Recently I finally broke down and downloaded an audio copy of The Shack from my library (I love technology, don’t you?). I must admit, I’d listened to all the armchair theologians and prepared myself to be offended at some liberal slant on the Gospel. What I discovered was a story about one man’s fictional journey that was done so well I really didn’t care about the theology. Even if the author made some “mistakes” that may offend my fundamentalist sensibilities, I do believe I got a beautiful glimpse of God’s true character.
In the story, Papa, who is God the Father, in the image of a tall black woman, says of every human she meets or recollects, “I am especially fond of him.”
The more I thought of that single line, the more my preconceived notions of God began to quiver. We often compare God to a loving father, but it seems we don’t really envision Him that way. If the parents among us were asked to choose their favorite child, most of us couldn’t do it. If we were told that we must select half of our children to be cast into hell and the other half to go to heaven, we’d probably react in the same manner the character in The Shack reacted. We’d beg not to be forced into such a decision and offer ourselves as a substitute.
Yes, at that point you stop reading the book and say, “Ooooohhhhhh yeaaaa…”
The beauty of fiction and other art forms is that we’re not restricted by any barriers. We can experiment, build worlds where gravity works in the opposite direction, ignore the “experts” who tell us we can’t get there from here.
God is certainly a fan of science. He created it. But I think He’s equally a fan of art. For it is in art that we are allowed the freedom to discover truths that can’t be measured in a laboratory. In books like The Shack, the author begins by breaking down even the most basic of our preconceived notions–like presenting God as a tall black woman. He goes on to explain that God presented Himself that way because the character in the story needed that. Perhaps the readers did, too. After that point, we’re prepared for the wild ride to come. And we discover a few truths that we cannot hide from. The greatest of these, to me, was that God is “especially fond of me.”
I didn’t write this as a book review nor do I intend it to be. I imagine everyone who has read this particular book has had a different reaction and come away with their own bit of truth. Some hated it and were offended by it. That’s fine, too. If this book or any other causes you to think about, or even question, your faith, I think that would please God.
No matter your opinion, I’m quite certain He will be especially fond of you.