Marriage and shacks
This post is about the book The Shack, and then again it's not. I recently read an article by Wm. Paul Young called "Why Everyone Should Have Their Dark Secrets Exposed". This article is not a discussion on the book, or any of the theology in it. In the article, the author clearly states that the book was an allegory. He made the comparison that the shack mentioned in the book was really a symbol of his life. His "life" was rundown and decrepit simply because of the innocence he lost early in his life. He needed to have his secrets exposed so that he could get healing.
We all have "shacks" that represent our lives. They could be pretty on the outside, but neglected, dirty and shameful on the inside. Or, the outward appearance may appear to be collapsing, but the interior may be full of rich furnishings. We've all built our shacks with the help of the relationships we have in our lives. If we've had a dysfunctional childhood, our shack may appear flimsy. If we had a reasonably good childhood, we may build one that has strong bones.
But no matter what your shack looks like, God CHOOSES to live there. He knows the rooms full of neglect, as well as the pleasant, cozy ones that people like to hang out in. Sometimes we have locked rooms in our shacks, but God still knows what is behind the door and gently leads us to want to unlock the door, so the shameful secrets waiting in those rooms can be revealed for healing. God cannot heal anything we choose to remain hidden.
My husband and I currently renovate and re-sell rundown homes. We watch TV programs to get ideas from other people. I've been fascinated by the stories of when a renovator takes two homes and joins them together into one; or when a renovator takes a multi-family home and makes it a single family home. It takes structural know-how to do this successfully.
As I contemplated this article, I realized that when two people marry - or become one flesh - then their two shacks undergo a divine restoration. In essence, God "marries" all of the functioning parts of the homes together - the plumbing systems, the electrical system, the walls, the ceiling, the floors - until the two shacks are one unit. The spouses both live in the re-designed shack, and each of us knows about the others' locked doors and hidden, neglected areas of the home. There are rooms that friends are allowed to see, but only the spouses see all of it, including the shameful, dirty secrets that live within.
As a husband or a wife to another, we live with the issues the other has. We learn unconditional love and about our role living alongside another human being. We learn that our job is not to force the other to open the locked doors - only Holy Spirit can do that. We are helpless to heal the other's hurts and pains; only God can do that. So we learn patience, and encouragement, and tolerance and mercy and forgiveness to live peaceably with another in marriage, until such a time that Holy Spirit decides to gently lead the other to their locked door. Then it takes more tolerance, and love, and mercy and forgiveness to stand by the other during their room's transformation.
Sometimes one or the other of the two individuals find their pain too much to bear. Sometimes they leave the shack they share and seek out solace in another's shack. This leaves the remaining spouse hurt and confused about what it was about their own house that caused the other to look elsewhere for contentment. The solution to their pain can never be found on the outside of their own "shack". It is only found on the inside - behind the locked doors of their own issues.
When two people decide to divorce, then that shack gets torn asunder. It is destroyed, broken in pieces and ripped apart. However, the locked rooms still go with each individual - they show up in other marriages and relationships until they are finally unlocked and faced.
Sometimes people live together outside of marriage. This may seem like a great solution - but at its core, it is not real intimacy. It is one person "visiting" the dwelling of another, but never learning the deep connection that comes with being fully and completely joined with another. It is a surface level intimacy - one that says "I can leave anytime I wish" if things get too difficult. But marriage says "I will stay here even when things get difficult" and that is what teaches us about true love and intimacy.
This is the kind of intimacy that God provides - He chooses to live in our rundown, neglected, decrepit, dirty, shameful dwellings and gently and methodically renovates each room until they all look like His son, Jesus. And, as He does, He teaches each marriage partner how to do the same by His example. How to stand. How to stay. How to be like Him. Because He is love.
God's plan was to always join two people together - like the combining of two physical homes - to the point where it is difficult to tell where the original homes stopped and started. It is the picture He gave us to show us how Christ Jesus loves His bride. It is the wise couple who knows this principle and extends mercy and forgiveness to the other - so that mercy and forgiveness can be received for their own issues.