Mack is called back to the kitchen by a loud crashing sound. Jesus has dropped a large bowl of sauce and it has splattered Papa’s feet and the hem of her skirt. But instead of fighting, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu are all laughing uproariously. Jesus begins to clean Papa’s feet. Mack observes that the love between the three of them is clearly the most important part of their relationship, and keeps them from arguing. He notices the contrast to how he sometimes treats those he loves.
As Papa promised, the three elements of the trinity are able to demonstrate an example of perfect love and a perfect relationship. Mack observes that forgiveness is a powerful force in this dynamic, keeping animosity or vengeance from infecting a relationship built on love. Mack also sees that he would do well to try to emulate the love of God in his own relationships with other people, especially when he feels himself getting short tempered.
The three and Mack sit down to a delicious dinner. Mack starts to say grace, but then awkwardly looks up and thanks his dinner companions directly. They ask Mack in detail about his family, listening in rapt attention. He asks why they are so interested if they are already all-knowing, and therefore already know all about his family members. Sarayu explains that sometimes people limit themselves in order to facilitate a relationship. The three have limited their awareness of Mack’s family out of respect for him, so that they can listen to him talk about his family as if it’s their first time learning about them. Sarayu says that one way to keep power out of relationships is by limiting ourselves or being especially careful or gentle. Examples of this abound: people use extra care when taking care of the infirm, relating to the poor, or speaking to those whose minds have wandered.
Over their time in the shack, the incarnations of God strive to help Mack understand the components of healthy relationships, and how they differ from all-too-common unhealthy ones. One example of this is holding back knowledge or power in order to use care with those at some kind of a disadvantage. Many relationships, The Shack argues, are infected by power imabalances. But in a relationship truly founded on love, the person with more power or knowledge won’t hesitate to accommodate the other person, as Sarayu explains at the meal.
Papa says she would like to have a time of devotion after the meal. The suggestion startles Mack because it makes him think of formulaic bible recitations from his childhood. Instead, he watches as Jesus gently takes Papa’s hands and says sincerely that he loved watching Papa try to take on Mack’s pain and meet him halfway. Jesus says he loves being Papa’s son. The devotion feels warm, intimate, and holy to Mack. He closes his eyes for a moment. Then, he goes to help Sarayu and Jesus wash and dry dishes in the kitchen.
Mack has grown accustomed to filtering his affection for God through the conduit of official religion. But The Shack argues that while the church and scripture provide an avenue for connecting with God, they can also obscure the intense and personal love at the heart of every believer’s relationship with God. Watching the devotion, Mack realizes that his devotion to God should be based on personal feelings and intimate trust rather than adherence to ritual.
Jesus invites Mack outside to look at the stars. They lie down under the brilliant night sky. Mack says he finds it easier to relate to Jesus than the other two, and Jesus says that because he is in human form, they have much in common. Jesus says that he offers a good way to relate to Papa and Sarayu, since he reflects them but is also human. He explains that Sarayu is the Holy Spirit, while Papa is the Creator God and the ground of all being.
Jesus may be easier for Mack to relate to because he also most closely reflects the vision of “the son” that Mack carried before the weekend, a version that was built and bolstered by Mack’s upbringing in the church.
Mack admits that he thought Jesus would be better-looking. Jesus says he is Jewish and asks what standards Mack is using to judge attractiveness. Besides, he says that being transcends appearance. Jesus says his purpose always has been to live within humans, and vice versa. Humans can become fully immersed in spiritual life through Jesus. Mack says he’ll need some more time to think about all of that. Jesus makes a joke about Mack finding him ugly, and the two begin laughing hard. Jesus gives Mack a hug, and Mack feels momentarily wonderful before remembering his guilt about Missy and The Great Sadness threatens to return. Jesus assures him that he is not lost, then brings him inside to sleep.
Once again, Mack notes that the physical appearance of the trinity contrasts with his preconceived notions, a parallel to the ways that their deeper nature is also different. Jesus also begins to point out that the standards Mack uses for evaluating others are judgmental and arbitrary, including his judgment of beauty and appearance. Just as Mack is beginning to feel good about the weekend his grief returns and he rapidly suppresses his burgeoning happiness. Mack’s grief is a defense mechanism that keeps him from feeling anything, including positive emotion, too strongly.