Each of us has pain in our lives. For author, Paul Young he decided that he would share his journey and write The Shack. It is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain.” The book sold 1 million copies in one year and became a USA Today bestseller. It would be on the New York Times Best Seller list from 2008 to 2010. Recently, Young’s best-selling book was made into a movie. We interviewed Young in 2009 and talked to him about his struggle with adultery and how therapy played an important part to his healing process.
Young opens up about his past, how he struggled with adultery and what he would do if a woman were to throw him her hotel room key.
“Oh that’s easy; I take it down to the front desk and turn it in. [Laughs] Part of that questions assumes you don’t know that I was in the shack for eleven years. My shack’s built out of some abandonment issues, some cultural inability to connect and sexual abuse as a child. Then, growing up with all the addictive behaviors that come from that. The process of coming to healing, those eleven years, I squeeze into a weekend for the main character in the book. Those eleven years set me free. I have no illusions about self-centered independent choices and the damage it does to me, and the people I care about. Also, I have walked into an understanding of the embrace of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is so precious to me, and I’m not about to give that away for a room key. I understand grace and I have freedom in my life. I have everything in this life that matters to me. By the time that I came out of the shack, I didn’t ever need to speak in front of anybody again. I didn’t need to write anybody. I didn’t need to do a great work for God. I live by the grace of one day at a time. As long as I do that I’m fine. Everything else is an imagination. A room key is an imagination of something that can give you something to fill the emptiness inside. I’m sorry, but I’ve got a God who loves me. I’ve got a wife who adores me. I’ve got children where I’m in the center of their great affection, and I’ve got grandchildren, which is like out of sight! I’m a healed person not a coping person.”
“A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:35-36
Young reflects on his healing process and the role therapy played.
“There are some perspectives in the faith that expect God to communicate with us in narrow ways. I have the perspective that God communicates with us all the time. Even people who don’t have an intimate relationship with God reflect the Father, son and Holy Spirit nature of relationship that they’re made in. They’re made in the image of God; you can hear it in their music. I was talking to a pastor who said he became a believer in God through Godspell, and that he was a believer for three months before he met his first Christian. A lot of people would say that God doesn’t communicate that way, but if He can communicate through mute, brute creation, He can communicate through a person make in His image, even though they’re not in a relationship with Him. The healing process is unique to the person, because every person’s unique. Not only is every person unique, but the damage done in every person’s life is kinda like a ball of string that’s been knotted up and all these knots are inside of other knots and tangles. Religion just wants to take a knife to that mess and slice the whole thing and say, I can fix this. Yeah, you’ll lose part of your heart, but we can fix this. You bring this whole mess to God, and He said, ‘No, I know how to untangle every knot in the right order that will set you free and not break the string.’”
Turn from temptation. There are temptations all around us. For some it is a sexual sin, for others it could be gossip, whatever it is, turn from it. If you are having trouble, ask a friend, small group leader or pastor to help hold you accountable. It might mean avoiding certain places or distancing yourself from friends that might not be helping you make the right decisions. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to overcome.
Step away to heal. Even if it has been quite some time since the incident, take time away to heal. Be open to allowing others to be a part of your healing process. It might be talking through the hurt with a trusted friend, counselor or pastor. Many churches can connect you with trusted counselors who can help bring healing to the hurt you have gone through. We often think that if we “just get through it,” or “just keep going,” that the pain will go away. But the reality is that it will always be there unless we allow God to bring healing to our pain.
Help others heal. Each of us has a friend, family member or someone at church that could use our support. It might be lending a listening ear as they share their hurt. It might be offering to babysit their children so that they can go to a counseling appointment or it might be sharing your story of how God healed your pain with them. Be open to how God might be directing you to help someone.
To read our entire interview with Paul Young, author of The Shack, click here.