The Shack

by

William P. Young

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Papa is one facet of the three-part God depicted in the novel (the others being Jesus and Sarayu). Papa also calls herself “Elousia,” which Jesus explains means “the Creator God. She fills the role of “the father” in the trinity, but challenges many of the conventions of that role. Initially, Papa appears as a middle-aged black woman, quick to make jokes and jabs—much to the surprise of Mack, who has always pictured God as an aloof, Gandalf-esque old white man. Papa says she has assumed the familiar name used by Mack’s wife Nan to help Mack identify her with God, but has taken on an unexpected appearance to help Mack get around some of his assumptions about religion. Further challenging Mack’s assumptions, Papa does not use shame, guilt, or violent punishment. Instead, she encourages Mack and all human beings to recognize her love and to trust that, though she can create positive outcomes from tragedies, she does not cause tragedies to happen. Papa has scars on her wrists from Jesus’s crucifixion, which she explains are due to the fact that all three personas of God are always together and always with humans.

Papa/Elousia Quotes in The Shack

The The Shack quotes below are all either spoken by Papa/Elousia or refer to Papa/Elousia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Independence from God Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Windblown Media edition of The Shack published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“When we’re around family she seems to come out of her shell some, but then she disappears again. I just don’t know what to do. I’ve been praying and praying that Papa would help us find a way to reach her but”—she paused again—“it feels like he isn’t listening.”

Related Characters: Nan Phillips (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips, Papa/Elousia, Kate
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Sweetheart, Jesus didn’t think his Daddy was mean. He thought his Daddy was full of love and loved him very much. His Daddy didn’t make him die. Jesus chose to die because he and his Daddy love you and me and everyone in the world. He saved us from our sickness, like the princess.”

Related Characters: Mackenzie Allen Phillips (speaker), Papa/Elousia, Jesus, Missy
Related Symbols: Waterfalls
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“Oh”—now Jesus was serious—“don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points around here. Go because it’s what you want to do.”

Related Characters: Jesus (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips, Papa/Elousia
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

“If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?” There, he’d said it—the question that had tormented him every day of The Great Sadness. Mack felt his face flush angry red as he stared at what he now considered to be some odd characterization of God, and he realized his hands were knotted into fists.

Related Characters: Mackenzie Allen Phillips (speaker), Papa/Elousia, Missy
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

“For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me ‘Papa’ is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.”

Related Characters: Papa/Elousia (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

So this was God in relationship? It was beautiful and so appealing. He knew that it didn’t matter whose fault it was—the mess from some bowl that had been broken, that a planned dish would not be shared. Obviously, what was truly important here was the love they had for one another and the fullness it brought them. He shook his head. How different this was from the way he sometimes treated the ones he loved!

Related Characters: Willie (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips, Papa/Elousia, Sarayu, Jesus
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“There is a lot to be mad about in the mess my kids have made and in the mess they're in. I don't like a lot of the choices they make, but that anger—especially for me—is an expression of love all the same. I love

the ones I am angry with just as much as those I'm not.”

“But—” Mack paused. “What about your wrath?”

Related Characters: Mackenzie Allen Phillips (speaker), Papa/Elousia (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

“What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”

Related Characters: Sarayu (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips, Papa/Elousia, Jesus
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes.”

Related Characters: Papa/Elousia (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips
Related Symbols: Waterfalls
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver,” answered Papa, “to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly. Do you think this man cares about the pain and torment you have gone through?”

Related Characters: Papa/Elousia (speaker), Mackenzie Allen Phillips, Missy
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
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Papa/Elousia Character Timeline in The Shack

The timeline below shows where the character Papa/Elousia appears in The Shack. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: A Confluence of Paths
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...at the shack next weekend if Mack wants to meet up. It is signed simply “Papa.” Wondering if the letter is a prank, Mack feels angry and unsettled. (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...home. Nan is worried about getting through to Kate. She says she’s been praying to Papa—her favorite nickname for God—for ideas about how to get through to her, but it feels... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Gathering Dark
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...the story is true, and if the Great Spirit is another name for God, Jesus’s Papa. Mack is pleased by the question and says that he thinks so. Missy asks why... (full context)
Chapter 5: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Before he can knock, the door is swept open by a large African American woman who sweeps Mack into a hug. She tells him excitedly that she’s delighted to see... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...finds himself confused but also enchanted by the three strangers. The first introduces herself as Elousia, but she also says it might make sense to call her “Papa,” like Nan does.... (full context)
Chapter 6: A Piece of [Pi]
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Elousia turns to go inside, telling Mack he can follow or do whatever else he likes.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...stain by the fireplace is gone, and everything is decorated with children’s artwork. Mack finds Papa in the kitchen dancing to funk music. Mack expresses surprise that she isn’t listening to... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack says he’s having a hard time wrapping his head around calling the woman Papa, and she suggests it’s because he’s never really had a papa of his own—but she... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack returns to his first point, saying it’s hard to call her Papa because she appears as a woman. But, she says that it’s important for her to... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Papa says she knew Mack would come to the shack, and Mack asks if that means... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
As she speaks, Mack sees that Papa has scars on her wrists, outlining pierce wounds. She says that what Jesus chose to... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Papa opens the window and begins feeding a bluejay. She uses the bird as analogy, saying... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Papa says that becoming Jesus was a way to embrace the limitations of being human, even... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...why there are three people in the cabin who seem to comprise a single God. Papa says that the three are necessary so that “love and relationship” can exist within God.... (full context)
Chapter 7: God on the Dock
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Papa says she would like to have a time of devotion after the meal. The suggestion... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8: A Breakfast of Champions
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack is drawn to the kitchen by the smell of breakfast and the sound of Papa singing to Bruce Cockburn. She tells Mack she is especially fond of Bruce, but she... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Jesus and Sarayu join them for breakfast, and Jesus, Sarayu, and Papa, enter into an intense conversation about reconciling an estranged family while Mack listens with awe.... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...that given all the pain and destruction in the world, including the death of Missy. Papa says there are many reasons to allow pain and suffering, and those ends make everything... (full context)
Chapter 9: A Long Time Ago, in a Garden Far, Far Away
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Just then, Papa approaches and compliments their work. Sarayu says that the garden itself is actually Mack’s soul,... (full context)
Chapter 11: Here Come Da Judge
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...with them the capacity for him to give more love. He likens it to how Papa is “especially fond” of each of her children. The woman smiles, saying Mack is wise... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
When the olive-skinned woman says that Mack loves his children the way the Father loves his, Mack bristles, saying that if Missy is one of God’s children, God doesn’t... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...judged his children worthy of love, even at cost to himself, and now he knows Papa’s heart. (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Relieved, Mack sits back in the chair. But Mack says he still doesn’t understand how Papa could love Missy and let her murder happen. The olive-skinned woman says that the world... (full context)
Chapter 12: In the Belly of the Beasts
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
...skipping stones. Jesus explains that the woman in the cave was Sophia, a personification of Papa’s wisdom. She is not a separate persona of God but a part of Sarayu’s mystery.... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...terrified in the truck. Jesus stops him and says Missy was never alone—he, Sarayu, and Papa were with her the whole time. Jesus says he and Missy talked during that time,... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
...his life’s journey and help him to be less alone. Jesus says he, Sarayu, and Papa have been trying to show Mack the truth about Missy for a long time, but... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...with a final word to Mack, telling him that letting Mack see Missy earlier was Papa’s idea. Mack goes into the shack to try to find her. (full context)
Chapter 13: A Meeting of Hearts
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack joins Papa on the porch and begins to enjoy some fresh-baked scones she’s made. Papa says they... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
...had been judging God but has the capacity to stop. Still, he doesn’t understand why Papa chose to help him. He feels guilty that he has had such difficulty accepting Papa.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...to Nan about coming to the shack because he didn’t want to hurt her, but Papa says that is just a justification. Papa says he was really just scared of having... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Papa explains that the evil in the world is not caused by her to gain people’s... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Realizing she’s referring to Jesus, Mack asks what Jesus accomplished by dying. Papa says that Jesus’s death and resurrection allowed Papa to become fully reconciled with the world.... (full context)
Chapter 14: Verbs and Other Freedoms
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Mack says that Papa has helped him realize he’s afraid of emotions, something that concerns him. He says he... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Mack joins Sarayu, Jesus, and Papa at the table, where they openly talk and laugh with each other. He finds their... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 16: A Morning of Sorrows
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...before dawn by a kindly looking man with a silver ponytail. He realizes it is Papa, who says that he thinks this morning Mack will need more of a father figure.... (full context)
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...picked the day before. Jesus says he will give Mack a gift when he returns. Papa makes Mack some breakfast, and he eats before following Papa outside. They grab a shovel... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
Papa and Mack begin to walk down the trailhead. Then, Papa starts leading them on an... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Papa and Mack arrive at a rocky shale clearing. Papa says that, before he shows Mack... (full context)
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Mack goes to walk back to the cabin, but Papa says they still have more to do. He says they are going to bring Missy... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Papa and Mack follow the trail to a pile of rocks blocking off a cave. Together,... (full context)
Chapter 17: Choices of The Heart
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Jesus meets Papa and Mack when they arrive back at the cabin. He takes Mack into his work... (full context)
Independence from God Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
Inside the cabin, Papa leads them to the living room, where there is a glass of wine and a... (full context)
Chapter 18: Outbound Ripples
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...just as Mack described. Eventually, they make it to the cave, and Mack realizes that Papa carefully placed the last rock there because he knew Mack would need to find it... (full context)
After Words
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
...a quiet revolution rooted in daily kindness that will connect everyone with Sarayu, Jesus, and Papa. (full context)