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A Pilgrim’s Progress for our times

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The Shack

William P. Young

When I picked up a copy of this book on our pastor’s recommendation, I was told it was selling faster than any other book in the last few years: a “word of mouth” explosion with 3,000 copies sold since fall in a single Abbotsford bookstore alone.

William P. Young

Eugene Peterson, author of the paraphrased Bible The Message, says this book has the potential to do for this generation what Pilgrim’s Progress did for Bunyan’s – “It’s that good.”

Born in Canada, Young was raised by missionary parents among a New Guinea stone-age tribe. After suffering great loss as a child and young adult, he now lives with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

In a folksy simple tone that almost veils pearls of truth and wisdom, Young tells the tale of Mack who has suffered perhaps the worst tragedy known to humankind – the abduction and death of a child. Entrenched for years in “The Great Sadness” which takes over his life and his loves, Mack suddenly receives a message from God to revisit the shack where the tragedy occurred.

Here an allegory unfolds as the Trinity, represented by a male Arab, a female Sylph (fairy), and an older black woman, gather at the shack to bring healing and forgiveness. The Trinity, they assure Mack, represents relationship; all of us are born for loving relationship, and being kind and available to others is the essence of life, as is trust, humility, and submission.

Young addresses the ultimate question, “Why does God allow evil?” The answer is found in free will. God tries to bring good out of evil, but he also honours our independent choices and the need for power and security which can sometimes bring evil and destruction.

He also describes the church as a living and loving community – not programs, buildings, or rules. Our willingness to love, understand, and forgive is what’s important, extended even to the murderer of children.

As Mack absorbs all of the insights of his weekend at the shack, he catches a glimpse of God’s love and understanding, and “The Great Sadness” lifts as he stops judging and forgives the perpetrator.

Similar to writings by Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, and Rob Bell, Young’s emphasis is not on afterlife, but on bringing about the kingdom of God right where we live, by obeying the New Testament commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself.

—Helen Rose Pauls is a retired schoolteacher, farm partner, Mennonite committee groupie, and a member of Sardis Community Church in Chilliwack, B.C.

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