Life Together: Relationship is the Key

“It is a picture of my bride, the Church: individuals who together form a spiritual city with a living river flowing through the middle, adn on both shores trees growing with fruit that will heal the hurt and sorrows of the nations. ….”

“….. You’re talking about the church as this woman you’re in love with; I’m sure I haven’t met her…. She’s not the place I go to on Sundays.”

‘Mack,  that’s because you’re only seeing the institution, a man-made system.  That’s not what I came to build.  What I see are people and their lives, a living breathing community of all those who love me, not buildings and programs.”

The above is a quote from “The Shack”, which I am reading through at the moment.  (Thank you for all who suggested – several times – that I read it … I can see why!) This book is so rich in truth about God and his relationship with us … as an extension of the relationship the Trinity has within itself.  I can’t put it down!

And yes, I know it’s a work of fiction.  I am not equating it with Scripture, but the concepts in this book are so poignant. The author – AND God the Father (called Papa in the book) – work deliberately to utterly destroy what men believe they know about God and his relationship with us.  I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with it – but I just have two words to say:  poetic license. Enough said.  *grin*  Here’s an example – those who read the book would know that Papa is God the Father, but in the book is represented as an African American woman, who said, in part,

“… I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are dreived from my nature.  If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I  love you.  For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.”

Powerful stuff.


I didn’t plan it, but this post is an extension of my earlier Life Together Series – Showing Mercy, A Mutual Dependency, Authentic Friendships, and  A Shared Life. In fact, before my hiatus, I was dealing with relationship …. and the LoTR post that I still have to set up (sorry for promising for so long) will deal with fellowship and loyalty in relationship as well… stay with me.  It’s been a rough road for me – thanks for sticking this out with me.  Anyway as I was saying….

If the Church is not about the building, about the institution (“I don’t create institutions – nver have, never will”, Jesus said in the book) – what is it? Or, as Mack asked, “How can I become a part of that church?  This woman that you seem to be so gaga over?”

Jesus answers,

“It’s simple, Mack.  It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life.   What we are doing right now … being open and available to others around us.  My church is all about people and life is all about relationships.  You can’t build it.  It’s my job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,”

What about that?  There are so much nuggets of gold – more like great big pearls – of wisdom in this book… it’d take a while for me to process them all.

So, for God’s church to be authentic, we need to share life together,  authentic relationship.  Looking at one more set of quotes from The Shack, we bear out this point.  Talking to Jesus, Mack is asking about whose “in charge” of the Trinity – “I love how you treat each other.  It’s certainly not how I expected God to be.”  He tried to explain:

“… I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know, being obedient…. the Sprit always seemed to be …. a free Sprit.”

Mack tried one more time,

“You know what I am talking about.  I am talking about who’s in charge.  Don’t you have a chain of command?”

Papa, Jesus and Sarayu had no idea what Mack was trying to say.  Jesus eventually said this:

“Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority amoug us, only unity.  We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command… What you are seeing here is a 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.”

And we are a part of that great Scheme of relationship.  Jesus later says,

“As the crowning glory of Creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with me and one another.  If you had truly learned to regard each other’s concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy.”

Ok so there it is.  Straight.

What does this post mean to you?  Is relationship like this possible?  Can anyone say that it is evident in their own life?  Discuss!


12 Responses

  1. Glad you’re enjoying the book! I really liked it too. Mostly it reminded me of how much God loves me and how gentle and kind He is during a time when I was doubting that. But you are reminding me of all of the other awesome nuggets in it that I had forgotten about, like how it conveys the Trinity, how they relate to each other, how much they love and delight in each other. You’re right, it is a lot to think about and process! Even more amazing is that God delights in each of us too!! 🙂

  2. Hi there, Robert! Wondering how you are …

    I have not read The Shack. I know many people are gaga over it, and … I know I’m silly, but that’s the first reason why I haven’t read it. :] I’ve always been that way. ‘Beat of my own drum’ kind of person. Perhaps stubbornly so. Perhaps someday I will read it. Right now … I picked up a biography today from the library – Never Surrender by William Boykin. He’s one of the founders of Delta Force (US Army Special Ops group), and was general of Special Forces, worked with the CIA, commanded many missions, etc. He’s a Christian, and wrote some of his stories in the Special Forces down. I think I’m gonna love this. 😀

    Love you! I’m missing everyone, but having a good time resting. God is so good to me.

    Love you!

    • Wondering how I am…. I’m good, actually… the pain is gone … but I have been on my face before God … can send details in an email, but I’d rather a call 🙂 Working late all weekend… Major upgrades at the office… I’m writing this reply from my office desk at 10 PM (which is dead of night here, even although for parts of the States it’s only now getting dusky, right? It’s been dark since 6:30 in Barbados!) 😆

      Let me know if I can call, and when. Love you!

  3. Miss you too, boo….

    Glad you’re resting… but I didn’t realize it was resting from me too!
    😦 😉 😛 😆

    I was resisting reading it for a long time for somewhat similar reasons, but it became ‘required reading’ for my counseling sessions… so…. and because of both Jennys’ recommendations… I went for it. And I’m glad I did. One day you’ll enjoy it too…. “Beat my own drum kinda person”, huh? 🙂 That’s called “independence” (or is that ‘stubbornness’? 😆 ) Anyway boo, enjoy your rest… and please call me … I wanna know how you are doing…..

  4. Hi Bajan,

    A friend suggested i read the Shack but have not been able to get hold of a copy yet – i’m assuming you would also recommend it? 🙂

    I believe all humans, but especially Christians have a poor understanding of God – Basically because God is so much ‘more’ than we simple beings can ever adequately see or come to terms with at our own level.

    Simply put, we are each an almost infinitesimally small pat of ‘God’ – for the sake of simplicity – somewhat akin to being a single ‘cell’ in a human Body. The Human (God) can do so much more than the cell can, but without all it’s cells God could not function or exist – there is a co-dependence as well as the Human having almost unlimited power compared to that of a single cell – i could easily do something to end a cell’s existance and be virtually unharmed as a human, while the cell’s life is extinguished completely.

    At the same time if a single one of my body’s cells became cancerous…

    So what is the hierarchy there?

    Our main problem, i feel, is in trying to deal with our own body’s ideas of what constitutes ‘our’ life and how we can have a relationship with something so enormously more than we humans are – we try to ‘fit’ God inside of our understanding so as to have some kind of ‘equal’ relationship with every other person we have ‘normal’ relationships with, and of course, we fail badly.

    It is not helped when other humans tell us that God is a ‘trinity’ and that God was Human once Himself.

    How can a Father AND Son not have a sequence, order or heirarchy? and just what exactly is a Holy Spirit and where does it come into the equation – we who have never at any time seen our OWN spirit much less God’s – how are we supposed to make sense of all that and then have a ‘relationship’ with it/them??

    Ultimately, it comes down to our individual abilities to form a concept of what God is and how we are ‘connected’ to Him/Her/It. It has to be a deeply personal thing – but at the same time we are required to understand this is exactly the ‘same’ for ALL other people we share this world with. I also see it as requiring us to acknowledge and accept that there are two mutually antagonistic parts to a man as well as to all mankind – the physical flesh part of this world and the Spiritual aspect of the non-physical part of God that is also within ‘us’.

    How well we deal with those concepts determines if such a ‘relationship’ is ever possible for a single person – and for all mankind as His Church.

    Or so i think.. currently 😉


  5. “How well we deal with those concepts determines if such a ‘relationship’ is ever possible for a single person – and for all mankind as His Church.”

    Great conclusion … I don’t think it’s easy (or even possible) to fully grasp concepts like these in their entirety, but for each person you have to be “fully convinced in your own mind”, you know what I mean? At some level we have to accept by faith what wemight not be able to wrap our intellect around, knowing that we’ll understand it fully when we get to the end of the journey…. or so I think, currently! 😆 yeah!

    • Precisely! 🙂

      Understanding (of our own ‘small’ mind) can take us a looooong way – further than many may imagine if we work on it. But sooner or later it just comes down to Faith – whatever your Faith tells you to believe in. Faith connects us to God – which is why we are to learn how to grow in it.

      There is a long long way ‘between’ God ans us if we are to form a complete relationship with Him and not just the thing we ‘possess’ at present.

      Reading books such as ‘The Shack as well as relating with peoples from diferent cultures can give us a greater perspecive with which to view God from and so can help us grow more ‘into’ Him.

      As long as we don’t become too confused and forget what we have already well learned that is True.

      The difficult part is in separating that from what is untrue – or not true for ALL His Children.


  6. Hi Robert!
    So glad you’re reading “The Shack” – grinning here, so tempted to say “told you so” … 🙂
    Your post is great and I’m looking forward to more as you analyse what you’re reading and help us apply it to our lives.
    As you well point out, it’s not Scripture, but it is wonderful how Father is using this book to bring people to a deeper understanding of His love and also to ask questions!
    I’m do glad you’re out of your valley and feeling so much happier!
    God bless you with joy!
    PS. Thanks so much for the comments on my websites and the encouragement!

    • It’s ok … I can hear your “I told you so” from here! 😆

      I’m gonna go back into the book again… I loved it… I really did.

      Yeah, God IS bringing me out of the valley… it’s been rough – and I know there’s more to go; I’m not out yet! But I can see light, like dusk – it’s not pitch black midnight anymore!

      Thank u, honey! Love you much!

  7. Good job on the blog. Keep smiling!

  8. […] Life Together – Relationship is Key! […]

  9. […] Life Together – Relationship is Key! […]

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