To answer the question in the title, all I can say is it played a big part in the change that happened in me.
As I sat in the quiet this morning before the house came alive with my wife and daughters running about, I was thinking about the things that are important to me. This past two years have so drastically changed what I care about. Today it's like driving in a car and watching out through the rear view mirror as things that had been a part of who I had always been become smaller and smaller. Some things are now just memories and I can't even see them anymore.
Some things when I think back on them, beliefs mostly, just make me shake my head in stunning disbelief. They have been revealed as having been prisons and the accompanying emotions and reactions that traveled with them were chains that I had dragged around all my life. These prisons and these chains go unnoticed while we are held captive by them and the smothering, crushing effects caused by them leave us fighting to stay alive. So we are led to believe. It's strange isn't it, how upside down things are in that place? We spend our days thinking we are fighting to stay alive when actually there is no life there to begin with.
There actually is no life there and there never has been. But the pain we feel is real and the frustration is so suffocating at times we wonder how we will get to the next moment. So we are left fighting because that is all we know to do and we feel that if we don't, we will be swallowed by that pain. So we are left doing what we can do. We attempt to control everything in the environment we find ourselves.
There is a moment in The Shack when Mack has a nightmare. He catches a glimpse of Missy in the darkness and she turns and runs away screaming, and the harder Mack tries to pull himself out of the mud so he can go help her, he continues to be sucked in deeper. If prisoners that are bound by chains attempt to fight to free themselves from those chains they cause more damage to themselves. But the natural impulse is still to fight. I know this all to well. I was a fighter. But one day the exhaustion had worn me down and I gave up the fight. I would have never made that choice had Jesus' presence not become real enough to me to cause me to trust him enough to save me from something I could not save myself from. I am so amazed looking back on it all and being able to see how he had been there with me through it all. I just hadn't ever trusted him.
I don't know what happened first, whether his love engulfed me before I gave up the fight, or if as I gave up the fight his love began to become real to me? All I know today is his love is real and it changes everything. It is his tangible presence and his overwhelming love that continues to cause the things in my rear view mirror to grow smaller and smaller. One of the big changes is seeing how relationships are all that really matter. But until the most vital one, the one with God, is in the process of being restored, we unfortuantely are left hurting those we are in relationship with. "Things" just don't matter to me like they used to. Beliefs and principles, and thinking I "know" the answers, and fighting for my rights just aren't as important to me as people are. I want to learn to live in a way that helps people find freedom from prisons and chains that hold them in the smothering emotions caused by our alienation/self-effort. Papa's love , his grace and his affection towards us is the key to the prison door and the lock that holds the chains in place. It is not our job to free people....that is what Jesus does through the Spirit. We have the privilege of extending love and grace, his love and grace, to those that are overwhelmed by the things that have hold of them and the paralyzing fear that is ever present.
There is hope. I Know. The smothering emotions that had consumed me are gone or are in the process of going. On one hand I want to say don't give up and at the same time I want to say....give in. We can't extricate our selves from the prison by self effort. That just causes the mud to suck us in deeper and often we drag those around us in with us. Most other people are fighting their own deal and that is enough for them. All that is left to do is give into his love.
I want to share some of the story Willie uses to close out his telling of Mack's encounter at the shack. It also touches on the question I asked in the title of this post. These words ring true to what this story has been to me also.
" So the question I am faced with as I pen these words is how to end a tale like this? Perhaps I can do that best by telling you a little about how it affected me. As I stated in the forward, Mack's story changed me. I don't think that there is one aspect of my life, especially my relationships, that hasn't been touched deeply and altered in ways that truly matter. Do I think that it is true? I want all of it to be true. Perhaps if some of it is not actually true in one sense, it is still true nonetheless---if you know what I mean? I guess you and Sarayu will have to figure that one out."