Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Starting off 2008

Happy New Year. Every so often my life gets a little jolt. This can happen in many ways. Just today it came from a book. Over the past few years two books stand out as shaping who I am (outside of the Bible). Becoming What God Intended by Dr. David Eckman is a foundational book about God's love, character, and our identity and relationship to God. The Present Future by Reggie McNeal is a foundation book about the Church, our mission, and God's call on his people for the world.

Today I have just finished this book.

THE SHACK by William P. Long

I laid on my couch speechless, in awe with tears on my face, feeling loved and satisfied and still wanting more all at the same time. This book has now become another, what I believe, foundation book in my understanding of God, his character, my identity and yes--the mission of the Church. What a way to start the new year.

It was given to my wife and me by a good friend just a few days ago. The way she detailed parts of the story, I knew I had to read it asap. The main character has a weekend with God. Yes, a full interaction face to face, voice to voice, physical experience with Him...or all three of him, or her...or..Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. You simply must read it.

I can't really explain it and I don't want to give it away. You just have to read the story. The tag line to THE SHACK, is "Where Tragedy Meets Eternity."

I already want to read it again and I have re-read pages over and over for some of it's amazing reminders and explanations of truth.

This book deals with questions about evil, forgiveness, God's goodness in tragedy, God's awareness of our pain, expectations, devotion, religion and religious institutions, the Holy Spirit, hell, sin, rules, freedom, priorities, the Trinity, and ultimately God's love for us.

It has been my life's quest to understand God, to know him, and to experience a true relationship with him. But somehow, sometimes, there is a faint, sometimes deep confusion, or sadness, maybe even guilt and distance that pokes it's ugly head interfering in this journey of mine. Why do I feel incomplete, dissatisfied, not enough, and even mad at God sometimes? Why do I sometimes experience seasons where it seems that God is far? Why even though I desperately want and claim that God is good, do little questions and frustrations cause me to lash out toward God when circumstances are hard or seem "unfair." It is because of my choices, my wrong perceptions. This book helped realize that I must admit, yes, I do blame God for evil. I blame him for not acting like I would and I even, when I am honest, think he's NOT ALWAYS GOOD. I shake my head even looking back at that last sentence. Perhaps this is why I sometimes feel bouts of shame. That I, a confessing and practicing follower of Jesus--a Christian--and A PASTOR NO LESS have lingering confusion about God and his goodness. It is because I don't (and never will fully) be able to understand him. This book helped me, blessed me, and set me free. I feel like an infomercial, but on so many fronts I was confronted with truth in my life, my life that sometimes is filled with lies, self-absorption and self-protection. I even realized that as an Evangelical Christian-(one who believes in God's unmerited favor: GRACE)-do have falsehoods in my mind that cause me to have a tendency to work hard to earn God's love and the approval of people. Why else would I get burned out, feel overworked/exhausted, or act judgmentally as if I myself were God?

Seriously, after reading this book what I sense God saying to me (among a myriad of things) or what sticks out right now is that he wants me to be at home with myself (with no comparison or condemnations toward others) and this can only come with trusting him and his unconditional love for me (and the world).

I was confronted with how often I feel the need TO DO SO MUCH STUFF or BE somebody I'm not. I see the potential that I have to become a "personality" for God rather then simply God's person. I have been noticing, or maybe it is the Holy Spirit pointing this out, that at times I can actually feel within myself a tension to be someone I'm not. It comes in when I turn on some internal switch to be who I think I should be or who people want me to be instead of being the loved child of God, safe, and content with the gifts, abilities, and physical make up that I have. It's a huge difference that brings peace to my whole being when I am enveloped in God's love, enjoying the same intimate, fun, serious, and intentional relationship that God has within the Trinity.

This is deep, too deep to fully even spout out on this blog. Wendy has yet to read it and plans on starting soon, because I am yearning to process this with her. I keep bringing things up and she says, "Wait!"

For now, I am processing it with my Papa! And, seriously I have a renewed sense of love and peace today. Godronic that it would happen today, the first day of 2008. Who needs resolutions. I just want to have God as the center of my life. Not as my 1st priority among a list of other things, but as the center! (A great discussion on this in the book. I'll have to blog about it another time). What a great way to start the year.

My word for this next season is AT HOME and also TRUST.

Please do yourself a huge favor--READ THIS BOOK because I would love to process this with you!



Justin said...

72/80 readers gave it five stars. The two that gave it one and the one that gave it two all objected on the basis of the book's liberal presentation of God. Also, a detectable post-modern theme seems to illicit negative feedback from fundamentalists.

That said, it seems to be a "hype" book at the moment, something of a Christian fad.

But I know you are not the usual victim of hype, nor a theological lightweight. And so I am looking forward to reading it.

P.S. Are you a Harry Potter man?

Indelisa said...

you put my excitement about this book into perfect words...thanks. I have felt distinctly different since I read it too. Free and at peace in my soul.

Rocky said...

Hi Tony,

I am doing some research here about The Shack. I just finished it a couple days ago. Do you know the book is fiction, that it is made up? If so, how did you know? If not, does that change how you feel about the book?