11 January 2009

A great read

I just finished reading a book that was recommended by my very good friend Rachael, and it was so good I felt compelled to write a little bit about it. Not that my little corner of cyberspace gets all that much traffic but still, you just never know.

The book is called "The Shack." It even has its own website, www.theshackbook.com.
I plan to buy several more copies and give them to people to read and then pass on. I think everyone should read this book. It's a religious book of sorts, but maybe that isn't the best word to describe it. It's a spiritual book. You don't have to be Christian, or Jewish, or Catholic, or Protestant, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or a Muslim to get something out of it. I'd be willing to bet that an atheist could get something from reading this book.

Without giving the plot away, I will say that it is about a man who suffers a great tragedy in his life and how he comes to know God better than he ever thought anyone could, as a result. It made me think about how I think about God: who is He, what would He look like, what kinds of things would He say to me if I had the chance to ask Him questions? I'm a devout Catholic but I also have questions, things I wonder about, things I question and have a hard time understanding or believing. I completely reject the notion that doubts or questions mean that your faith is weak. I have a dear friend who is a spiritual director who helped me to see that it is the truly faithful who question, who seek to understand more fully. In the past, I always thought that it was a sin to question, and I was going to hell if I harbored any doubts about anything I was taught to believe. And God KNOWS if you doubt Him, so don't even consider it! That was part of my fundamental upbringing, and I've learned a thing or two since then. Back then, I was introduced to the Old Testament God who sent plagues and turned people into pillars of salt for their sins.

I believe that God is benevolent and loving and forgiving. I don't believe He is looking to nitpick all of our shortcomings and our sins. He knows we're human and we will always fall. That's the way He made us; of course He knows that. He doesn't really expect us to do as Jesus did, or act as Jesus did. We can't; we're not Jesus. He wants us to love one another. That's it. It sounds pretty simple, but we make *love* so much more complicated than it has to be. All of the bad things that have happened throughout history, where people have done such horrible wrongs to others and committed unspeakable crimes, have come not because God chose it for us, or because He failed to intervene, but they have come about as a result of the gift of free will. God lets us choose. And He, better than anyone, understands that we must experience the consequences of our choices (free will) if we are to learn anything.

I hope that kinds of things I read in "The Shack" are true, or that they are even in the same ballpark. I wonder where the author's ideas and inspiration came from. It's a beautiful story of forgiveness, hope, redemption and most importantly, of love.

Check it out. It's worth the time. www.theshackbook.com