I was not a fan of the book The Shack when it came out a decade ago. This did not prevent me from going to see the film this week. The movie had similar issues as the book did for me–oversimplifying many of the complex issues about faith and religion, but I am tenacious in finding good lessons in life and so I went with an open mind. I left with some ways to improve my own life and that made it worth the admission fee.
I think two scenes stay in my mind to ponder more. The first is that Mack is told that he has been asked to return to the shack because it is where he got stuck. We all have memories in our lives that may cause us to stay stuck in that moment and that prevent us from moving forward. We can ignore them but we cannot run from them or alternatively we pay too much attention to them, giving them more power than they deserve. I find that it is most helpful to decide what the lesson is from that moment and then try to integrate that concept into my life in order that I can be fully healed.
Getting stuck limits life. Denial, fear, blame, resentment, anger, and other emotions wear away freedom if one overstays in the emotion. These feelings have a place absolutely–as much as what some would call positive emotions. They exist for a purpose and also teach valuable lessons. I remember decades ago after I had experienced a trauma, discussing my emotions with my spiritual director at the time. I was scared that I would not move from the darkness that kept nipping at my heels. I was terrified that I would get stuck in bitterness and anger at what had happened. I thought I might pick up a paintbrush and use it to colour everything that came my way in the same shade of hatred. I was not yet ready to let go of the emotions but I was aware that I might fall into an abyss that I could not claw my way out of. How will I know if I stay too long in this dark place while I process what has happened to me? I asked him. He assured me that my worry would be my saving grace–that the desire to climb out of the tomb was a gift from God that I could trust. When the time came to move on, I would know. I have revisited that conversation over the years and been grateful that he guided me in a way that gave me confidence that I could reclaim my own inner authority.
The other scene that was powerful for me in both the book and the movie was the judgment chair clip. As Lent draws near to an end and we enter Holy Week next week, I have spent some time thinking about judgment. I am trying to be more curious than judging. I listen to others who are judging me or others and recognize how it is a go-to place for many of us. I hear others react as if they have been judged or are going to be when there is no proof that has or will happened. I am realizing more and more that we will never have all the facts of someone else’s life and therefore cannot be a fair judge of it. Sometimes, I am not sure I have all the facts in order to judge my own life without bias. I am a believer that God is a merciful Judge and the movie pointed in that direction. Perhaps that is my touchstone as I try to be less judgmental. I may never achieve total freedom from this sinful nature but I can keep trying to be curious instead and see if that changes me bit by bit.
When you watch a movie or read a book, do you try to extract lessons to live your life more abundantly?
How are your Lenten decisions shaping up as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week?
Merciful God, you know us through and through. You hold each of our experiences that have broken us and scarred us gently as we fumble through life trying to move beyond them. You long for us to be whole and free. May we be open to getting unstuck. Help us to be curious instead of judgmental. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.