Fiction as self-help – The Shack – First, I hated it!

This will be a very different post for me… for many reasons.

Let’s begin with the obvious. The Shack by William P. Young was a juggernaut. It was originally self-published… er, I should say photocopied… for Young’s children. There’s a story behind that but I won’t be going there today. Young gave a few photocopies to friends, who gave it to friends and before you know it, bobs-yer-uncle and he’s officially self-publishing because of the twenty or so publishers he sent the book to… exactly zero wanted anything to do with it. That is… until it took off. And “took off” it DID.

I got one of the early (actual) published copies, which means, one of the ONE million copies in print at the time, back in 2007.

And here’s where it gets sticky.

I HATED IT. Not just a little, either! I read the first 1/3 or so and deemed it utterly ridiculous.

But for some reason, it didn’t go bye-bye in one of my famous purges. So, it’s been sitting quietly on my shelves… ostensibly waiting for another try. And here we are.

What led me to pick it up again? Well, there’s a story – there’s ALWAYS a story, isn’t there?

We found this neat online streaming service called TubiTV. I was browsing through it when a documentary caught my eye: Restoring the Shack. Huh, I thought. And I clicked on it.

I watched the first episode – and let me stop for a moment and say this: These are short episodes presented in stunning movie-quality but there is one annoying issue… too many cuts back and forth. If you can live through that, you’ll enjoy these, as I did. Young is a natural on camera and his reflections are beautiful and heartbreaking.

So, I watched two episodes and decided that I wanted to take the book out and try again. And so I did.

WARNING: Yes, this book is spiritual and most would consider it “Christian” but it’s so much deeper… more… than that. And at this point, I should probably share how I came to even *want* to consider reading it again. See, it happened like this: It began with the Spiritual Leaders Directory. That was last year.

I struggled. I knew/know I am spiritual… but what does that mean? Most formal “religion” = icky… at least to me.

Many never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. – Blaise Pascal

Okay, I was not searching for “religion”. That much was clear.

How did being spiritual reconcile with my being an empath? How about my ability to know things… sometimes… even before they happen? Or how I talk to animals and always have? What about my crystals and cards? And what of my formal Christian teachings?

Then I began … ever so slowly… to reach out. One of the women I reached out to said something very profound and I found it to be my truth too, though I’m far behind her in practice. About her spiritual work, she said (as I remember it), “I feel that I’m ‘coming out’… in a way. I thought people would think I was crazy. But I’m ready to step into who I am. I talk to animals.”

It resonated so deeply with me. The secrets we keep about ourselves… that become walls.

And so, in my small way (that will not be a surprise to anyone who knows me) I’m coming out to say that I’m a spiritual being who can hold an eclectic band of jolly wonderfulness and the Trinity in my hands and heart. Yeah, ALL OF IT. I am spiritual and with that, blessed beyond all reason.

Now, back to the Shack.

I opened it with new eyes and heart… read it from cover-to-cover in three days…

… and I loved it.

What’s it about? A young girl is abducted during a family trip in the Oregon wilderness. Years later, her father receives an invitation to the shack where her bloody dress was found.

And that’s all you need to know.

It was made more beautiful by watching a handful of the episodes I mentioned above. I haven’t finished them yet. I find that going slowly and paying attention is important.

Last night, as I was finishing the book, I turned to my husband and said, “I know you’re worried I’ll turn into a religious zealot…”

He stopped me. “No, I’m not worried about that. In fact, I think it’s the opposite.”

WOW WOW WOW. My husband is a smarty-pants! And wise. (Okay, and cute!)

I love this book and it will stay next to my important stuff… not buried in some pile of books I may never read again. I recommend. But only if you’re searching. Otherwise, it might just piss you off.


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