Over the Christmas Break, I read the novel The Shack, by William P. Young. This is a Christian novel about a man whose daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, and due to this horrific experience he had lost much of his faith in God. One day, he receives a note from “Papa” asking him to meet.
When he arrives at the shack he meets three people, who turn out to be a manifestation of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The son, as expected, is Jesus Christ. The Father is embodied by an elderly black woman, who calls herself Papa. The Holy Spirit, the most elusive piece of the Holy Trinity, is represented by an Asian woman named Sarayu.
All three pieces of the Trinity help Mack come to terms with his daughter’s death, and for me it was a really interesting investigation into the different roles of God in our lives. In particular, it’s interesting to see how the parts of the Holy Trinity interact, how they are one, and how they are different. The Trinity is such an interesting concept, the idea that it three parts of a whole, that they are the same but different. This exploration prompted me to consider what each part of the Trinity represented for me personally.
The Father is perhaps the easiest, because I think that it is the part many people imagine first when thinking of God. It is the part that I often imagine while I’m praying. The parental figure, but the way we saw our parents when we were younger: infallible, caring, full of love. The woman that Mack meets in the book really does embody these qualities to me. Someone who loves you, but also doesn’t take any nonsense. A mix of strength and compassion.
Jesus is the human face of God, to me. It is the part of God that we can relate to. I can imagine Jesus making mistakes, and having friends, and emotions and desires. I liked that in the book Jesus was represented by a middle-eastern carpenter, and is described as being average looking. Firstly, because the white-washed Jesus figure is problematic in many ways and I was glad to see him accurately portrayed here in terms of race. Secondly, because I do think that we sometimes idealize Jesus and think of him as perfect. I don’t think that Jesus was perfect, I believe that by making his only son human God also made him fallible. I like to imagine Jesus as a friend who I could relate to, whereas the Father and the Holy Spirit are more difficult to personify.
The Holy Spirit is an ethereal women named Sarayu, with whom Mack has the least connection. This is indicative of the way that most Catholics probably feel about the Holy Spirit, as it is the part of the Trinity that we talk about the least at Church and amongst ourselves. I remember from some of my classes that the Holy Spirit is often associated with breath or wind, and this motif was followed throughout the book. She is a gardener, and we see her bringing life to plants the same way that the Holy Spirit breathes life into us. I admit that my relationship to the Holy Spirit is something that I will have to continue contemplating.