Confession #1: I have an aversion to Christian fiction.

I didn’t used to – my favorite book series in middle school was Adventures in the Northwoods, I was proud of owning most of the Mandie collection, and I adored the short-lived TV series Christy.

Confession #2: Actually, I still have a soft spot for Christy

But along the way, books or films that were labeled “Christian” became synonymous to me with “cheesy”, “poorly done”, and “cliché”. That we consider any work of art “Christian” is something we should also address – for more on that, visit my friend Matt’s blog post.

So whenever a Christian novel becomes popular I immediately resolve that it isn’t worth my time to read. Some of my college girlfriends can attest that I was never persuaded to read Redeeming Love. I just couldn’t. do. it.

But when a housemate whose taste in books I admire said that he enjoyed The Shack and encouraged me to read it, I began to have second thoughts. And when I spotted the book on another friend’s bookshelf and she offered to let me borrow it, I shamefully smuggled it home in my purse.

Confession #3: I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m no literary critic – practically the opposite – but I can tell you that I enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I don’t think it was superbly written, and I could usually tell where it was leading, but I appreciated what seemed to be the purpose behind the book: that God desires for us to be as whole as possible here on earth.

While some Christians may have severe critiques of the book, I choose to focus more on the process and less on the content. The book reminded me that God is wholly other than what I could possibly imagine him to be; that his grace supersedes any of my good intentions and self-righteous sacrifices. I was reminded that God is about relationship; I appreciated seeing God as three diverse individuals interacting with each other and the main character. My perception of God was changed to see him a little bit closer and more connected. It sounds trite, but because I’ve struggled with legalism for most of my life, this was freeing.

So next time a ‘Christian’ novel becomes big, I’ll take a little more time evaluating whether it’s worth reading or not. My aversion is beginning to lessen.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Mack wasn’t convinced. ‘But don’t you want us to set priorities? You know: God first, then whatever, followed by whatever?’

‘The trouble with living by priorities,’ Sarayu spoke, ‘is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid, and you and I already had that discussion. If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?’

Papa again interrupted. ‘You see, Mackenzie, I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day.’

Jesus now spoke again. ‘Mack, I don’t want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life – your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities – is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.’

‘And I,’ concluded Sarayu, ‘I am the wind.’ She smiled hugely and bowed.”

The Shack, page 206-207