The Shack

by

William P. Young

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The Shack: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jesus meets Papa and Mack when they arrive back at the cabin. He takes Mack into his work shed, where he shows him a beautifully wrought coffin. It is intricately carved with scenes from Missy’s life, showing her with each of her family members and enjoying her favorite activities. Jesus says that Missy picked out the scenes herself. They carefully place Missy in the box and fill it with flowers from Sarayu’s pack.
The scenes on Missy’s coffin are another demonstration of the strong relationships in Mack’s family. Just as he has unique love for each member of his family, so did Missy; and that love is memorialized in the special scenes on her coffin.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Sarayu leads them outside to the space in the garden that Mack helped her clear the day before. There is a hole there and they lower the coffin into it. Sarayu sings a song that Missy wrote for the occasion, about becoming one with the wind. She scatters a vial of Mack’s tears on the earth, and where each one falls, flowers bloom instantly. A special tear causes a tree to bloom, and Sarayu says it is a tree of life growing in the garden of Mack’s heart.
Sarayu uses the tears from her first meeting with Mack, demonstrating again that she believes even “negative” emotions hold special power and significance and are worthy of attention. The ceremony demonstrates that while it is of course appropriate for Mack to grieve for Missy, it is also possible for him to do so without experiencing guilt and depression, instead focusing on the love and beauty in her life.
Themes
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Inside the cabin, Papa leads them to the living room, where there is a glass of wine and a loaf of fresh bread. Papa says that Mack has a choice. He can either remain with them and continue to grow and learn, or he can return to his family and friends. If he stays, he will see Missy that afternoon. But, Papa says, Missy is in a place beyond impatience and will also not mind waiting for Mack. Mack says it’s a tough choice and asks if anything he does at home even matters. Sarayu says that it all matters, because he is important. If Mack forgives or performs an act of kindness, it changes the whole universe for the better. Mack says that, in that case, he will go back.
Previously, Mack considered leaving his life in order to be reunited with Missy, because his grief and depression were so strong that life seemed pointless. But now, he feels life returning to its previous vibrancy. Furthermore, Sarayu explains that just as humans choose to move further from God by committing evil, Mack can personally help bring them closer to God by performing acts of kindness, which seems to him a worthy goal.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Sarayu says she has one more gift for Mack. She tells him that Kate believes she is to blame for Missy’s death. Suddenly, it all makes sense to Mack. He can’t believe he didn’t realize that was the source of Kate’s grief sooner. He thanks Sarayu. Jesus also offers him a gift, the small tin box where Mack keeps his prized belongings. But Mack says he wants Jesus to keep it, because “All my best treasurs are now hidden in you anyway. I want you to be my life.” Jesus says that he is.
Just as Mack’s depression was rooted in feelings of guilt about Missy’s death, he now realizes that his daughter Kate was struggling with similar emotions and also needs to confront the underlying causes of her sadness in order to begin healing. Mack’s statement to Jesus suggests that he has embraced the idea of a non-hierarchical relationship with God, in which God is at the center of who he is rather than a force commanding him from above.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
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Mack and the three enjoy the bread and wine and then Mack begins preparing to go home, knowing it is time to tell Nan everything. He changes into his old clothes. When he returns to the living room, the three are gone, but he realizes it would have been silly to say goodbye anyway. Exhausted by the emotions of the weekend, he falls asleep on the floor and then snaps awake on the cold floor of the shack, which looks as it did when he first arrived, down to the bloodstain by the fireplace. He realizes he is back in the real world, or he thinks, smiling, the unreal world.
Mack is confident that he will be able to ask forgiveness from Nan and strengthen their relationship. He does not need to say goodbye to the trinity because he now realizes that God is with him at all times and will not abandon him, a truth that he plans to carry with him even after he leaves the fantastical environment of the shack.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack begins the uneventful drive home, thinking about Nan. He feels at peace and strangely exhilarated. He wants to get home to Kate. Suddenly, another driver plows through a red light at an intersection, slamming into Mack’s car. Unconscious, he is airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Mack looks forward to bringing the insights he’s gained about forgiveness to his real-world relationships. The sudden car crash reveals again that terrible things can happen in the world.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon