I am working on an essay on great lines from Paul Young’s book, The Shack. Given that there are so many, it will probably turn into a book. At the moment my favorite line is one that has to be among the most remarkable statements in theological history. It is spoken by Papa (God, the Father) to Mackenzie, a brokenhearted man who finds himself in a weekend conversation with the Trinity. They are eating breakfast with Jesus and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit). It is a breakfast of champions, to be sure, and the food is out of this world, so to speak. Mackenzie is enjoying some greens, when Papa returns to the table from the kitchen. Papa glances at Mackenzie and somewhat shouts,
“Whoa….. Take it easy on those greens, young man. Those things can give you the trots if you ain’t careful” (The Shack, p. 121).
This is a statement that not only speaks volumes, but also gets behind the ‘watchful dragons,’ as Lewis would say, of our religious defenses. Or as Larry the Cable Guy would say, ‘I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.’ And it is funny. Even the tightest brother among us would find himself smiling, at least to himself. But it is also serious in the way it instantly speaks to something very real within us, a hope, a longing that God could be so real and we could be so known and accepted as we are. I wonder what went through Mack’s mind when he heard God the Father warn him about overdoing the greens and getting the trots? Could God really be this real, this human, this aware of and comfortable with our humanity? While every Bible reader should know that God made us and is comfortable with our humanness, somehow our theology has betrayed us through the years and left us feeling that much of our humanity is unworthy if not shameful. When is the last time you heard a series of sermons on sex, or even wanted to?
Papa’s comment about getting the trots confronts us with the wonderful fact that God does know us, and like us and indeed enjoys us as we are. Such a thought is simply too hard for many of us to accept. It seems way too good to be true. And here is the rub. The lack of our acceptance of our Father’s acceptance, and of His enjoyment of us as we are leaves us in the boring and dreadful world of having to invent a ‘spiritual’ or ‘righteous’ or ‘acceptable’ self to offer to God. So we miss out on the joy of being known, accepted and enjoyed. What kind of Christian life does that leave us living, and who would want to hang with us in our falsely invented ‘spiritual’ and ‘righteous’ and ‘acceptable’ lives?
As to the sin part, well, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14).” To be sure, Papa hates our sin for what it does to us and others, but He does not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He meets us. In Jesus, Papa has not only embraced our humanity; He has embraced us in our fallen humanity. Embraced in His love, He bids us to let go of our invented ‘spiritual’ and ‘righteous’ selves, and to accept His embrace of us as humans—and as broken humans. As we accept His acceptance, we experience His liberating love in all parts of our humanity. Then we know life in the freedom of the Father’s love.
By the way, later on in the day the Holy Spirit gave Mack another plant to eat to counter act the effect of the greens.