Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Embrace

You never know which moments, words or events will be important to people. A man buys flowers for his wife, for which she is thankful, but she remembers the smile on his face, and the fact that his shoes were untied. A child on a vacation to the Grand Canyon remembers the laughter of the family at 3 am on the way back. History is even more unpredictable. What moments, what events, what words matter in the long run? Who can know? Only time will tell. While our beloved media tries with all of its cunning to make certain moments weighty, there is something real that is larger than all of us, and somehow we know it when we hear or see it, and when we don’t.

While I would not claim to be a prophet, I would hazard a guess as to one of the great moments in our time—at least for the Western world. I have heard recordings of President Roosevelt’s address after Pearl Harbor, and President Kennedy’s famous speech as well. And I have listened to Martin Luther King’s freedom address, and watched in serious respect when Barak Obama spoke in the aftermath of Rev. Wright’s publicized diatribes, and recently I watched Sarah Palin’s amazing speech at the Republican convention, yet for my money the most important moment in the West in the last one hundred years was when a fictitious broken-hearted, angry, and cynical white man named Mackenzie met God face to face. And God—appearing as large black woman— ran to embrace him, lifting him in an eternal hug (See William P. Young’s, The Shack). That moment spoke and speaks volumes, and it speaks to places in our souls that we would rather pretend do not even exists. It is way to scary to let ourselves believe that God could be so good. So we settle. We just don’t have a theology to go with our heart’s knowledge.

Mackenzie’s daughter had been kidnapped and brutally murdered, and he had grieved his heart out. Blaming himself—and God—he lost life. Then he got a note from God to meet at the shack where his daughter had been killed. At length, and with not a little hesitation, he set out for the shack. With doubts whirling, he opened the door. The shack was a bleak as his absent god. The years of hurt proved their point. Mack left convinced that his absent, judgmental god was real. But something happened on his way back to his truck. To his shock, life blossomed. Amazed, he walked back to the shack and stood on the porch. Not knowing what to do…

Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, and he was looking directly into the face of a large beaming African-American woman.

Instinctively he jumped back, but he was too slow. With speed that belied her size, she crossed the distance between them and engulfed him in her arms, lifting him clear off his feet and spinning him around like a child. And all the while she was shouting his name—“Mackenzie Allen Phillips”—with the ardor of someone seeing a long-lost and deeply-loved relative. She finally put him back on earth, and with her hands on his shoulders, pushed him back as if to get a good look at him.

“Mack, look at you!” she fairly exploded. “Here you are, and so grown up. I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face. It is so wonderful to have you here with us. My, my, my how I do love you!” And with that she wrapped herself around him again (William P. Young, The Shack, pp. 82-83).


“My, my, my how I do love you!” Who doesn’t want God to be this way? Who doesn’t want to be so loved and embraced, so cared for and cherished? Yet who dares risk hoping in such in such a God, and in such love? So we settle, believing in the god of our broken imaginations, the faceless, nameless, judgmental, omni-being watching us from a distance. For the one thing we all know for sure is that we are unworthy.

Yet, nevertheless, somehow we know that the God Mackenzie met is the utter truth.

The one who bore our bitter scorn—suffering our abuse to meet us and to embrace us as we are—is the revelation of the Father confronting the god’s of our broken imaginations. Jesus says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

“And with that she wrapped herself around him again.”

It is okay to believe in Jesus' Papa.

10 comments:

Amy said...

Baxter,
This is just beautiful. Thank you for it.
I need to do a second read of "The Shack." There is just so much substance within it. Papa is using it so wonderfully to speak to us.

Blessings,
~Amy :)
http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

texasgirliegirl said...

I dare to believe! :o)

Funny - I was just contemplating writing a blog post on The Shack. Now you have inspired me!

I read The Shack book at a time when I was frustrated with my long term battle w/an illness. I was angry w/God and my faith was lower than it had ever been. "Papa" used it to help me understand suffering in a new way. I was able to see His goodness again - in the midst of my pain. I realized that it wasn't that He'd abandoned me - I just couldn't see Him b/c I was so focused on the pain.

I'm thankful for The Shack and for ministries like yours that share the truth of The Gospel. Thanks for all you do.

April
http://mourning-to-dancing.blogspot.com/

John Geerlings said...

Thank you for reminding me that living loved is the reality.

I must remind myself again and again one of my favorite verses in the Bible, a wonderful exchanged truth for all humanity, Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave His life for me”

The reveals not just the cross, the execution stake, where Satan has been dealt deaths blow, but also a resurrection from sin and its control, the old man is dead, into a new spiritual life and how today as a human being in the flesh I am able to live as a unique and distinct individual in His ascended life, in right standing by His faith, embraced by Papa. I am not forced or coerced into this love, I am just asked as I am prompted by the Holy Spirit in me to believe what already is reality. Thank you for shining into my darkness Holy Spirit.

JG

Anonymous said...

I struggle to remember that the Father is as cool as Jesus. It's easy for me to think of Jesus as the guy that comes over and has a beer with me while we watch the game. Yet I constantly fight the notion that if Jesus and I have a beer together on Saturday afternoon while we watch football we'd have to be sure his dad didn't find out because I think of the Father as sort of uptight and strict. Your blog is wonderful and I KNOW that Jesus said if you've seen me you've seen my father but is really hard to live that way. I'll say this though, it seems like it's worth the fight to see God the way you describe him. I have far to go.

Cam said...

Baxter,

The Shack spoke volumes to me too. As someone else here wrote, it's a book that needs more than a once-through. I've been an avid listener of The God Journey podcasts, and they've been speaking about the shack for a while now (as they were both involved with the editing..) - so I went in knowing a bit about it, and really excited, because they have such a great understanding of Dad and His way of love with us (much like you do), so reading The Shack was a joy and on the one hand a constant revelation, on the other constant confirmation that this is the God of the Bible, and the God I instinctively know. It's so sad that your line "we just don't have a theology to go with our heart's knowledge" is so true. This truth that I know instinctively in my heart and soul battles daily with my mind's preconditioning that God is a strict 'gandalf'-like character.

As 'Anonymous' said, it is worth the fight to see God as the loving Father that He is. I am often flummoxed at how what I know in my head doesn't filter through to my preconceived dogma. I know God is love. More and more I'm understanding the height and breadth of it, it's just taking a while to sink in...

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Thank you all for your various repsonses. Papa's heart will be the shock of heaven. Then we will be ready to live.

William said...

I gotta tell you, you are one of my most favorite people in the whole world. py

bill winn said...

Ditto that sentiment py,
Sincerely, FP

frankie said...

I weep when I read and I'm the better for it. This is true theology when I know that I will not be forsaken and love isn't an absent impotent couch-potato. Thank you....It is an encounter with a love never known. Come Lord Christ...........and thank you for bringing us home.....

Jen Richards said...

Hi Baxter,

"It is ok to believe in Jesus' Papa"...

This is the line that strikes me the most. We find it so hard to believed how loved we are by Father Son and Spirit. Small wonder that what is asked of us is to "let ourselves be loved" as Barth would say. Everything starts there and flows out of that relationship...

I love this post, and this book. Much more could be said about that and you know me well enough to imagine most of it, and there's no need to restate it here! If the November tour simply involves more conversations of this amazing embrace, heart and love, then bring it on, bro.

I look forward to catching up then too.

love Jen

PS tell Paul, LOVE the book. Am giving it to Mum, and it is invaluable - esp at this time with losing my Dad.