Mack decides to take a canoe out on the lake. Feeling better than he has in a long time, Mack feels free to sing, look at the beautiful scene around him, and even to cry as he thinks about the troubles of his daughter, Katie. Suddenly, he sees that Sarayu is sitting in the canoe with him. She says that dinner is soon and it’s time to return to the cabin. Sarayu reminds Mack that she’s always with him. Even when he returns home, he will be able to sense her thoughts in his.
Because he has begun to confront and work through some of the emotions underlying The Great Sadness, Mack finds that he can enjoy things, like a beautiful day in nature, that were previously denied him because of his depression. Sarayu’s sudden appearance and reassurance drives home the point that God can never abandon Mack, even if he feels alone.
Mack says that Papa has helped him realize he’s afraid of emotions, something that concerns him. He says he is afraid of bad emotions. But Sarayu says that emotions are neither good nor bad, but provide the color of the soul, while The Great Sadness was a lack of emotion that made life seem flat and gray. Sarayu says that emotions are fed by perceptions, which in turn are shaped by paradigms or beliefs. In order to understand and trust his emotions, Mack must also interrogate his deepest beliefs.
Sarayu helps Mack to see that, like the mix of plants in the garden, the complicated mix of emotions he feels is an important part of being alive. Just as trusting God means that trusting even poisonous plants have a purpose, it also means trusting that emotions that Mack perceives as “negative” serve important functions and are necessary to living a full and varied life.
Mack says that living in this way feels more complicated than simply following the rules in scripture. Laughing, Sarayu asks if those rules ever helped Mack in the past, and he admits that they mostly made him feel guilty. Sarayu says that relationships, not rules, are the only way to get at the deeper questions of life. Those who think they have all the answers simply because they know and follow scripture are likely fooling themselves.
Sarayu’s conversation serves as another reminder that the scripture can easily hinder the relationship people have with God, because it turns a relationship that should be founded on love into one shaped by human-designed rules and rituals.
Mack joins Sarayu, Jesus, and Papa at the table, where they openly talk and laugh with each other. He finds their warmth and friendship inspiring, and imagines trying to bring that demeanor to his own relationships. For a moment, overwhelmed by the reality of the situation, he closes his eyes, wondering if it’s all a dream. But when he opens them, the three are still there, smiling at them.
Seeing the warmth and openness between the three incarnations of God makes Mack feel inspired to reorient his own relationships around love and forgiveness. This also exemplifies Papa’s earlier statement that the trinity exists to that God can contain and embody love and relationship.
Mack asks what the three of them expect of him now that they have given him the gift of such a lovely weekend. Unexpectedly, they freeze and seem upset.
Mack has begun to understand that relationships should be founded on love and understanding, but his question suggests that he still thinks he owes God something in return for God’s love.
Sarayu begins to explain that because of Jesus’s death, humans are no longer bound by the Commandments, but they still behave as if they are. The enforcement of rules is just a way for humans to make themselves feel independent and in control, and, worse, to judge one another. Sarayu warns that expectations and responsibilities are simply other forms of rules, which remove freedom and create guilt and shame instead. Papa has no expectations for Mack, but simply knows him.
Many human relationships are corrupted by the presence of unnecessary rules and judgments and the power dynamics that they create. While humans think they are serving justice by creating laws and judging one another, they are actually taking the power of judgment from God. Just as human relationships are tainted by rules and expectations, The Shack suggests that Mack wrongly believes that God expects something of him.
The three return to the idea of hierarchy, saying they don’t want to be a first priority in Mack’s life, but rather at the center of everything. As they begin clearing the table, Sarayu asks if she can touch Mack’s eyes and heal them. She says she wants him to be able to see what they see, just temporarily. Her touch on his eyelids is unexpectedly cool and exhilarating.
Just as hierarchy doesn’t exist in the relationships among the trinity, they do not want their relationship with Mack to be somewhere along a hierarchy, but instead rest at the center of his life.