Title: The Shack.
Author: Wm. Paul Young.
Genre: Fiction, religion, Christianity, philosophical fiction, rape, death, family, parenthood.
Publication Date: 2007.
Summary: Mackenzie Allen Philips's youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally raped and murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.
My rating: 4/10.
♥ There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, an the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry.
♥ Shortly after the summer that Missy vanished, The Great Sadness had draped itself around Mack's shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt. The weight of its presence dulled his eyes and stooped his shoulders. Even his efforts to shake it off were exhausting, as if his arms were sewn into its bleak folds of despair and he had somehow become part of it. He ate, worked, loved, dreamed, and played in this garment of heaviness, weighed down as if he were wearing a leaden bathrobe—trudging daily through the murky despondency that sucked the color out of everything.
♥ That evening, as he sat among three laughing children watching one of nature's greatest shows, Mack's heart was suddenly penetrated by unexpected joy. A sunset of brilliant colors and patterns played off the few clouds that had waited in the wings to become central actors in this unique presentation. He was a rich man, he thought to himself, in all the ways that mattered.
♥ ..and now, sitting down on the edge of the bed, he was swept helplessly away in the unrelenting and merciless grip of growing despair, slowly rocking back and forth. Soul-shredding sobs and groans clawed to the surface from the core of his being. And that is how Nan found him. Two broken lovers, they held each other and wept as Mac poured out his sorrow and Nan tried to hold him in one piece.
♥ Jesse and Sarah, willing to do anything, made themselves constantly available to the family and friends who came to help. They lifted the huge burden of communication with the public from both Nan and Mack and seemed to be everywhere as they skillfully wove some threads of peace into the turbulence of emotions.
♥ Something in the hearts of most human beings simply cannot abide pain inflicted on the innocent, especially children. Even broken men serving in the worst correctional facilities will often first take out their own rage on those who have caused suffering to children. Even in such a world of relative morality, causing harm to a child is still considered absolutely wrong. Period!
♥ Although no one involved was left unmarked by the tragedy, Kate seemed to have been affected the most, disappearing into a shell, like a turtle protecting its soft underbelly from anything potentially dangerous. It seemed that she would poke her head out only when she felt fully safe, which was becoming less and less often. Mack and Nan both worried increasingly about her but couldn't seem to find the right words to penetrate the fortress she was building around her heart. Attempts at conversation would turn into one-way monologues, with sounds bouncing off her stone visage. It was as if something had died inside her and now was slowly infecting her from the inside, spilling out occasionally in bitter words or emotionless silence
♥ It is so easy to get sucked into the if-only game, and playing it is a short and slippery slide into despair.
♥ In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners' access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially in an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was the guilt edges?
♥ Sometimes honesty can be incredibly messy.
♥ Mack sat there in silence, the emptiness of the place invading his soul. His jumble of unanswered questions and far-flung accusations settled to the floor with him and then slowly rained into a pit of desolation. The Great Sadness tightened around him, and he almost welcomed the smothering sensation. This pain he knew. He was familiar with it, almost like a friend.
♥ "..I know you've been hurt, and I know you're angry and confused. So, go ahead and let it out. It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while—the healing waters."
♥ Just as she turned to enter the cabin, a small, distinctively Asian woman emerged from behind her.
"Here, let me take those," her voice sang. Obviously she had not meant the coat or gun but something else, and she was in front of him in a blink of an eye.
He stiffened as he felt something sweep gently across his cheek. Without moving, he looked down and could see that she was busy with a fragile crystal bottle and a small brush, like those had seen Nan and Kate use for makeup, gently removing something from his face.
Before he could ask, she smiled and whispered, "Mackenzie, we all have things we value enough to collect, don't we?"
His little tin box flashed through his mind.
"I collect tears."
♥ When they finally stopped giggling, the large woman put her arm around Mack's shoulders, drew him to her, and said, "Okay, we know who you are, but we should probably introduce ourselves to you. I"—she waved her hands with a flourish—"am the housekeeper and cook. You may call me Elousia."
"Elousia?" asked Mack, not comprehending at all.
"Okay, you don't have to call me Elousia; it's just a name I am rather fond of and has particular meaning to me. So"—she crossed her arms and put one hand under her chin as if thinking especially hard—"you could call me what Nan does."
"What? You don't mean..." Now Mack was surprised and even more confused. Surely this was not the Papa who sent the note? "I mean, are you saying 'Papa'?"
"Yes," she responded and smiled, waiting for him to speak as if he were about to say something, which he was not at all.
"And I," interrupted the man, who looked to be in his thirties and stood a little shorter than Mack himself, "I try to keep things fixed up around here. I enjoy working with my hands, although, as these two will tell you, I take pleasure in cooking and gardening as much as they do."
"You look as if you're from the Middle East, maybe Arab?" Mack guessed.
"Actually, I'm a stepbrother of that great family. I am Hebrew, to be exact, from the house of Judah."
"Then..." Mack was suddenly staggered by his own realization. "Then, you are..."
"Jesus? Yes. And you may call me that if you like. After all, it has become my common name. My mother called me Yeshua, but I have also been known to respond to Joshua or Jesse."
Mack stood dumbfounded and mute. What he was looking at and listening t simply would not compute. It was all so impossible... but here he was, or was he really here at all? Suddenly, he felt faint. Emotion swept over him as his mind attempted desperately to catch up with all the information. Just as he was about to crumple to his knees, the Asian woman stepped closer and deflected his attention.
"And I am Sarayu," she said as she tilted her head in a slight bow and smiled. "Keeper of the gardens, among other things."
Thoughts tumbled over themselves as Mack struggled to figure out what to do. Was one of these people God? What if they were hallucinations or angels, or God was coming later? That could be embarrassing. Since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white? Then again, why had he naturally assumed that God would be white? He knew his mind was rambling, so he focused on the one question he most wanted to know.
"Then," Mack struggled to ask, "which one of you is God?"
"I am," said all three in unison. Mack looked from one to the next, and even though he couldn't begin to hrasp what he was seeing and hearing, he somehow believed them.
♥ He believed, in his head at least, that God was Spirit, nether male nor female, but in spirit of that, he was embarrassed to admit to himself that all his visuals of God were very white and very male.
She stopped talking, but only long enough to put some seasonings in a spice rack on a ledge by the window before turning to face him again. She looked at Mack intently. "Hasn't it always been a problem for you to embrace me as your Father? And after what you've been though, you couldn't very well handle a father right now, could you?"
He knew she was right, and he realized the kindness and compassion in what she was doing. Somehow, the way she had approached him had skirted his resistance to her love. It was strange and painful and maybe even a little bit wonderful.
"But then"—he paused, still focused on staying rational—"why is there such an emphasis on you being a Father? I mean, it seems to be the way you most reveal yourself."
"Well," responded Papa, turning away from him and bustling around the kitchen, "there are many reasons for that, and some of them go very deep. Let me say for now that we knew once the creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don't misunderstand me, both are needed—but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence."
♥ "Do you believe you are free to leave?"
"I suppose I am. Am I?"
"Of course you are! I'm not interested in prisoners. You're free to walk out that door right now and go home to your empty house. Or you could go down to The Grind and hang out with Willie. Just because I know you're too curious to go, does that reduce your freedom to leave? ..Or, if you want to go just a wee bit deeper, we could talk about the nature of freedom itself. Does freedom mean that you are allowed to do whatever you want to do? Or we could talk about all the limiting influences in your life that actively work against your freedom. Your family genetic heritage, your specific DNA, your metabolic uniqueness, the quantum stuff that is going on at a subatomic level where only I am the always-present observer. Or the intrusion of your soul's sickness that inhibits and binds you, or the social influences around you, or the habits that have created synaptic bonds and pathways in your brain. And then there's advertising, propaganda, and paradigms. Inside that confluence of multifaceted inhibitors," she said, sighing, "what is freedom really?"
♥ Papa didn't answer, only looked down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars on her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his. She allowed him to tenderly touch the scars, outlines of a deep piercing, and he finally looked up again into her eyes. Tears were slowly making their way down her face, little pathways through the flour that dusted her cheeks.
"Don't ever think that what my Son chose to do didn't cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark," she stated softly and gently. "We were there together."
Mack was surprised. "At the cross? Now wait, I thought you left him—you know—'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness.
"You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him. ..Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?"
♥ "Consider our little friend here," she began. "Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around." She paused to let Mack think about her statement. "You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around."
♥ "Mackenzie, I am what some would say 'holy, and wholly other than you.' The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn't much, and then calling that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I'm not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think."
♥ "When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became full human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood. It would be like this bird, whose nature it is to fly, choosing only to walk and remain grounded. He doesn't stop being a bird, but it does alter his experience of life significantly. ..Although by nature he is fully God, Jesus is fully human and lives as such. While never losing the innate ability to fly, he chooses moment-by-moment to remain grounded. That is why his name is Immanuel, 'God with us,' or 'God with you,' to be more precise."
"But what about all the miracles? The healings? Raising people from the dead? Don't those prove that Jesus was God—you know, more than human?"
"No, it proves that Jesus is truly human. ..Mackenzie, I can fly, but humans can't. Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence."
"So when he healed the blind?"
"He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone. ..Only as he rested in his relationship with me, and in our communion—our co-union—could he express my heart and will into any given circumstance. So, when you look at Jesus and it appears that he's flying, he really is... flying. But what you are actually seeing is me, my life in him. That's how he lives and acts as a true human, how every human is designed to live—out of my life.
"A bird is defined not be being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are defined not by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image."
♥ "Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh? Not much mystery in that."
♥ "..Love is not the limitation; love is the flying. I am love."
♥ "..Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to hold power over another is to choose to limit oneself—to serve. Humans often do this—in touching the infirm and sick, in serving the ones whose minds have left to wander, in relating to the poor, in loving the very old and the very young, or even in caring for the other who has assumed a position of power over them."
♥ Mack was not sure how to describe what he felt, but as they continued to lie in silence, gazing into the celestial display, watching and listening, he knew in his heart this too was holy. As they both watched in awe-struck wonder, a shooting star would occasionally blaze a brief trail across the night blackness.
.."I'll never get tired of looking at this. The wonder of it all—the 'wastefulness of creation,' as one of our brothers called it. So elegant, so full of longing and beauty even now."
♥ "..Being always transcends appearance—that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away into. They simply no longer matter. That is why Elousia is such a wonderful name. God, who is the ground of all being, swells in, around, and through all things—ultimately emerging as the real—and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away."
♥ "..Dreams are sometimes important, you know. They can be a way of openin' up the window and lettin' the bad air out."
♥ "I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it."
♥ "Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge."
"But every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking. It is the web of our social fabric," Mack asserted.
"Such a waste!" said Papa, picking up the empty dish and heading for the kitchen.
"It's one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you," Jesus added. "Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you."
"Well," said Mack sarcastically, sitting back in his chair, "we sure seem to have adapted pretty well to it."
Sarayu was quick to reply, "Don't confuse adaptation with intention, or seduction with reality."
..Sarayu continued, "When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to one another. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong ones use to make others conform to what they want."
"Isn't it helpful in keeping people from fighting endlessly or getting hurt?"
"Sometimes. But in a selfish word it is also used to inflict great harm."
"But don't you use it to restrain evil?"
"We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them," Sarayu continued. "Creation has been taken down a very different path than we desired. In your world the value of the individual us constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious—any system, actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle of power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The 'will to power and independence' has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal."
"It is the human paradigm," added Papa, having returned with more food. "It is like water to fish, so prevalent that it goes unseen and unquestioned. It is the matrix; a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence."
Jesus picked up the conversation. "As the crowning glory of creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply 'be' in relationship with me and one another. If you had truly learned to regard one another's concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy."
Mack sat back in his chair, staggered by the implications of what he was hearing. "So are you telling me that whenever we human protect ourselves with power..."
"You are yielding to the matrix, not to us," finished Jesus.
"And now," Sarayu interjected, "we have come full circle, back to one of my initial statements: you humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that relationship could exist apart from hierarchy. So you think that God must relate inside a hierarchy as you do. But we do not."
♥ "..But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome."
"You see," explained Sarayu, "broken humans center their lives around things that seem good to them but will neither fill them nor free them. They are addicted to power, or the illusion of security that power offers. When a disaster happens, those same people will turn against the false powers they trusted. In their disappointment, either they become softened toward me or they become bolder in their independence. If you could only see how all of this ends and what we will achieve without the violation of one human will—then you would understand. One day you will."
"But the cost!" Mack was staggered. "Look at the cost—all the pain, all the suffering, everything that is so terrible and evil." He paused and looked down at the table. "And look what it has cost you. Is it worth it?"
"Yes!" came the unanimous, joyful response.
.."I just can't imagine any final outcome that would justify all this."
"Mackenzie." Papa rose out of her chair and walked around the table to give him a big squeeze. "We're not justifying it. We are redeeming it."
♥ "So why create poisonous plants at all?" Mack queried, handing back the twig.
"Your question presumes that poison is bad, that such creations have no purpose. Many of these so-called bad plants, like this one, contain incredible properties for healing or are necessary for one of the most magnificent wonders when combined with something else. Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing."
♥ "..Rumors of glory are often hidden inside what many consider myths and tales."
♥ "Then it is you who determines good and evil. You become the judge. And to make things more confusing, that which you determine to be good will change over time and circumstance. And then, beyond that and even worse, there are billions of you, each determining what is good and what is evil. So what your good and evil clash with your neighbor's, fights and arguments ensue and even wars break out."
♥ .."I mean, look at this mess." His gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them. "But it really is beautiful, and full of you, Sarayu. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comfortable here."
The two looked at each other and grinned.
Sarayu stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. "And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive—a living fractal."
♥ The beauty was staggering. He could make out the shack, where smoke leisurely rose from the redbrick chimney as it nestled against the greens of the orchard and forest. But dwarfing it all was a massive range of mountains that hovered above and behind, like sentinels standing guard. Mack simply sat, Jesus next to him, and inhaled the visual symphony.
♥ "Our earth is like a child who has grown up without parents, having no one to guide and direct her." As Jesus spoke, his voice intensified in subdued anguish. "Some have attempted to help her, but most have simply tried to use her. Humans, who have been given the task to lovingly steer the world, instead plunder her, with no consideration other than their immediate needs. And they give little thought to their own children, who will inherit their lack of love. So they use her and abuse her with little consideration, and then when she shudders or blows her breath, they are offended and raise their fists at God."
"You're an ecologist?" Mack said, half as an accusation.
"This blue-green ball in black space, filled with beauty even now, battered and abused and lovely," Jesus quoted.
♥ "..Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way."
Mack was surprised. "How can that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?"
"Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don't want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me."
"And that's how you want us to love one another, I suppose? I mean between husbands and wives, parents and children. I guess any relationship?"
♥ "Males seem to be the cause of so much of the pain in the world. They account for most of the crimes, and many of those are perpetrate against women and"—he paused—"children."
"Women," Jesus continued as he picked up a stone and skipped it, "turned from us to another relationship, while men turned to themselves and the ground. The world is many ways would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been far fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power."
.."But you came in the form of a man. Doesn't that say something?"
"Yes, but not what many have assumed. I came as a man to complete a wonderful picture in how we made you. From the first day we hid the woman within the man, so that at the right time we could remove her from within him. We didn't create man to live alone; she was purposed from the beginning. By taking her out of him, he birthed her in a sense. We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She, out of him, and now all the males, including me, birthed through her, and all originating, or birthed, from God."
♥ "Among the mysteries of a broken humanity, that too is rather remarkable: to learn, to allow change."
♥ "..So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing. Mackenzie, you love your children, whom you know so well, with a wonderful and real love."
A little embarrassed at her praise, Mack looked down. "Well, thanks, but I'm not that way with very many other people. My love tends to be pretty conditional most of the time."
"But it's a start, isn't it, Mackenzie? And you didn't move beyond your father's inability on your own—it was God and you together who changed you to love this way. And now you love your children much the way Father loves his."
♥ "I don't believe that God loves all of his children very well!"
♥ "I'm quite a mess, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are." Mack looked up and she smiled back. "You are a glorious, destructive mess, Mackenzie, but you are not here to repent, at least not in the way you understand. Mackenzie, you are not here to be judged."
"But," he said, "I thought you said that I was..."
"Here for judgment?" She remained cool and placid as a summer breeze as she finished his question. "I did. But you are not on trial here. ..You will be the judge!"
.."What? Me? I'd rather not." He paused. "I don't have any ability to judge."
"Oh, that is not true," returned the quick reply, tinged now with a hint of sarcasm. "You have already proven yourself very capable, even in our short time together. And besides, you have judged many throughout your life. You have judged the actions and even the motivations of others, as if you somehow knew what those were in truth. You have judged the color of skin and body language and body odor. You have judged history and relationships. You have even judged the value of a person's life by the quality of your concept of beauty. By all accounts, you are quite well practiced in the activity."
♥ "Mackenzie, judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right."
♥ "I doubt if anything with her is normal."
"Actually"—Jesus started to speak but paused to throw one last skipping stone—"with her, everything is normal and elegantly simple. Because you are so lost and independent you bring to her many complications, and as a result you find even her simplicity profound."
♥ "The darkness hides the true size of fears and lies and regrets," Jesus explained. "The truth is they are more shadow than reality, so they seem bigger in the dark. When the light shines into the places where they live inside you, you start to see them for what they are."
"But why do we keep all that crap inside?"
"Because we believe it's safer there. And, sometimes, when you're a kid trying to survive, it really is safer there. Then you grow up on the outside, but on the inside you're still that kid in the dark cave surrounded by monsters, and out of habit you keep adding to your collection. We all collect things we value, you know?"
This made Mack smile. He knew Jesus was referring to something Sarayu had said about collecting tears. "So, how does that change, for somebody who's lost in the dark like me?"
"Most often, pretty slowly," Jesus answered. "Remember, you can't do it alone. Some folks try with all kinds of coping mechanisms and mental games. But the monsters are still there, just waiting for the chance to come out."
"So what do I do now?"
"What you're already doing, Mack—learning to live loved. It's not an easy concept for humans. You have a hard time sharing anything."
♥ "..So no, I'm not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics either." Jesus' visage darkened noticeably. "And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three? ..Put simply, these terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control. People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, these structures and ideologies, are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn't any. It's all false!"
♥ "Sitting here with you, in this moment, it doesn't seem that hard. But when I think about my regular life back home, I don't know how to keep it as simple as you're suggesting. I'm struck in that same grasp for control everyone else is. Politics, economics, social systems, bills, family, commitments... it can all be a bit overwhelming. I don't know how to change it all."
"No one is asking you to," Jesus said tenderly. "That is Sarayu's task, and she knows how to do it without brutalizing anyone. This whole thing is a process, not an event. All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It's not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda."
.."Is what it meant to be a Christian?" It sounded kind of stupid as Mack said it, but it was how he was trying to sum everything up in his mind.
"Who said anything abut being a Christian? I'm not a Christian."
The idea struck Mack as odd an unexpected, and he couldn't keep himself from grinning. "No, I suppose you aren't."
They arrived at the door of the workshop. Again Jesus stopped. "Those who love me have come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims; some are Democrats, some Republicans and many don't vote or are not pat of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, American and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved."
♥ "But if she hadn't died, I wouldn't be here now..."
"Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."
♥ "True love never forces. ..Love that is forced is no love at all."
♥ "..What you see as chaos, I see as a fractal. All things must unfold, even though it puts all those I love in the midst of a world of horrible tragedies—even the one closest to me."
"You're talking about Jesus, aren't you?" Mack asked softly.
"Yup, I love that boy." Papa looked away and shook her head. "Everything's about him, you know. One day you folk will understand what he gave up. There are just no words."
.."Papa, can you help me understand something? What exactly did Jesus accomplish by dying?"
She was still looking out into the forest. "Oh"—she waved her hand—"nothing much. Just the substance of everything that love purposed from before the foundations of creation," Papa stated matter-of-factly..
♥ "..Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, ad beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms—what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly."
♥ "..Trying to keep the Law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control."
"Is that why we like the Law so much—to give us some control?" asked Mack.
"It is much worse than that," resumed Sarayu. "It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they have only the power to accuse."
♥ "I"—she opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa—"I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb. ..And as my essence is a verb," she continued, "I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules—then something growing and alive dies. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but if the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless 'I am,' there are no verbs, and verbs are what makes the universe alive."
♥ "..My words are alive and dynamic—full of life and possibility; yours are dead, full of law and fear and judgment. That is why you won't find the word responsibility in the Scriptures. ..Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people needed in order to survive. I give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail. ..Let's use the example of friendship and how removing the element of life from a noun can drastically alter a relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that expectancy to an expectation—spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend."
.."But," argued Mack, "if you didn't have expectations and responsibilities, wouldn't everything just fall apart?"
"Only if you are of the world, apart from me, and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone's expectations."
..Papa now spoke up. "Honey, I've never placed an expectation on your or anyone else. The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations. I know you and everything about you. Why would I have an expectation other than what I already know? That would be foolish. And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me."
♥ "..I can't just forget what he did, can I?" Mack implored.
"Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person's throat."
♥ "Don't ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak."
Mack pulled back and looked Papa in the face. Such kindness and love and hope and living joy he had never beheld. "But you promised that someday there will be no more tears. I'm looking forward to that."
Papa smiled, gently touched the backs of his fingers to Mack's face, and tenderly wiped his tear-tracked cheeks. "Mackenzie, this world is full of tears, but if you remember, I promised that it would be I who would wipe them from your eyes."
♥ It was the haunting tune that he had heard her and Papa humming before, and Mack now listened to his daughter's words:
That I might breathe...and live
And hold me close that I might sleep
Soft held by all you give
Come kiss me, wind, and take my breath
Till you and I are one
And we will dance among the tombs
Until all death is gone
And no one knows that we exist
Wrapped in each other's arms
Except the One who blew the breath
That hides me safe from harm
Come kiss me, wind, and take my breath
Till you and I are one
And we will dance among the tombs
Until all death is gone
♥ "Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again."
♥ Somehow he has become a child again. Or maybe more accurately, he's become the child he never was allowed to be, abiding in simple trust and wonder. He embraces even the darker shades of life as part of some incredibly rich and profound tapestry crafted masterfully by invisible hands of love.
..If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he's hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness—a revolution that revolves around Jesus and what he did for us all and what he continues to do in anyone who has a hunger for reconciliation and a place to call home. This is not a revolution that will overthrow anything, or if it does, it will do so in ways we could never contrive in advance. Instead, it will be the quiet daily power of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.