The Shack Chapter 7: God On the Dock

God On The Dock

The chapter opens with Mack in the bathroom. Don’t get excited, he’s just staring at his reflection.

He was searching for some sign of insanity in those eyes staring back at him. Was this real? Of course not, it was impossible. But then…He reached out his hand and slowly touched the mirror. Maybe this was a hallucination being brought on by all his grief and despair. Maybe it was a dream, and he was asleep somewhere, maybe in the shack freezing to death?

I like this. This is good. This is a normal human reaction, and that last bit is a good question. What if he is actually in the shack slowly freezing to death? That seems like something you’d really want to check up on. But I guess he was contemplating suicide a little earlier, so maybe he doesn’t care too much.

In any case, Jesus drops some kind of dish–we don’t know what, we are just told that it made a “gooey mess” on the floor. Instead of the Godhead getting mad, everyone just laughs, and they all find it hilarious. Mack marvels at how different this scene is from the way things happen at home. I guess he gets mad at his kids for dropping dinner?

The author is not big on food descriptions. Not only is the stuff Jesus dropped described as a “gooey mess,” the meal itself is described as being “roast bird of some kind.” Would it really have been hard to come up with something more specific?

The only awkward part was at the very beginning when Mack, out of habit, bowed his head before he remembered where he was. He looked up to find all 3 of them grinning at him. So, as nonchalantly as he could, he said, “Um, thank you all….Could I have a bit of that rice there?”

I like this. I like this a lot, actually. It’s a very realistic detail and ok, it is kinda funny.

So dinner starts and there’s conversation…or at least, Mack is talking. There’s no indication the Godhead is talking back, except for Sarayu, who seems very interested in Nan for some reason.

Finally, Mack blurted out something that had been bothering him throughout the discussion.

“Now here I am telling you about my kids and my friends and about Nan, but you already know everything I am telling you, don’t you? You’re acting like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.

I like this, too. For all I’ve criticized Mack for being a murderous sociopath, (he murdered his father and he doesn’t seem to have very many human reactions to anything) I like that our main character is irreverent enough to just blurt this out in casual conversation. Though he’s a bit slow to do so, frankly, I would have said that first before telling the Godhead jack shit. The movie will probably smooth this over, I’m guessing, partly because movies have to edit a lot of stuff out of books for the sake of time.*

And I actually like the Godhead’s response. It’s something Christian!Abby had kinda worked out on her own.** Sarayu is speaking:

“We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.”

Mack says that he likes this explanation, and I have to give the author credit, this isn’t bad. Of course I cut out all the parts where the characters explained it rather poorly, this is just the end of a 3 paragraph explanation, but hey, at least the author is trying.

After the meal, God decides that they are all having devotions.

Mack had to suppress a snicker at the thought of God having devotions. Images of family devotions from his childhood came spilling into his mind…often, it was a tedious and boring exercise in coming up with the right answers, or, rather, the same old answers to the same old Bible story questions, and then trying to stay awake during his father’s excruciatingly long prayers…..he half expected Jesus to pull out a huge old King James Bible.

Because the original word of God was written in 1611 King James English.

That aside, this is spot on. This is what family worship was like, especially since my family had children who were so far apart from each other in age. We had a 3 year old and a 16 year old in the same family, and my parents usually bounced back and forth as to what age group they catered to. I sat through some seriously boring devotional stories that were really not appropriate for my age level.

Oh, and I skipped over this earlier, but it’s been stated that if Mack has a conversation with member of the Godhead, the other 2 members all know about it, because they are the same person.

Instead, Jesus reached across the table and took Papa’s hands in his…”Papa, I loved watching you today as you made yourself fully available to take Mack’s pain into yourself and then gave him space to choose his own timing. You honored him, and you honored me. To listen to you whisper love and calm into his heart was truly incredible. What a joy to watch! I love being your Son.”

So, for God, devotions are basically just….ego stroking?

Actually, that kinda fits.

Mack feels like he’s intruding, but at the same time he enjoys this. He feels that this is not only love, but holiness. For God, ego stroking is holiness? That seems like exactly the opposite of what religion teaches.

So, is God going to now stroke Jesus’ ego? What about the Holy Spirit’s? Nope, now Jesus and Sarayu are going to do the dishes. I guess devotions just consists of Jesus ego stroking Papa?

After doing the dishes, Jesus invites Mack to go stargazing.

“Incredible!” Whispered Jesus, his head near Mack’s in the darkness. “I never get tired of this.”

“Even though you created it?” Mack asked.

“I created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. So even though I created this, I see it now as a human. And I must say, it is impressive.”

This here is a reference to the gospel of John chapter 1, wherein John goes on for a good few verses about the Word, who he then reveals is Jesus Christ.

And I actually don’t mind this. I like the idea that Jesus saw things differently when he was God than he does now. That’s actually a decent bit of characterization. It also kinda gives you a sense of what Jesus lost when he became human as well.

There’s more talk about the stars, and I’m kind of surprised Mack doesn’t ask about the distant starlight problem. Every creationist would be shitting themselves over the opportunity to ask the creator himself about this, but Mack just lets it slide. The author didn’t want to tackle it, I guess. Can’t say I’d blame him. We’ll just move on.

Eventually, Mack tells Jesus that he feels more comfortable around him than Papa or Sarayu.

“You seem different than the other 2…more real, or tangible. I Don’t know….it’s like I’ve always known you. But Papa isn’t at all what I expected from God, and Sarayu, she’s way out there.”

This is probably meant to be commentary on how we usually feel closer to Jesus than we do to God or the Holy Spirit. It is speculated why this is so, and I have a few ideas myself. But it is a thing that mainstream Christianity recognizes, and a frequent topic in Sabbath School classes is how to love God the father and God the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus.***

Nobody that I know ever prays to the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you heard someone start a prayer with, “Dear Holy Spirit?” Try it sometime and tell me what happens.

Jesus points out to Mack that, since he’s human, of course it’s easier for humans to relate to him. Mack is still confused, for reasons I don’t understand.

Jesus elucidates. Sort of.

“I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different from how they love you. And believe me, Papa and Sarayu are just as real as I am, though, as you’ve seen, in far different ways.”

Mack asks if Sarayu is the Holy Spirit. To his credit, Jesus doesn’t say, “no shit Sherlock.”

Seriously, in the prologue Willie went on and on about how smart Mack was. Yet it takes Mack all fucking day to realize that maybe this 3rd being who is also part of the Godhead, who kinda flickers in and out of visual existence, is the Holy Spirit?”

Willie is absolutely the unreliable narrator.

Jesus then tells Mack what I told you guys a few posts ago: that the word “Sarayu,” means “wind.” Apparently the Holy Spirit loves that name! Because she’s like wind, get it? No? Sigh. Ok.

So, I can’t remember if this is a Biblical thing of an Ellen White thing, but there’s this idea that the Holy Spirit is like wind. You can’t see where the wind is coming from, or where it’s going, but you know that it is there, you can feel it. Just like the Holy Spirit!****

Mack then asks about the name Papa mentioned, Elousia. I had wondered about that myself. When I googled it, I only got results for this book. Here’s Jesus’ explanation:

“Elousia….that is a wonderful name. El is my name as Creator God, but ousia is  “being” or “that which is truly real. So the name means “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being. Now that is also a beautiful name!”

As opposed to all those other gods out there, who are fake.

All that aside, I actually don’t mind this.

They sit in silence for a while, and then Mack tentatively brings up the topic of Jesus’ looks. Apparently, Jesus isn’t very handsome.

I don’t mind that our protagonist was bold enough to ask. In fact, I rather like it. What I do take issue with, and this is probably nitpicky, is the idea that Jesus isn’t handsome. Beauty, you see, is in the eye of the beholder. Our concept of beauty is influenced by our culture, but even within that, it’s individualistic. I can look at the someone and think they’re butt ugly, but another person can look at the same person I just declared “butt ugly” and think he’s the most handsomest guy on the face of the planet.

Beauty is incredibly subjective.

“Somehow I thought you’d be the ideal man, you know, athletic and overwhelmingly good looking.” [Said Mack.]

“It’s my nose, isn’t it?”

What?

Jesus laughed. “I a Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a big nose, In fact, most of the men on my mom’s side had big noses.”

Notice, here, that the author is careful to say that this is on Jesus’ mom’s side. He avoids talking about Joseph’s relatives because Jesus shares no DNA with them.

Setting that aside….. I’m not Jewish, so I want to tread carefully here….but I feel like this is a stereotype. Are we seriously going to for “most Jews have big noses” trope? Really?

“I just thought you’d be better looking,” [said Mack.]

“By who’s standards?”

Sassy Jesus! I like it!

“Anyway, once you really get to know me, it won’t matter to you.”

I do tend to find that people I consider “ugly” tend to look beautiful after I get to know them and see that they are truly wonderful people. I’m not sure if that’s what Jesus is talking about here, but it is a thing.

In any case, Mack realizes that he doesn’t know Jesus that well at all. Jesus goes on for a bit about beauty not mattering, but it’s nothing I haven’t already said.

Mack tells Jesus that getting to know him would be a lot easier if they could always talk like this. With Jesus physically present, I mean. And I agree, it would be far easier to talk to Jesus if he wasn’t silent and invisible all the time.

“Admittedly, Mack, this is special. You were really stuck and we wanted to help you crawl out of your pain.”

Yes, I have been wondering: Why did you pick Mack, of all people? Lots of people are “stuck,” why not help one of them? Screw the rest of those people, I guess?

And then Jesus gives the pat christian answer of “just because we can’t always talk physically like this doesn’t mean we can’t have a relationship.”

Because talking with a silent invisible person is just the same as actually being able to have a conversation with someone.

They talk for a bit about boring stuff, then Jesus says they should silently look at the stars. When Mack says he has a lot of questions, Jesus tells him that they have the rest of Mack’s lifetime to get through them.

So, what, about 40-60 years, then? That’s not really very long, especially since Jesus is going to be silent and invisible for a good portion of that.

Mack eventually feels The Great Sadness begin to descend upon him.

“Jesus?” He whispered as his voice choked. “I feel so lost.”

Number of human reactions the main character has had: 4.

Jesus basically tells Mack, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not true.”

Which, sure. I personally think “I’m sorry you feel that way” is very dismissive, but it’s meant to come across as comforting, so we’ll take it.

Then Jesus tells Mack he should go to bed.

Mack was suddenly exhausted.

I don’t think the author meant for this to mean anything. But when you have a character who is all-powerful, and you say something like, “as soon as all powerful character told Mack he should sleep, Mack felt exhausted,” I’m going to wonder if your all powerful character is the one putting our main character to sleep. This book is certainly putting me to sleep, so I guess that’s fair.

 

 

 

 

*Yes, I will eventually be seeing the movie, but not till it’s out of theaters, because there is no way to take notes in there.

**Christian!Abby thought a lot about this because, before this book came out, she kept trying to write a story wherein her protagonist met God, but every single time she tried, she ended up with characters who were either codependent or downright abusive, so she gave up. She is jealous that someone did it and got famous before she did.

***I even had trouble loving Jesus like I was supposed to.

****When I was a really little kid, I thought trees created the wind as they moved back and forth. 4 year old me didn’t understand the point of this particular Sabbath school lesson, because to her it was obvious that the wind came from trees. Duh.

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2 thoughts on “The Shack Chapter 7: God On the Dock

  1. If you wanted to see the movie in theaters to comment on it, you could take a tape recorder so you had the dialogue at least. But then you’d be giving money to the filmmakers :/

    • No, I’d do that where you buy a ticket for one movie and then go to another. It’s not like they check your ticket at the theater entrance (unless you’re seeing a Harry Potter movie, in which case there is a seating chart and plenty of ushers who make sure you sit where you’re supposed to.)

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