Everybody has a shack: a place of pain, regret, and what-ifs, a canyon of terrible sadness and hidden rage at unsustainable loss, the kind of loss that makes you wish you’d lost everything. Everybody has a shack, a place you can’t unsee, but one you will spend the rest of your life running away from. You just can’t go back, maybe because you never found a way to leave it behind in the first place. It’s the place where everything grinds to a halt, where you hold your breath, where silence is broken only by the sound of your own sobbing. Everybody has a shack.

Whether you’ve suffered more of your share of loss and grief, or whether you’ve just lived long enough to know what it feels like to be tossed by a storm at sea, you have a shack. And no matter where you say you live, that shack is your real home. It’s where you sleep at night, and where you rise in the morning.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that life isn’t a fairytale. Real life isn’t just disillusioning; real life is traumatizing. Young people die. Marriages fail. Hurricanes and fires and earthquakes happen. Jobs are lost. Hurting people become hurtful. Crimes are committed. Lies are told. Friends betray one another. Dreams are abandoned. People grown apart. Responsibilities are shirked. Expectations are disappointed. Needs go unmet. Love goes unrequited. 

I read The Shack when it was all the rage, and didn’t like it much. That’s probably why I didn’t expect much from the film rendition. But this Lent, I can’t think of anything better to recommend to been-there-done-that, haphazzard (not intentional) seekers-who-don’t-yet-realize-they-are-seeking than a night at this movie. Why? Because the reflection and conversation that is bound to follow will open doors, ones that in all likelihood have been locked shut for a long, long time.

You don’t need to embrace every detail of the way the message is delivered. The message stands on its own: God loves you so much that he is with you at your very darkest moments; God wants you to entrust all those hurts to him so that He can transform them into something good, put them to rest, give you the courage to face them, and flood your soul with peace. God is inviting every one of us back to the shack in our lives. He is planning to meet us there and fill it with his light. God wants each one of us to know that he has known our pain, and he can show us the way out. We can trust God with our worst. And when we do that, He give us his very best in exchange.

See The Shack, and accept the challenge to go there.

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