Moments in life that paralyze us with pain to a point of getting stuck; all of us in some way or another know this reality. The Shack is a movie where we can all place our selves in Mackenzie Phillips’ (Sam Worthington) position and change the story to meet our own set of circumstances. Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, this movie gives a new perspective on how to view God and the simple truth of his love and forgiveness.
A brief look back at Mack’s life as a child sets the stage for the deeper meaning on forgiveness. A church-goer with a loving wife, three children and good neighbors, Mack has a seemingly perfect life. He also has a secret that haunts him—a secret that has a way of coming to the surface after tragedy unfolds.
“A great sadness” falls upon the family when his youngest goes missing on a family camping trip. Dad is powerless against the evil, and the eldest daughter feels the guilt for horse playing at the wrong time. There seems to be no getting past the events that camping weekend left behind until God, or Papa, as Mack’s wife Nan (Radha Mitchell) has nicknamed him, steps in. Mack finds a short but sweet note left in his mailbox at the most inopportune time—during a snow storm with no visible tracks.
The note requests a visit from Mack the next weekend to “The Shack” the very place Mack would never want to go, its signed “Papa.” Even though he is certain it is a request from the evil that took his baby girl, he has no choice but to oblige. He sets forth on the journey that would forever change his life.
Armed with a gun and his painful memories, he returns to The Shack to find the same cold and empty place he left it. Shame, guilt, and anger nearly over power him when an intervention stops him. Heading back to the truck for home an intervention you hope for steps into his path, Jesus (Avraham aviv Alush).
In disbelief, Mack follows Jesus back to The Shack only to discover it isn’t at all how he had just left it. It has transformed into the most beautiful, amazing site. Mack can’t believe his eyes, he then meets Papa (Octavia Spencer) and Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara). He must be dead; he doesn’t feel dead. A painstaking journey of highs and lows —the movie-goer can tell this journey is not going to be easy.
No one is immune to evil in this world, according to the movie. It’s God who turns the evil into healing and good, even if it’s just in the individual who is stuck in their pain. Angry as anyone would be in this pain the many questions surfaced. Sin has its own way of punishing.
The sin carries the broken, the stuck, the angry through generation after generation only adding to the new generation’s sins starting from the beginning with Adam. Then if God knew all of this would happen then it must be God’s fault…. right? No, he never intended it to be a world of sin and judgment. If we sit in judgment of every person’s flaws and sin when we judge as God does what happens when it’s time to judge someone you love, will you be able to judge to heaven or hell? Mack finds out the hard way just what this means.
Mack begins to understand that every breathing soul is loved by Papa and is worthy of forgiveness if sincerely asking for forgiveness.
In my opinion, this is a miraculous story of love shown through the eyes of the Trinity. In the beautiful garden of life that looks like a chaotic mess, Sarayu shows Mack the bigger picture, a breathtaking view of good that only God can create out of bad. Believing God is working for your good and never letting go or losing sight of that is what keeps us joyful and happy in a world full of evil and sin, allowing love in and love to win.
Many people have expressed anger over the portrayal of God as a black woman, but they are missing the deeper meaning. It’s not about the color of skin, male or female; it’s about God knowing his child. By keeping things gentle, it was easier for Mack to accept what was about to take place.
The twist in the end lets you decide for yourself how to perceive Mack’s story. Whether to believe or not is up to you. I loved this movie and its underlying message was remarkable. God’s love, forgiveness, redemption and purification brings hope.