Last night, my husband and I went to see The Shack. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it because I thought it might be too painful. I already live this life without my son, so I didn’t know if I wanted child loss to be included in my entertainment. I had tried to read the book a couple years before experiencing the loss of Christiano, and, I’ll be honest – I couldn’t handle it. Similarly, I would turn off K-LOVE every time ‘Heaven is the Face’ came on because I didn’t want to imagine Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter laid out on their driveway because their oldest son had hit her with an SUV. The nature of humans is to protect oneself, to put a guard up against anything that screams danger or whispers discomfort. All of that being said, I kept being drawn to this movie.
Of course, the controversy alone sparked my interest in this film. But it very well may have been the two thumbs up given by Christa Black Gifford, a beautiful woman of God who also had to bury her child, that moved me to go. Instead of walking in guarded, I walked in wide open… open to loving it and open to hating it, open to feeling and open to crying, open to learning and open to critiquing.
I had seen articles criticizing this film, ripping it apart, really, and they were being shared by some people I respect and have very high regard for. Pastors were warning people not to ‘support’ this film. But, I had also seen the other side. Friends and Pastors who I greatly respect were being blown away by the depth of God’s love portrayed in this film.
Within twenty minutes of the film, I actually found myself talking notes. The dialogue between Mac, a grieving father, and the Holy Trinity was so intimate and so very beautiful. Was I a little thrown off that God was being portrayed by a woman? At first, yes. But what I thought was incredible, is that they actually addressed this in the film! Mac says to God, aka Papa, ‘you’re wearing a dress. I always pictured you with a white beard.’ Papa replies, ‘with all you’ve been through, I didn’t think you could handle a father right now.’ Mac had a terrible relationship with his earthly father. This just goes to show the great lengths God will go to in order to reach us.
The Bible specifically states that mankind (including the woman) was made in His image. We are direct reflections of the Father God. The Bible also says that God has male and female attributes. Women tend to be more nurturing than men, and that is exactly what Mac needed in the moment.
In my experience, it was in my deepest devastation that God met me right where I was. He wasn’t rigid about it. In fact, he was extremely creative in His communications with me. He used people, symbols, words, and even nature to reach my broken heart. When I couldn’t read the Bible, He brought words of encouragement to me. When I couldn’t rise up to Him, He came down to me. Religion tells us that God is untouchable, that He is so far above us and that we have to climb tirelessly to the throne He sits on. Religion tells us that God wants us to work hard to attain heaven. However, God says that it is relationship with Him through Jesus Christ that saves us.
When we are tempted to believe that God isn’t an out of the box God, just look at the cross.
God sent His son down from Glory to DIE for you and for me. That seems crazy. It seems so radical and borderline insane. But, God wanted you and me so much that he was willing to risk it all for the sake of us.
When Mac was ready for a Father, God came to Him in the form of a man. When it was time to do the hard things like forgive and let go, Papa went with him – just like a Daddy does. I get that. I have experienced God as father when I need to do the hard things, mother when I need a nurturing embrace, friend when I just need a listening ear. God is all of these things and more. In our doubts and fears, in our pain and sorrows, in our anguish and turmoil – Papa meets us there. He is all things at all times; and He is always good.
This is my favorite line in the whole movie/book:
‘Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever 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.’
There is suffering in this world, but God doesn’t cause it. Thankfully He doesn’t turn His back to it either like so many do – like I once did. He wants to use our pain to help others, and He wants us to go deeper instead of exhausting ourselves trying to climb higher.
Falsifying notions about God will lead us deeper into our despair. Contrarily, being open to who God is, ridding ourselves of the God we’ve created in our own image, will give us access to intense and irreversible intimacy with God. Be open. Don’t close yourself off to the innovative and expressive ways God wants to reach you. ‘Don’t let the pain inside deflower you and cripple your capacity to love and be loved.’ Papa is always knocking on the door of your heart. Let Him in, fully and wholly, and you will never be the same.