The Shack

by

William P. Young

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The Shack: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mack follows Sarayu into a beautiful, seemingly disordered garden. She says that the garden follows a complicated pattern of fractals, but from the ground looks like a colorful mess. Sarayu asks Mack to help her clear a patch of flowers and he agrees. He asks why she would create “bad” things like weeds and mosquitoes, and she answers that humans, having chosen the path of independence, are blind to the ways that everything in creation works together. She acknowledges that there are poisonous plants in the garden, but notes that humans assume that poison is bad and serves no purpose.
Just as Mack assumes that his negative emotions are only painful but serve no purpose, Mack sees weeds and poisonous plants as unmitigatedly bad. But Sarayu explains that this kind of outlook is tantamount to placing Mack’s own judgment and assessment of good and evil above the assessments of God. If Mack trusted that all of creation worked together according to God’s plan, he would know that all plants have a purpose. This viewpoint, Sarayu states, is a side effect of the larger movement of humans away from God.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As they clear the roots from the patch of ground, Mack asks if there really was a Garden of Eden, and Sarayu says there was. Mack says that will displease some people, but Sarayu does not mind.
The three-part God that Mack encounters blend more conventional elements of the traditional trinity with unexpected twists. One element of their story that apparently adheres to Christian teaching is the literal existence of Eden.
Themes
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Sarayu returns to the issue of good and evil, asking Mack how he discerns between right and wrong. Reflecting, he says that he believes things that feel good or provide him a sense of security seem to be right, while things that threaten that sense seem to be wrong. He admits it’s pretty subjective and oriented around his own experiences. Sarayu warns that such an outlook means humans become the judge of what is good and evil, and, when they disagree, it can lead to fighting and wars. Mack agrees this is a problem. Sarayu says humans need to trust in God instead of making their own list of what is right and wrong. In reality, there is no such thing as darkness or evil; only Light and Good and their absence. Departing from God is turning towards evil because it means making a list of what is good and bad rather than trusting God.
By asking Mack to examine his own way of thinking about good and evil in the world, Sarayu helps him see that truths he holds dear may in fact be subjective and therefor prone to fault. She explains that making such judgments are one way of asserting independence from God, because rather than trusting all to God’s judgment, many people, including Mack, try to impose their own judgments on the world. Independence from God leads to suffering in that it forces people to judge one another and declare some people good and others bad, a task that should be left to God alone.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mack is inspired, but also says it will be difficult to accept that certain things—like cancer or murder or loss of income—may be good. Sarayu says that children like Missy do not have a right to be protected, rather they are simply loved. Rights do not actually exist and are just human constructs, bound to cause frustration. In reality, there are only relationships built on trust and love.
Furthermore, Sarayu explains, the concept of “rights,” which Mack uses to help him judge right and wrong, is just an artificial human construct used to justify judgment and violence. If humans realized they were loved by God and extended similar love to others, rather than expecting a right to protection from harm, they would be much happier.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
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Just then, Papa approaches and compliments their work. Sarayu says that the garden itself is actually Mack’s soul, beautiful, wild, and still in process. He is overwhelmed with emotion. Handing Mack a picnic lunch, Papa says that Jesus wants to see him.
Sarayu’s garden, which appears to Mack as a jumble of good and bad, is actually a complicated pattern of components working together in concert. In much the same way, Mack’s emotions, good and bad, are necessary pieces of who he is.
Themes
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon