The shack, p.1
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       The Shack, p.1

           William Paul Young
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The Shack



  “When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize, the result is a novel on the order of THE SHACK. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”

  —Eugene Peterson, professor emeritus of spiritual theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.

  “While reading THE SHACK, I realized the questions unfolding in this captivating novel were questions I was carrying deep within me. The beauty of this book is not that it supplies easy answers to grueling questions, but that it invites you to come in close to a God of mercy and love, in whom we find hope and healing.”

  —Jim Palmer, author of Divine Nobodies

  “THE SHACK is a one-of-a-kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself. With every page, the complicated do’s and don’ts that distort a relationship into a religion were washed away as I understood Father, Son, and Spirit for the first time in my life.”

  —Patrick M. Roddy, Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News

  “Wrapped in creative brilliance, THE SHACK is spiritually profound, theologically enlightening, and life-impacting. It has my highest recommendation. We are joyfully giving copies away by the case.”

  —Steve Berger, pastor of Grace Chapel, Leipers Fork, TN

  “Finally! A guy-meets-God novel that has literary integrity and spiritual daring. THE SHACK cuts through the clichés of both religion and bad writing to reveal something compelling and beautiful about life’s integral dance with the divine. This story reads like a prayer—like the best kind of prayer, filled with sweat and wonder and transparency and surprise. When I read it, I felt like I was fellowshipping with God. If you read one work of fiction this year, let this be it.”

  —Mike Morrell,

  “An exceptional piece of writing that ushers you directly into the heart and nature of God in the midst of agonizing human suffering. This amazing story will challenge you to consider the person and the plan of God in more expansive terms than you may have ever dreamed.”

  —David Gregory, author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

  “THE SHACK will change the way you think about God forever.”

  —Kathie Lee Gifford, cohost, NBC’s Today Show

  “I really thought that this book was just another book. Trust me, folks—it’s not! When bandwagons come along I usually let them go right on by. When it comes to THE SHACK, I’m not only on the bandwagon, I keep asking the driver to stop and pick up all of my friends. I can’t remember the last time a book, let alone a work of fiction, had this much of a healing impact on my life.”

  —Drew Marshall, radio host, The Drew Marshall Show

  “If God is all-powerful and full of love, why doesn’t He do something about the pain and evil in our world? This book answers that age-old question with startling creativity and staggering clarity. By far one of the best books I have ever read.”

  —James Ryle, author of Hippo in the Garden

  “Riveting, with twists that defy your expectations while teaching powerful theological lessons without patronizing. I was crying by page one hundred. You cannot read it without your heart becoming involved.”

  —Gayle E. Erwin, author of The Jesus Style

  “This book goes beyond being the well-written, suspenseful page-turner that it is. Since the death of our son Jason, the Lord has led us to a small number of life-changing books and this one heads the list. When you close the back cover, you will be changed.”

  —Dale Lang (, father of student killed in Columbine copycat shooting

  “THE SHACK is a beautiful story of how God comes to find us in the midst of our sorrows, trapped by disappointments, betrayed by our own presumptions. He never leaves us where He finds us, unless we insist.”

  —Wes Yoder, Ambassador Speakers Bureau

  “You will be captivated by the creativity and imagination of THE SHACK, and before you know it you’ll be experiencing God as never before. William Young’s insights are not just captivating, they are biblically faithful and true. Don’t miss this transforming story of grace.”

  —Greg Albrecht, editor, Plain Truth Magazine

  “Your work is a masterpiece! There are tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. All I can think of is the others who need to read your words. I’m just as convinced that each one who reads it has those who also need your words.”

  —Chyril Walker, PhD

  “THE SHACK is the most absorbing work of fiction I’ve read in many years. My wife and I laughed, cried, and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. THE SHACK will leave you craving the presence of God.”

  —Michael W. Smith, recording artist

  “This book eloquently captures the shift from being highly responsible people in a religious system to walking in intimacy as we respond to the fragrance of Christ in daily life.”

  —Arthur Burk, Sapphire Leadership Group, Inc.

  “Don’t miss this! If there’s a better book out there capturing God’s engaging nature and His ability to crawl into our darkest nightmare with His love, light, and healing, I’ve not seen it. For the most ardent believer or newest spiritual seeker, THE SHACK is a must read.”

  —Wayne Jacobsen, author of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

  “My biggest disappointment with Christian books is that almost all of them seem to say the same things in the same way. Not so with THE SHACK! It reads like no other book and tells a story I guarantee you have not heard before. Enjoy the adventure!”

  —Bart Campolo, Founder of Mission Year

  “It is not often that you have an opportunity to read such a spellbinding account from a contemporary author that so captures the true meaning of forgiveness and redemption.”

  —Rev. Ron Hooker, pastor emeritus, Grace United Church of Christ, Columbus, OH

  “Brilliant! One of the most faith-enhancing books I have ever read.”

  —Bear Grylls, youngest Briton to climb Everest, star of Man vs. Wild and Born Survivor



  Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

  A novel by


  In collaboration with Wayne Jacobsen

  and Brad Cummings

  Newbury Park, California



  by Wm. Paul Young

  Copyright © 2007 by William P. Young.

  All rights reserved.

  This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.

  Published by Windblown Media, 4680 Calle Norte,

  Newbury Park, CA 91320 • [email protected]

  Phone: (805) 498-2484

  Fax: (805) 499-4260

  Visit our website at

  Published in association with Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  Cover design by Marisa Ghiglieri, Dave Aldrich, and Bobby Downes.

  Page layout by Dave Aldrich.

  Lyrics used in chapter 1: Larry Norman, “One Way.”

  © 1995 Solid Rock Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

  Lyrics reprinted by permission.

  Lyrics used in chapter 10: “New World,” by David Wilcox.

  © 1994 Irving Music, Inc., and Midnight Ocean Bonfire Musi

  All rights administered by Irving Music, Inc. Used by

  permission. All rights reserved.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  Second eBook Edition: June 2011

  ISBN: 978-0-964-72929-2


  Praise for the Shack




  1. A Confluence of Paths

  2. The Gathering Dark

  3. The Tipping Point

  4. The Great Sadness

  5. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

  6. A Piece of π

  7. God on the Dock

  8. A Breakfast of Champions

  9. A Long Time Ago, in a Garden Far, Far Away

  10. Wade in the Water

  11. Here Come da Judge

  12. In the Belly of the Beasts

  13. A Meeting of Hearts

  14. Verbs and Other Freedoms

  15. A Festival of Friends

  16. A Morning of Sorrows

  17. Choices of the Heart

  18. Outbound Ripples

  After Words


  This story was written for my children:

  Chad—the Gentle Deep

  Nicholas—the Tender Explorer

  Andrew—the Kindhearted Affection

  Amy—the Joyful Knower

  Alexandra (Lexi)—the Shining Power

  Matthew—the Becoming Wonder

  And dedicated first, to:

  Kim, my Beloved, thank you for saving my life;

  and second, to:

  “… All us stumblers who believe Love rules.

  Stand up and let it shine.”


  Who wouldn’t be skeptical when a man claims to have spent an entire weekend with God, in a shack no less? And this was the shack.

  I have known Mack for a bit more than twenty years, since the day we both showed up at a neighbor’s house to help him bale a field of hay to put up for his couple of cows. Since then he and I have been, as the kids say these days, hangin’ out, sharing a coffee—or for me a chai tea, extra hot with soy. Our conversations bring a deep sort of pleasure, always sprinkled with lots of laughs and once in a while a tear or two. Frankly, the older we get, the more we hang out, if you know what I mean.

  His full name is Mackenzie Allen Phillips, although most people call him Allen. It’s a family tradition: the men all have the same first name but are commonly known by their middle names, presumably to avoid the ostentation of I, II, and III or Junior and Senior. It works well for identifying telemarketers too, especially the ones who call as if they were your best friend. So he and his grandfather, father, and now his oldest son all have the given name of Mackenzie but are commonly referred to by their middle names. Only Nan, his wife, and close friends call him Mack (although I have heard a few total strangers yell, “Hey Mack, where’d you learn to drive?”).

  Mack was born somewhere in the Midwest, a farm boy in an Irish-American family committed to calloused hands and rigorous rules. Although externally religious, his overly strict church-elder father was a closet drinker, especially when the rain didn’t come, or came too early, and most of the times in between. Mack never talks much about him, but when he does his face loses emotion like a tide going out, leaving dark and lifeless eyes. From the few stories Mack has told me, I know his daddy was not a fall-asleep-happy kind of alcoholic but a vicious, mean, beat-your-wife-and-then-ask-God-for-forgiveness drunk.

  It all came to a head when thirteen-year-old Mackenzie reluctantly bared his soul to a church leader during a youth revival. Overtaken by the conviction of the moment, Mack confessed in tears that he hadn’t done anything to help his mama as he witnessed, on more than one occasion, his drunken dad beat her unconscious. What Mack failed to consider was that his confessor worked and churched with his father, and by the time he got home his daddy was waiting for him on the front porch, with his mama and sisters conspicuously absent. He later learned that they had been shuttled off to his aunt May’s in order to give his father some freedom to teach his rebellious son a lesson about respect. For almost two days, tied to the big oak at the back of the house, he was beaten with a belt and Bible verses every time his dad woke from a stupor and put down his bottle.

  Two weeks later, when Mack was finally able to put one foot in front of the other again, he just up and walked away from home. But before he left, he put varmint poison in every bottle of booze he could find on the farm. He then unearthed from next to the outhouse the small tin box housing all his earthly treasures: one photograph of the family with everybody squinting as they looked into the sun (his daddy standing off to one side), a 1950 Luke Easter rookie baseball card, a little bottle that contained about an ounce of Ma Griffe (the only perfume his mama had ever worn), a spool of thread and a couple needles, a small silver die-cast U.S. Air Force F-86 jet, and his entire life savings—$15.13. He crept back into the house and slipped a note under his mama’s pillow while his father lay snoring off another binge. It just said, “Someday I hope you can forgive me.” He swore he would never look back, and he didn’t—not for a long time.

  Thirteen is too young to be all grown up, but Mack had little choice and adapted quickly. He doesn’t talk much about the years that followed. Most of it was spent overseas, working his way around the world, sending money to his grandparents, who passed it on to his mama. In one of those distant countries I think he even picked up a gun in some kind of terrible conflict; he’s hated war with a dark passion ever since I’ve known him. Whatever happened, in his early twenties he eventually ended up in a seminary in Australia. When Mack had had his fill of theology and philosophy he came back to the States, made peace with his mama and sisters, and moved out to Oregon where he met and married Nannette A. Samuelson.

  In a world of talkers, Mack is a thinker and doer. He doesn’t say much unless you ask him directly, which most folks have learned not to do. When he does speak you wonder if he isn’t some sort of alien who sees the landscape of human ideas and experiences differently than everybody else.

  The thing is, he usually makes uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing, which is often not much of anything. Those who know him generally like him well enough, provided he keeps his thoughts mostly to himself. And when he does talk, it isn’t that they stop liking him—rather, they are not quite so satisfied with themselves.

  Mack once told me that he used to speak his mind more freely in his younger years, but he admitted that most of such talk was a survival mechanism to cover his hurts; he often ended up spewing his pain on everyone around him. He says that he had a way of pointing out people’s faults and humiliating them while maintaining his own sense of false power and control. Not too endearing.

  As I pen these words, I reflect on the Mack I’ve always known—quite ordinary, and certainly not anyone particularly special, except to those who truly know him. He is just about to turn fifty-six, and he is a rather unremarkable, slightly overweight, balding, short white guy, which describes a lot of men in these parts. You probably wouldn’t notice him in a crowd or feel uncomfortable sitting next to him while he snoozes on the MAX (metro transit) during his once-a-week trip into town for a sales meeting. He does most of his work from a little home office at his place up on Wildcat Road. He sells something high-tech and gadgety that I don’t pretend to understand: techno gizmos that somehow make everything go faster, as if life weren’t going fast enough already.

  You don’t realize how smart Mack is unless you happen to eavesdrop on a dialogue he might be having with an expert. I’ve been there when suddenly the language being spoken hardly resembles English, and I find myself struggling to grasp the concepts spilling out like a tumbling river of gemstones. He can speak intelligently about most anything, and even though you sense he has strong convictions, he has a gentle way about
him that lets you keep yours.

  His favorite topics are all about God and creation and why people believe what they do. His eyes light up and he gets this smile that curls at the corners of his lips, and suddenly, like a little kid, the tiredness melts away and he becomes ageless and hardly able to contain himself. But at the same time, Mack is not very religious. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with religion, and maybe even with the God he suspects is brooding, distant, and aloof. Little barbs of sarcasm occasionally spill through the cracks in his reserve like piercing darts dipped in poison from a well deep inside. Although we sometimes both show up on Sundays at the same local pew and pulpit Bible church (the Fifty-fifth Independent Assembly of Saint John the Baptist, we like to call it), you can tell that he is not too comfortable there.

  Mack has been married to Nan for just more than thirty-three mostly happy years. He says she saved his life and paid a high price to do it. For some reason beyond understanding, she seems to love him now more than ever, even though I get the sense that he hurt her something fierce in the early years. I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.

  In any case, Mack married up. Nan is the mortar that holds the tiles of their family together. While Mack has struggled in a world with many shades of gray, hers is mostly black and white. Common sense comes so naturally to Nan that she can’t even see it for the gift it is. Raising a family kept her from pursuing dreams of becoming a doctor, but as a nurse she has excelled and gained considerable recognition for her chosen work with oncology patients who are terminal. While Mack’s relationship with God is wide, Nan’s is deep.

  This oddly matched pair are the parents of five unusually beautiful kids. Mack likes to say that they all got their good looks from him, “’cause Nan still has hers.” Two of the three boys are out of the house: Jon, newly married, works in sales for a local company; and Tyler, a recent college grad, is off at school working on a master’s degree. Josh and one of the two girls, Katherine (Kate), are still at home and attend the local community college. Then there is the late arrival, Melissa—or Missy, as we were fond of calling her. She… Well, you’ll get to know some of them better in these pages.

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