There are books that have been on my reading list forever and ever. I even think of some of them when I’m moving on to my next book, but somehow I never quite choose them. The Shack was one of those books until last month, someone special told me I should read it and that she has reread it multiple times because it really speaks to her. This someone was one of the first to share with me her personal story way back when I was preggo and hadn’t yet fully accepted what my life was turning into and still very much ashamed, terrified, and hopeful that maybe once my son was outside of my body that his father would choose to be a daddy. That particular morning, I just so happened to be volunteering and ended up in a small room organizing clothes with two women, whom I always just considered strong and dynamic women without a thought that they could possibly have had major strife in their personal lives. I learned that morning, after I dropped the veil of excitement about my pregnancy, that they both raised their children alone, and while of course, they acknowledged the hardships, they felt blessed through it all. That day was just one of many that was set up by God to get me through the turmoil. The respect I have for them magnified that morning, and it was a reminder that you really just don’t know what people have gone through. So, two years later, her suggestion that I read The Shack bumped it up to the top of the queue.
And it was a blessing. Last year, I read more Christian fiction books than I probably ever had before, and I think what makes this book different from some others that I’ve read is that it’s not preachy. I found it very inviting and paradoxically, light in the way that a heavy box is light if you have a dolly. And as I traveled with the main character through the story, I ended up highlighted tons of phrases and quotes. So, with that, I just want to share a couple of the parallels of my life and Mackenzie’s.
1. The Great Sadness is real. It’s frustrating to know that some people think “Just get over it” is sound advice. Some tragedies in life affect you so deeply that it feels like something wraps around you and even when you make a concerted effort to look on the bright side, this blanket is still just there no matter what. And some tragedies never go away because either it or the consequences are never-ending. I can’t really “get over” being a single mother, even if I have gotten through the grief and anger of the initial abandonment, because I am confronted daily and monthly with decisions and tasks as a single parent. So every time I pay the daycare bill or see that Frederick has outgrown something or the countless other things that parents encounter, I am reminded that I’m by myself–but I am learning to refocus my thoughts instead of reliving the initial trauma. Mack couldn’t really “get over” his tragedy because even if losing a child wasn’t enough, he was having to deal with the daily task of trying to help his other daughter. I’m happy that I was able to lift my Great Sadness some by seeing a counselor. But it wasn’t an easy process.
“Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.” She waited a moment, allowing her words to settle. “And if it’s left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.”
2. One of the most difficult things in life has been accepting that I don’t control much of anything. Mackenzie and I share a tendency to take credit for things we can’t control if we tried. It took me a looooooooong time to stop being so hard on myself and to really release myself from punishing myself for someone else’s choices (think about that–the negative consequences that exist just by virtue of the bad situation PLUS self-inflicted punishment because somehow in my brain, it’s my fault). Just like Mack kept trying to recreate his situation in head, thinking of what he should have or could have done differently, I have done that countless times too. At the detriment of peace of mind. Even if we could go back and do something differently, it’s not up to us. It’s not in our hands–so there’s nothing we could do in either of our situations to make it turn out better. When that happens in life, you have to trust and believe that the part of the story you can’t see yet will use that craziness for some bit of good.
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” – Thomas Moore
3. As hard as it is to forgive, I’m sure it was as comforting to Mack as it was to me that forgiveness is not an automatic “poof, you’re forgiven” act. It’s a process that you have to work at, and it doesn’t end in forgetting what happened. In the same way that tragedies are not it happened today and by some expiration date it’s over and the impacts that result disappear, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to have whatever natural emotions arise–you don’t have to buy into the notion that something is wrong with you because you feel “some type of way” about how someone mistreated you. The emotions are there for a reason. And actually, I’ve found that many times there is wisdom in my anger–if I allow myself to analyze it and not just blow up. It’s just not okay to let those emotions consume you and take over your life because when that happens, it affects no one but you and possibly the people who actually care about you, which many times does NOT include the offender.
“It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while–the healing waters.”
4. Pre-Shack Mack and I think too much. When Jesus told Mack to start walking on the water, I kept thinking what would I do? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think I would have just stepped in on impulse, but who knows? I also probably would have thought myself into a frenzy over the author of the note that led Mack back to the Shack. Talk about paranoia. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about a negative comment on Facebook or subtweet on Twitter that I felt certain was aimed at me. Sometimes I can laugh it off and say to myself “I know you think this tweet is about you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu,” but other times I actually craft what I would say if I felt like the person was worth knowing how I feel. Or if the person was worth it, if I felt that our already clearly shattered relationship could handle it. See, thinking too much. Aye-yi-yi.
“Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that—” “Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”
5. We need closure. We’re human. We need someone to apologize. We need a resolution at the end of a contentious discussion. We need to know we’re understood, or at the very least, listened to. We need the funeral. And although it may not be the easiest thing to accomplish, it’s so necessary. It did MY heart good to read about Mack burying his daughter. Sometimes letting go just isn’t official until you get that last note. And it might not even involve the person who caused you the anguish. That’s why many people do the burning paper with their negative thoughts thing. Closure is a beautiful thing.
“Today we are on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey— not just for you, but for others as well. Today, we are throwing a big rock into the lake, and the resulting ripples will reach places you would not expect.”
I would share a bit more, but I want you to read it. If you have read it, please share with me some of the nuggets that touched you. Happy reading!