Thursday, May 25, 2017
The Shack Within Us All
Wm Paul Young, author of The Shack, spoke at a recent Bethel conference on creativity. He was a powerful speaker, even with his tendency to wander off on a rabbit trail. I expect that is the creative side of him. He shared quite a bit of his story, which made an impact on all his listeners. His parents were missionaries in the highlands of New Guinea with the Dani tribe that had it's own language, worshiped spirits, and practiced cannibalism. He was raised til age 6 mostly by the tribe, as his parents were busy doing mission work. He remembered hearing the tribe members discuss whether or not to kill his parents, but said he never felt afraid because he considered himself to be part of the tribe! His first language was the language of the tribe they lived among. Sadly, the tribe had as part of their secret culture, sexual abuse, and he did not escape that. It continued when at age 6 he went away to boarding school, where abuse occurred by some of the older boys in the dormitory. Being away from his parents, and his "people" was very difficult.
Besides the sexual abuse, having a strict, physically abusive father added to his belief that he was a bad person, who was never perfect enough for his dad or anyone else. He believed the lie that all that happened to him was "his fault". He kept all this secret from his family. Finally, at the age of 38, after struggling with addictions and his wife discovering his 3 month affair with her best friend, he hit rock bottom and all his secrets poured out. From this place at the bottom he began his healing journey. His history and 11 years of healing from his past gave him an unusual perspective of God. His wife suggested he write his personal faith story so his children would understand who he is and how he thinks. The result was "The Shack", written originally just for his family and a few close friends. God had other plans, though, and the rest is history with more than 20 million books having been sold to this date.
Paul Young's story is important to hear because you can see the redemption in it. His story holds within it the power of the cross. All our stories do. During the conference he told everyone that the shack in his book represents the inner person within each of us. It was an "aha" moment for both Joel and myself and resolved some of the mystery of his novel. Just like the book and movie reveals, I believe that the "shack" within us is where Papa God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit meet us to provide healing, love, forgiveness, and new life in Christ.
It may for some, be difficult to uncover what the "shack" within holds close to the heart. We may believe the lies that our story shared will make people think less of us, uncovering our history will be too painful or selfish, or we will be misunderstood. Hiding our stories gives us a false sense of living in a perfect, air-brushed, Instagram/Facebook world. It leaves us living with an inner shack that is falling down around us. Let your story be told! Sharing our stories is not done to point the finger, gain sympathy, or encourage us to live as a victim. Just the opposite. There may be a fine line between dwelling on your past and using your past to show God's love for you then and now, but God tells us our stories are very important because He walks in the midst of them and through our history the power of the cross is seen. Giving Him the glory reveals our redemption and victory in Papa God!
Mac, in the book and movie, was able to find healing within after tragedy. Wm. Paul Young was able to find healing, redemption, and a deeper relationship with Papa God by walking through his own "valley". Their stories beckon us to share our own, seeking the Healer and the healing needed with Papa guiding the way. May God's love and healing power be revealed in the story of each of His children.