Sugar Shack

The song by the same title was performed by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs way back in 1963.  The lyricist simply told a tale about a coffee shop.  Not so for the “controversial” movie The Shack, based on a novel by the same name by author, William Paul Young.  I try viewing as many faith-based films as I can.  Sometimes I just can’t find a theater nearby.  I had no problem as The Shack is playing everywhere, most likely because Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw are starring in the film.

The film opens with a troubled young boy, named Mack, who lives with his mother and abusive father.  Not many people in his small town acknowledge the abuse, except for one black neighbor, played by Octavia Spencer, who comforts him with her home cooking. When home life becomes unbearable, young Mack, who feels deserted by God, makes a horrible decision.  We quickly fast forward to the present.  Mack is now a man, living with his deeply religious wife and their three children. On a camping trip his youngest daughter is kidnapped and murdered.  The film does not dwell on this so don’t be put off thinking it will be bloody because it’s not.

Mack blames himself for his daughter’s death and cannot shake his depression.  He receives a letter from “Papa”, his wife’s name for God, inviting Mack to meet at the very shack where his daughter was killed. Mack decides to go and is shocked to find “Papa” is the same black woman who consoled him in his youth. Papa explains that Mack couldn’t accept a father figure at this time.  He meets Jesus, a Jewish carpenter, and the Holy Spirit, a beautiful Asian woman.  Towards the end of the film Papa decides Mack needs a father to take him through the rest of his journey of forgiveness and Papa becomes a mature, Native American man.  Again, the viewer knows exactly why God chose this form.

It’s this portrayal of the Holy Trinity that has several Christians upset.  I accepted God’s explanation of why He appeared in these forms.  Mack despised his father and couldn’t forgive himself for not being there for his daughter. He did not have a father figure he could rely on.  The Holy Spirit is portrayed as an attractive, soft-spoken, attentive Asian gardener.  Many Christians associate the Holy Spirit as a dove, ray of sunlight, a spiritual counselor and consoler.  Anyone who gardens knows how devoted you must be to your plants and flowers.  You protect them from predators and the elements as well as nourish them.  The same as the Holy Spirit is in her garden of souls.  All three display the wounds of crucifixion…something I’ve never seen before but makes perfect sense.

More importantly, The Shack is a story of forgiveness and how God loves ALL his children—the good and the bad.  It also emphasizes our free will to make our own choices.  Mack thought God had deserted him when he was a boy, but he comes to learn God was with him every step of the way, even when he made the wrong choice.  God never forgot about him and never stopped loving him.

I would definitely recommend this film not only for its message of forgiveness but also for showcasing the relationship individuals have with God.

 

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