It's a quick read. It comes with accolades from the pulpit, mainstream blogs, and friends. You already know the "punchline" long before you get to it. As well as the ending.
I read The Shack yesterday in carpool lines and during homework time. In the back of my mind was the personal situations of the people who had recommended it: I could understand its appeal to them.
Yet, to be honest, it didn't have the same emotional impact for me. Why? I think because of the very long and complex answers the Trinity gave Mack, the main character and representative for all of us who struggle with the "why's" of pain and fear. A few slaps against organized religion, some intellectual quotes from various theologians and writers, a careful sidestep from any specific denomination . . . The Shack tries very hard to build a personal connection with the Trinity without the strings attached by thousands of years of manmade traditions and rites. I had to re-read many paragraphs to "get the point" the author was trying to convey. And therein lies my lack of enthusiasm.
Faith isn't supposed to be complex. You can't really explain it. You can't define, quantify, qualify, or justify it. Faith just is. Sometimes it's deep. Sometimes it's tiptoeing across shifting sand. Always it's the real, indivisible connection between us and the Trinity. When I'm numb, it's there. When I'm tingly from a sense of rightness, it's there. When I'm hurt, it's there. When I'm furious at the unfairness of something, it's there. When I'm just not sure, it's there.
Faith is trust that God knows a whole lot more than we do and cares enough to make things right in the end. That when something awful happens - the death of a young mom by cancer or accident, the suicide of a grown child, the loss of a job or retirement fund, the devastation of adultery, the neverending fear of a chronic illness - God is with us, loving us, guiding us.
I don't mean to dismiss The Shack completely. It certainly creates healthy discussions about faith, trust, and self-determination. It's just not the panacea that enthusiasts have suggested.
God knows I'd like it to be. Who doesn't want the satisfying proof of a conversation with the Almighty?