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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heartbreak and Radiance in Story

After recently picking up _The Shack_ by William P. Young, I've begun to contemplate this notion: a story is only as uplifting as it is heartbreaking. That is to say that the more a narrative drags us through gut wrenching pain, the more power it has to heal us. Or as my professor once said after making us watch "Breaking the Waves," "[That movie] drags us through two hours of Hell to give us two minutes of Heaven." And truly those two minutes at the end of the film are exultant, but the two hours leading up to it are barely watchable - they are so painful.

_The Shack_ begins about a man, Mack, with five children. The youngest of which, Missy, is kidnapped and brutally murdered. The crux of the book details the experience Mack has thereafter, when he revisits the shack where his daughter was killed.

I have never really gotten into Christian fiction or "Christian" literature of any kind, but so far I've been able to hang with this book. Partly because Mack is ordinary, and the details of his daughter's kidnapping are believable. I'm sticking with this book too because Missy is neither too sweet, nor too precocious but exactly innocent. The way I feel my own daughter to be. The scenes in which Mack searches for his daughter are something straight from an Amber alert. It seems ordinary and so unthinkable all at once.

For this reason the scene where Mack finds Missy's torn and bloodied dress looms dark and unbearable in the first quarter of the book. It isn't overwrought and melodramatic. It makes me worry for my own daughter. It makes me shudder.

I asked Dwayne about the book yesterday, since he finished reading it while we were on vacation.

"You should finish it," Dwayne said to me.

"It's too sad," I said.

"But you feel really good at the end," he replied.

Seems like this has always been my trouble with Story, especially in the form of movies. People will rave about movies and how brilliant they are, for example "Crash" or "Babel," and even though I know these people are right, I avoid those movies. I understand that in order to really get to the radiance I'll first have to face the inhumanity wide eyed. Call me a light weight. A sissy.

Meanwhile, I'm left contemplating this question: why is it that I must first peer into the depths of darkness before I am able to wholly embrace the breadth of radiance?

If I can ever find it, I think the answer will show me my heart.

3 Comments:

Blogger Just a bit....... said...

I feel the same way. I cannot force myself to experience pain in order to experience the healing. If life throws it, I want to escape, but I do not want to force myself to experience it in story or film. Let me know if it's worth it.
nancy

11:39 AM  
Blogger Jim and Jaena said...

I believe C.S. Lewis wrote about the depth of our ability to feel joy being related to the depth of pain or hurt we have felt. I need to look that up...

For the record, I read the book and thought it was worth it. It has changed my perspective on life, death, pain and more despite the fact that it's fiction.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts once you've finished. (See, I'm already assuming you will!)

7:33 PM  
Blogger Christin said...

Hi Nancy! Hi Jaena! Yes, the book is definitely worth it. I finished it within a couple of days of writing this post. In fact, I had a hard time putting it down.

Interestingly, I really felt like the prose revealed more about the author and the way he receives and gives love, but that didn't discount his portrayal of God for me.

I appreciated the way he took on our misconceptions of God and I really enjoyed his characterizations of God.

7:41 PM  

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