The Shack. Probably one of the most polarizing Christian movies to come out in a long time. I have read many blogs and opinion pieces based on the movie and wanted to check it out for myself to see what the hubbub was about. The primary reason was because of opinions from people I respect and admire on both sides of the issue. I had to find out who was “right” and who was “wrong”…right? Haha (By the way, there are a lot of spoilers in here so you if you have not read the book or seen the movie, just skip to the last “summary”paragraph of the blog).
All kidding aside, I truly enjoyed the movie but could see how people who are against the movie could interpret what they wanted with it. This blog, and my opinion for that matter, is only from my worldview, what I have experienced in life and how the movie affected me in my journey with God.
I have never read the book so I had no point of reference for what I was going to see only the opinion of my wife, who had read it a long time ago, and a gentleman who lived in our town home complex who had suggested I read it. He came from a very poor understanding of God’s love and forgiveness and had been abused in the church by a priest and was very far and distant from God. When he had read the book he said that it helped him reconcile with God and even work towards forgiving the man who abused him. I thought that was amazing since my interaction with him was when I was going through my eye situation and he was someone that God had laid on my heart many times. When I saw the movie was coming out I instantly thought of him and his journey with God and all the ups and downs.
I want to say something VERY important before I get into a couple of points about the book and my opinion on what I saw. If you are a follower of Christ and have people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet around you (if you don’t, then go find some) and think that ANY single movie is going to cause people to turn to Jesus then you are wrong. When Christian’s think of movies like this as a DESTINATION and not a part of the JOURNEY with God then they will get into error. What I mean is that you cannot build theology on a movie like this and neither can you throw out all the wonderful references to God and his redemptive, patient and overwhelming love for his creation. We cannot be LAZY in our discipleship of people who don’t know Jesus yet or who are just starting a walk with him. Movies like this can be an amazing PART of helping people walk through pain in life. To help them forgive themselves from their past, forgive others who have hurt them and help people see that bad things will happen all through life with no respecter of person.
Of course, everyone needs to evaluate the movie for himself or herself and I respect people on both sides. I will say this though, for those of you who do not support the movie, I pray you are finding ways to talk to people about forgiveness of themselves or hurt from the church or from God and recovering from devastating life events. This movie is not the only vehicle for that kind of thing but we should always be looking for ways to bridge the gap to where people exist in their pain. The main vehicle for me is also my book and why I titled it “Holy Crap” and not “Eye of the Storm” for example. It was intentional and probably cost me a lot of money from publishers that loved the book but not the title. It was more important for me to be edgy with the title than to be known as a famous published author.
There are a lot of points I could bring up but I wanted to address a couple of the big ones that people have brought up.
God as a woman
There is a very important line in the movie where God basically says to Mac, “From what you have been through, I didn’t think that you needed to have a man/father in your life right now.” Mac had poisoned his abusive father when he was a child and had a VERY twisted thought of men in authority. For me, I did not take that as a dig at removing the “man” or “father” aspect of God as much as it was God meeting Mac where he was. I remember when I was in my darkest days and wanting to end it all because I didn’t see value in life. God met me where I was whether it was through people interacting with me, praying for me or just doing what they could to love on me. That is the God I saw exhibited in this movie. The other proof that it was not a feminizing of God was that after Mac sees his dead father in the movie and gets some healing/closure, God shows up as a man. Disputing the idea that the movie was only trying to remove the masculinity from God and a greater emphasis put on God meeting us at the point of our need.
Mac and God talking about God’s wrath and God’s comment about sin being its own punishment
When I heard this in the movie I had to think about what it meant to me. Some have said that it was only telling “half the story” of God and his relationship to man but I want to bring up something else to think about. God’s righteous anger at man is not based on his hate for us but for the things we would do in life to not accept his love. That is different than saying that God punishes because we are “being bad” in life. God’s anger is based on disappointment not on hate. I know this sounds like I am splitting hairs here, but I think it is important that people who don’t know Jesus yet in life understand that God doesn’t come from a place of “do this or else because I inherently hate you” but from a place of “do this because it will be good for you, I love you and it will keep you from hell.” Those are very different aspects of judgment and it is not the place for a movie to educate people on things like that but OUR responsibility to share with people we are or SHOULD BE discipling. There is also a line in the movie when God appears to Mac as a man and asks him to forgive the man who murdered his daughter. He essentially says that every evil action has a consequence. That doesn’t sound like a God that says, “It’s ok to just live how you want and I will forgive you and you are guaranteed to make it to heaven.” Again, my opinion, but I think it was an appropriate balance to the former comment about sin being it’s own punishment.
There were three other important elements in the move that were great and need to be highlighted.
Even when life seems like a mess, it still has beauty and a grand design
There is a point where Mac is ready to walk away from the Shack and the Holy Spirit connects with him and asks for his help in the garden. As he is walking into the garden he says, “this looks like a mess” because there are plants, flowers, vines and leaves all over the place. The Holy Spirit asks Mac to help remove an area of the garden that eventually will be the place that he finally has closure with his dead daughter. The Holy Spirit tells Mac, “The ground needs to be dug up so that other things can grow.” The illustration is that the garden represents Mac’s life. As the camera pulls away from the garden, which looked like a mess from the ground, it has perfect symmetry and intentional beauty from God’s perspective. How many times in life do we not see the perfect work that God is doing in us when our lives just look and feel like a mess. God is always creating beauty from EVERYTHING we go through whether it is digging up weeds or planting new greenery.
Discipleship is important and so is church
The character played by Tim McGraw plays a simple yet important role in the life of Mac in the movie. He is a friend from church who lives across the street and is invested in his life. He mentions that he has history with Mac’s family and he does a good job, as an example, of giving Mac space and being there when Mac is ready to respond. This is probably one of the best examples I have seen in a movie like this with people going through a painful season of life, and someone wanting to help but not overwhelming people with lots of “religious talk” when all they need is for someone to be there to walk with them. I thought this was powerful and reminded me of many times people who I know and love were there at just the right time to lend just the right amount of support, Spiritual or otherwise.
I also liked how the movie depicted church as not just a place where everyone is a hypocrite but just people dealing with all kinds of things under the surface and human. I was reminded again of the fact that without the church and the support of other believers that were praying for me through my pain I would not be on this earth to help people. There was a scene where Mac is an older man in church with his family and was not able to worship or sing any songs and was distracted by the turmoil inside. Then at the end of the movie you see him in church again worshipping with his family and enjoying his mental and emotional freedom he found. I loved the illustration that the church was as much a part of his healing as it was a place he felt fear because of his father.
That pain from the past leaves a mark in people’s life when it is not dealt with
This is probably the most important lesson of the movie for me that unresolved pain in life will always catch up with you no matter how well you try to hide it. In the movie, you see Mac being able to cover the pain of the his past with his family and the guilt of poisoning his abusive dad fairly well until tragedy strikes and his daughter is kidnapped and killed. It is so much like life and the things that people deal with; it takes everything for people to cover up the pain from past scars but when they reach a tipping point it all comes out and no one is left untouched by the hurt. If there is a lesson to learn from the movie it is that God WANTS to take that pain of past hurts away but we need to be willing to GIVE those things to him. There is a line in the movie where Jesus says that he doesn’t want robots but people willing to follow him. Such a great reminder for us all that our free will is a powerful gift that we give to those we follow.
So what did I think about the movie? I thought it was very entertaining and an important reminder of the love of God and how deep and wide it goes in EVERYONE’S life. When we think of the love of God it is not just restricted to followers of Christ but EVERYONE. For God so loved THE WORLD that he gave Jesus. It helped me think about forgiveness issues in my own life and making sure that I am not harboring bitterness at God or others. Also that God is operating from a place of wanting me to win and not waiting to punish me for my failures. He is still sad that my choices bring consequences but is cheering me on to greatness.
Did the movie make me want to read my Bible more? Yes. Did it help reinforce my feelings that God saved me from wanting to kill myself because of his love for me? Absolutely. Is the movie a good building block for your theology? No, and I don’t think ANY movie is for that matter. I really believe that this movie is going to help a lot of people through some very difficult issues and it is going to start some GREAT conversations about who God is in people’s lives. So believers need to be ready to minister to people who watch the movie and want more information. What those people need is not for someone to try and help them understand hell. Those people are already on their way there if they don’t know Jesus so why not use an opportunity like this movie to help steer someone towards God?
All just my opinion, but I am always thinking of how to go get the obscure lost person who doesn’t know up from slant about God and will probably go see a movie like this with or without my approval. I really believe that even the people who are boycotting the film love Jesus and want the best for those who don’t know God and want them to operate and not be led astray. I also think it is important that we realize movies like this can be great opportunities for people to talk about who God is in their life and maybe make necessary changes that will determine their destiny with Christ. I can tell you that no one will be asking me about who God is to them if they go see Deadpool 2 when it comes out. But just maybe The Shack will give me an opportunity to be a part of a changed destiny.