Gardens are used in The Shack to demonstrate the complexity of human emotions, as well as the necessity of feeling both pain and happiness. At the opening of the story, Mack is overwhelmed by a depression he thinks of as The Great Sadness, which prevents him from feeling much of anything and from appreciating the natural beauty around him, like softly falling snow or a moonlit lake. Mack suppresses his emotions so that he will not have to face his overwhelming guilt and sadness about the death of his daughter Missy.
Sarayu, an embodiment of the Holy Spirit, helps Mack to see that all emotions are worthy of being felt. She demonstrates this by taking him to a beautiful, wild garden, which includes poisonous plants as well as flowers. Just as “negative” emotions serve important roles, these thorny plants are important parts of the garden ecosystem, serving their own purpose and beautiful in their own way. Also like complex human emotions, the garden appears to those within it as overgrown and wild, but Sarayu explains that, from above, it appears as a fractal, a complicated, ordered pattern of repeating shapes. In the same way, however messy they may feel, emotions are actually not random but derive from a pattern of underlying beliefs. Understanding this can help Mack face his bad emotions as well as his good. That Sarayu, Jesus, and Papa help Mack bury Missy in the garden and plant a tree over her shows that although the sadness of her death will always be with him, so, too, will the joy of her life.
Gardens Quotes in The Shack
“Your question presumes that poison is bad, that such creations have no purpose. Many of these so-called bad plants, like this one, contain incredible properties for healing or are necessary for some of the most magnificent sonders when combined with something else. Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.”
“The world is broken because in Eden you abandoned relationship with us in order to assert your own independence. Most men have expressed it by turning to the work of their hands and the sweat of their brows to find their identity, value, and security.”