack and the portrayal of God as a black woman who speaks to the main character who is in the midst of his own crisis.
In the book, Young was not saying God is a black woman or that the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. He used his experience of God speaking to him through a black woman to portray the depths that God will go through to speak to us.
Young writes in a blog post that, “You can read The Shack as a story but my intent was always more than that; a parable laden with metaphor. It is a true story, but not real. The shack itself represents the house on the inside that people help you build. It is the human heart,” For Young, the shack is a representation of all the chaos, destruction, and pain that we bury in the deep recesses of our hearts. He continues, “Here we stored our addictions and hid our secrets. It was the house of shame and pain held together by a webbing of lies and protected by an ever-growing array of survival skills and defensive mechanisms. We believed that God hated this place even more than we do.” However, this is another belief that Young is trying to break through, that God hates all the hidden stuff in our hearts, our shacks.
Since the release of the movie, I have recommended this movie over and over to people in recovery or not. I have heard story after story of people being surprised that God met them in the middle of the movie theater. Papa’s line “I’m especially fond of you” resounded in their hearts and many began to wonder if God was especially fond of them too and wanted to journey through all their hidden stuff with them. That He wants to heal their pain and their suffering while entering into a greater relationship with them. These are people who have been carrying guilt from the loss of a parent. People who have struggled to remain faithful to their marriage vows despite years of abuse. People, like me, who for years struggled with blaming God for the abuse suffered as a child, and struggled with forgiving my parents for all the areas in which they failed to protect me. People who are dying inside from all the secrets, the shame, and the guilt. All over the world, people are dying trying to find something to kill the pain of things from their past with drugs, alcohol, sex and violence. It is through our pain that God shouts the loudest as C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Thankfully through God’s grace and Celebrate Recovery, many of us have walked this journey with God through our shack, our lives that have been wrecked, torn apart by drugs, alcohol, divorce, abuse. We are able to embrace the message of hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation with a loving God who stepped into our world centuries ago to offer us a way to deal with our pain. As Christians in recovery, we can be that person that God works through to show His love to those who are lost and we can use this opportunity to start the conversation about God’s forgiving grace with those that need it most. God is shouting, is anyone listening?