Do you ever come to the white screen or empty stage with fear? I do. I frequently will have a barrage of thoughts to share when exiting the shower only to arrive here to forget them all, but as I craft these words I think in silence as the Holy Spirit unveils fruit.
My incredible friend David, who happens to be my father-in-law too, and I went to a seminar based upon Paul Young’s novel The Shack. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie you know the story. I’ve not seen the movie because if it’s anything like the book I will be one hot mess, so I’ve chosen to wait to see it in the privacy of my own home where I can cry an ocean as I suspect I will. I’m not going to give any plot spoilers because I want you to experience the fiction for yourself. I will say that every last one of us has shacks we come to, and don’t try to avoid them because bad and good happens around and in them. That’s what the seminar was all about. It was about how we have a Father who never leaves or forsakes us at any time in our lives, but especially times when we have moments in our shacks. And notice I wrote when, not if. I think we’ve read that somewhere before haven’t we? “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” He indeed overcame the world, but we wonder sometimes because our suffering can be so great, and the questions out number the answers. We want resolve and closure, but in so many cases there is neither, and we’re forced to retire many evenings never really resting because life is empty even for those of us who call upon the name of God.
If God is so good why did my child die? If God is so good why did my wife die? If God is so good why did my partner leave me for someone else? The hurts are real, deep and many times there’s not a damn answer in sight. What do we believe in those moments? Most of the time we are just in survival mode because we can barely put one foot in front of the other.
I left for work the other week or so before the sun came up. I instantly remembered the dark nights of my soul when I would rise at 2:30am to be at work at 4am. It was the hardest 10 months of my life. The rush of despair ran in like a thief only to go away because I realized I wasn’t going to a dark dreary grocery store stock room. I was going to do work I really love. I love to clean houses. I love everything about it. But in that moment of memory I knew how afraid and paralyzed I was in that last store before the bottom fell out.
You’ve been there. Her lips were so inviting before you knew what was happening, and the next thing you know your inside her only to realize she wasn’t your wife. We fail in life not because we are sinful people, though that is certainly true, we fail because we are desperately searching for something to replace the pain we experience minute by minute in our shacks. All the things that come promise something, but those things never deliver the promise because they are lies. Do they feel good? Do they make us think we have love? Yes. That’s why we do them time and again because to some level they do fill the void that not only screams for relief, but it screams for a happiness that can only be found in the One who created us.
Jesus Christ looks down upon all our comings and goings, and in our heart of hearts He whispers His love for us. He doesn’t scream or force Himself upon us because gentleness is very much a factor in His way with us. In many ways the Cross was merely the beginning of His gentle nature nudging us into union with Him. His resurrection is the attorney’s last statement before the Judge that His blood pardoned all our crimes, yet we persistently strive to earn our own salvation. I do it every day because even on my best day I do not see or experience His unconditional love for me. I cannot accept His free gift of mercy because I’ve got to “earn” it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If I truly submitted to the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb I would not only run to my shacks, but I bust the door down to meet my Papa in a full embrace for eternity.
But here I am. I’m on Earth typing a post on my blog about the shacks I’ve had to go through. Someone said at our seminar that there is nothing I know about myself that God doesn’t. I can’t keep anything hidden from Him. Adam and Eve thought they could, but God was just testing their faith to see if they really thought they could “hide” from God. You know the story. God plays a little game with them the same he did with Cain when he murdered his brother Abel. “Where is your brother Cain?” “Where are you Adam and Eve?” He knew full well where they were, and we know what happened because we’ve read the stories a million times. Abel’s blood cried from the ground as God told Cain, and not only did God bring Adam and Eve out from hiding, but He made clothes for them because they realized they were naked.
The human body is a beautiful creation God made for us to enjoy. We have perverted it by looking at each other with impure eyes and thoughts, and our depravity over the centuries have objectified women whom God gave beauty to respect and admire. There’s no doubt God created male and female, yet thousands of years later He communicates that there is neither male or female, Jew or Greek. We’ve hardened our hearts to the point that now if we can’t pigeon hole you into what we want to define you than you are marginalized. And it’s 2017 when we’re supposed to be this “intelligent” race of human beings who are to tolerate everyone and everybody and all that they believe. No wonder we’re confused. Someone decides they want to work with babies, but they are an adult man. Men don’t belong with babies. Women do. Really?
We’ve got to jettison the gender stereotypes that say all women should be barefoot and pregnant. Grant it, men can’t get pregnant in case you were wondering. But they sure as hell can love, hold and change a diaper. Women can preach, teach, shepherd, and though some are not comfortable with this reality let me ask them if God cares who relays His message to a hurting world? My mom is 70 years old, and her entire life has been committed to preaching, teaching and shepherding me. She’s still doing that. She hasn’t let up, and I sincerely pray she’s able to do that for many more years as my own daughter has children in the future.
If God can speak to a prophet in his shack through a donkey don’t you think God can speak through a woman into the life of a hurting man? Absolutely. You’d think there’d not be a glass ceiling in the church, but obviously there is. That doesn’t mean that that has to continue, and I pray that God open the flood gates of heaven with His promises for all mankind to listen to one another as the God of all 7 billion can speak through every last one of us to every last one of us.
The point is not whether or not a woman can do this or that. The point is how is God revealing Himself to me? And once we get past that question we can move on to the meat of what He is saying and communicating.
Diversity doesn’t demand division, and we can disagree over medium, but the message is the same whether it comes through a man or a women. Eve was created from Adam’s rib, not the heel of his foot. We are a help-mate, but Satan has turned us against each other, and his work continues to do so.
Paul Young uses a black woman to represent God the Father in The Shack. Her love for Mack, the main character is evident, and the Father’s love for us is evident not matter what someone else says or does to us.
John 3.16 says God loved the whole world so much that he gave his only son to us. He literally sacrificed his very own son as the ultimate sacrifice of all time to blot out the paralyzing sin that afflicts us to this very moment. Sin will still be part of our reality in the morning because Satan can still roam the Earth with his network of evil doers.
The question for us is not who is delivering the message of hope to us in our shacks, rather am I going to believe and act upon it when the bottom falls out.
The choice is yours.