Monday, October 27, 2008


One of the books I read during the little vacation I had last weekend was The Shack by William P. Young.  It is a work of fiction in which the protagonist Mack endures many heartaches and losses in his life, and a final blow is the death of a young daughter.  He suffers under the heaviness of his Great Sadness for several years until he is mysteriously summoned back to the shack, in the Oregon wilderness, where his daughter may have been murdered.

Once there, Mack encounters an unlikely and diverse trio who represent the Holy Trinity.  Alongside them, Mack works on uncovering answers to his questions about where God was when he and his loved ones needed him, and why there is so much pain and suffering.  I think the shack itself is a metaphor for the heavy and palpable pain and feelings of inadequacy that Mack, and, if I'm honest, myself, have felt during our lives.  Actually, he attached himself to his pain.  It was how he knew he was alive in many ways--by feeling the pain.  The lessons he learns are transformative.  My favorite notion is that there are no real do's and don'ts.  No right and no wrong.  No good, no evil.  Just lots of food for thought.

While the book is Christian in its literal reading, I think the metaphor/lesson crosses all understandings and doctrines.  As a matter of fact, in The Shack, I found a great deal of the core Buddhist tenet that suffering is inevitable.  Suffering is born of attachments to objects that are transient, and the loss of such objects is both inevitable and painful.  I think it is far more about spirit and being gentle than about any set religion.

While this is a very cursory and subjective take on the book, I would love to hear what others have thought about it.  Faith is a great healer, and while I often thought of that movie Oh, God! with John Denver and George Burns while I read some of this, the overwhelming message for me is that a loving relationship with others and kindnesses to all is a transformative, healing power. 

Fast forward.

Yesterday morning, I found out that half of a neighborhood shopping area was destroyed by fire overnight.  One of the stores was my dry cleaner and another, a favorite wine shop.  I know.

My first impulse was to mentally list all the clothes I had at the dry cleaners, and then I added up how much they were worth.  Then I promptly forgot my stuff.  At least five businesses have been physically destroyed.  These businesses have employees who are working their butts off, like everybody else, to eek out a living.  Like Mack, I wondered why.  Why did this happen to these people?  What comes of all this is the only answer we have.   

After this, I attended a Mother/Daughter Service at The Bird's school.  This is an annual tradition, and each year during the Liturgy, a Senior and her mother each give a reflection on their past and what lies ahead.  Some years, I have to breathe into a paper bag to regain my composure, but yesterday was different.  I feel hopeful.  While I am facing the necessary loss of my beautiful babies leaving the nest, I am doing my best to embrace it as anything but a loss.  They are gaining a new life, a new step on their paths, and I do revel in the possibilities for them.  

In the meantime, I will continue to work in my garden/soul as Mack does, and live in the possibility.  A garden is, after all, a continual work in progress.


brneyedgal967 said...

I am so glad that you are embracing the transformation. Although I am not as eloquent as you, I do appreciate your knack for expressing yourself in writing. It fills my heart with Joy to see Alleycat handling her responsibilities, paying her own way, working two jobs and doing well in college. It THRILLS me to have her pull in the driveway to come visit me. Okay, she has laundry to do and food to eat, but no less, our visits are special now. A time to discuss things she's going through and when my advice is solicited, I offer it.

This sounds like a wonderful book. Perhaps you should start a Mental Book Club. I'd join it and will go out and find this book tomorrow.

I know they made a movie about it, which was eh - so, so except for Ben Kingsley's performance, but the book is The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus. Wonderful read and deals with so much more thought provoking lessons in suffering and acceptance than the movie delves into.

Anonymous said...

Amen Miss. And as hard as it is to send them off, it is a wonderful beginning for them as well as a new beginning for you.

Heidi said...

I have had a few people recommend The Shack as an insightful and thought-provoking book. Maybe I'll have to pick it up.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

I'm going to have to read the book now.

abb said...

Perfect every way, my friend.

Laura ~Peach~ said...


Deb said...

First, the book sounds like an interesting read and perhaps very appropriate for these times. I'll put it on my list...which reminds me of a book I wanted to read which was reviewed in a magazine this summer...something about the speed of light??! I digress.
Secondly, it is so sad to learn of personal tragedy as such in the local fire. So many people affected, you can't help but feel sorry and lift up prayer.
Thirdly...ahhh...wait, have to read your post..oh, yes...becoming an empty nester. It is tough, don't let anybody fool you, but it is the natural progression. Little birds must leave the nest and fly away. does wonders!

Anonymous said...

"Suffering is born of attachments to objects that are transient, and the loss of such objects is both inevitable and painful."
Beautiful, thoughtful post. I'd add that suffering is born of attachment to people through relationships. Relationships are fluid and ever changing and sometime the changes are painful. But they are inevitable and not necessarily bad. They usually provide us with some level of personal growth if we approach them with an open mind and heart.

Ellen said...

A post to think about and a book to read. Thanks MPM.

Bear Naked said...

Thanks for the book review.
Think I'll read this one.

Bear((( )))

Unknown said...

That vacay in Florida was really good for you wasn't it?

I must add that book on my list of what to read next.

Mental Book Club...yes, I agree and would so join. Do it...I have Tuesdays through Thursdays friday for posting or you can have a private blog just for Menatl Members!!! Ohay, now you have to do it, because I am all excited. WHat deep and thought provoking discussions we can have.


Anonymous said...

I can identify with your thoughts on the book... I've always thought spritulism should be more universal and less segmented.

Having your kids step out into the larger world is difficult, espcically when you will be more of a spectator. Your finest work, going out to be tested. They'll do fine, because you'll be there for them.

Thanks for such a great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm in on the Mental Book Club. I'm also going to find "The Shack", pronto.

My baby will be leaving the nest in less than two years. I'm terrified and excited for her, all at the same time. Isn't our job to prepare them to fly?

Keetha said...

That was a lovely post. I've heard of the book but thought it sounded quite depressing. Reading your take on it, maybe I should pick it up. Change is constant for all of us and rarely easy to deal with.

Caution/Lisa said...

My friend read it and was very unsettled about it. I decided I wouldn't even bother with it. Now, after your post, I'm 11th on the library wait list (hint: if you want a book faster, ask for the large print edition. The regular print edition had 47 holds :))

Now, when does the book club start?

Hilary said...

You related fiction and real life beautifully. Very well done.

Very sad to hear about the fire. The news can be so depressing.

Anonymous said...

I have "The Shack" but now I have to read it.

Well said Mama. You put to word the things I believe we all think about but cannot quite express.

I fear we face some daunting times ahead for ourselves but aren't we lucky we have the fantastic children we have.

~Mad said...

Your review of THE SHACK? Well put, ma'am. And all your followers comments - your review makes them want to read for themselves. There are many bad reviews out there of THE SHACK - some folks got really nasty and judgmental. Such that some decided not to even try it for themselves.

I read it and got much from it. I think alot of what you derive from the allegory depends on where you are in your own self in terms of forgiveness, sorrow, and the tough things life brings our way.

I think I would like to lie on the dock with the Lord, how 'bout you?

Thanks for your thoughts here.
~M ad(elyn) in Alabama

Country Girl said...

I'd be up for the Mental book club. Haven't read The Shack, but almost picked it up today. Almost picked up Twilight. But I'm afraid to spend money right now. I did buy wine the other night though . . . priorities, you know.

I thought I'd cry when the son I was closest to left for college. I thought I'd break. But after dropping him off, and seeing how happy and safe he was, I didn't shed a tear. I was so proud of myself!

Egghead said...

One more thought on The Shack. I also loved the part where God appeared to Mack as a black woman in the kitchen cooking. The personification and the meaning behind it is comforting to me. Just to think that He would be in the form that is warm and comforting to each individual and not something to fear (i.e. Mack's father) goes with all I think of God.

You write so well about this.

Jules said...

First off, I am so glad this is not another biography for you..LaLa, you need to do the MPC book club...I really feel this will be a hit:)

Sassy said...

I enjoyed this post! Sorry about your clothing...and your poor town..what a loss. You have made me interested in reading this I probably would have passed up and as far as composure when it comes to my kidneys were definately built too close to my tear ducts! Those kinds of things are really really tough!

RiverPoet said...

I am intrigued by your description of the book, so now I'll have to go get it, of course. I was Buddhist for a few years before returning to Christianity, so it sounds like it's right up my alley. The first noble truth: there is suffering. How could anyone argue with that? Everyone finds their own path out of suffering, though.

Peace - D

Mary said...

I tend to choose books as self medication, and thus they can't be too deep or thought provoking... sort of like chocolate for the mind...

I did not cry when we dropped my son off at school for the first time. I think it was because he so evidently belonged there... I'm not sure what will happen with my daughter. I think I will probably see it as a step toward maturity -- just not sure whether it is her maturity or mine...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. I'll have to scan Amazon for it. Personally, I hate change when it comes to people that I love, unless it's for the best. Which is the case in your situation. As for change in life...if I had my way, I would be a traveling gypsy, changing locations until I was exhausted. Since I can't, maybe I'll just rearrange some furniture.

Camellia said...

The children leaving...what a transition. I would go back and do it all over again, those children. So now to discover what's next?

and I keep trying to answer your The Shack question, if I could only remember it...but here is what to say about is what you learn from them...nothihg...the only thing of value that we learn from as the love that sustains us in all circumstances...without that love, there is only pain.

Don't I sound like a knowa-it-all.