Jesus takes Mack over to the lake and walks to the end of the dock, bidding Mack to follow. When Mack realizes Jesus is inviting him to walk across the surface of the lake together, he is taken aback and momentarily to afraid to continue. Jesus says that without wisdom, Mack is simply allowing his imagination to paint a picture of the worst-case scenario. He asks whether Mack’s mind tends to dwell in the past, present, or future. Mack responds that while he thinks humans should live in the present, he himself spends a lot of time thinking about the past, and even more worrying about the future. Jesus points out that when Mack imagines the future, he does not think about God at all, and instead plays God himself by imagining his fears and trying to figure out how to avoid his own perception of evil. These fears keep him from knowing that God is good.
When Mack tries to judge situations for himself, rather than trusting to God, he can only use his imperfect perception and his imagination to assess the world around him. Such assessments are necessarily flawed, leading Mack to be fearful of worst-case-scenario outcomes. This, The Shack claims, is one of many negative side effects of straying from God. Trying to predict the future for himself only leads Mack to worry, because he cannot accept that God has a greater plan.
With Jesus’s encouragement, Mack steps off the dock, and the two walk easily across the surface of the lake. Mack is delighted. On the other shore is a beautiful waterfall and meadow. Jesus says the earth would be even more beautiful if it weren’t for war or for the fact that humans plunder natural resources for their own needs.
Jesus vividly illustrates that by trusting God, Mack can avoid his worst fears for the future, and instead benefit from God’s love. Jesus’s references to war and the exploitation of natural resources point to larger-scale negative outcomes of straying from God and focusing too much on personal struggles.
As they eat their lunch, Mack asks why Jesus wouldn’t take back the earth if humans are destroying it. But Jesus says again that God does not operate on a hierarchy, and to take back the earth would be to force God’s will on humans. Instead, all three incarnations of God submit to one and other and to humans, because submission is the true fabric of relationships. It is not about authority, but love and respect.
Mack’s conversation with Jesus reinforces the trinity’s assertion that hierarchies infect relationships with unhealthy power dynamics. Not only is that true for the relationship between the three components of God, but also for the relationship between God and humans. In order for the relationship between God and humans to be true, it must come freely and without an undue power imbalance. This structure of the God/human relationship also explains why god “lets” bad things happen. Because humans must be able to choose.
Jesus says that ideally, all relationships should be founded this way. Instead, when humans struck out on their own in Eden, most men turned towards the work of their hands for fulfilment, while most women turned towards the relationships for fulfilment. God created men and women to face each other as equals, but instead the fact that women turned to men for work and protection led men to have power over women. Preserving this hierarchy is unhealthy. Jesus tells Mack to head off on a path by the waterfall, where someone is waiting for him.
Jesus here explains some of the ways in which relationships on Earth have become tainted and corrupted by power dynamics. Whether this particular explanation is believable – that men turned toward work and women toward relationships to find fulfillment – might be up for some debate, but the larger point is that any such hierarchies have led to unhealthy relationships between the sexes.