Interpersonal trauma, as (Bryant-Davis 2005b) finds, is very crucial in the interpersonal growth and development of an individual, in that it cuts across the physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and spiritual aspects that make a person. Trauma in most cultures and religions has been spiritualized through the endorsement of beliefs and faith in communities worldwide. William Paul Young, in his book, The Shark, has attempted to establish a correlation between trauma and religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, in various communities. This paper will seek to elucidate the underlying aspects of trauma and religion, Mack’s healing and experience with God as well his return home.
Religion and spirituality set to be fundamental aspects of the society. In the recent past, traumatic research has significantly increased with several scholars and authors attempting to shed light on the role played by the religion in managing trauma. Hill & Pagament (2008) find that faith is a contributor to the healing process of trauma. As such, religion and spirituality are relevant in the posttraumatic growth of the young. Walker and associates (2009) argue that involvement in religious activities by patients with trauma can go a long way to moderating symptoms of Axis I disorders and posttraumatic symptoms in children who are victims of past abuse. In a study conducted in a hospital, it was found that patients who recorded no affiliations with religions portrayed more posttraumatic symptoms than those who were involved in religion (Elliot, 1994).
Young’s book articulates the journey that Mack partakes in his healing. The healing process encompasses a series of confrontations and strength. As Young narrates, God brings Mack to the place where his trauma originates, the very place that broke him and the source of his trauma. He must be returned to this s place since it is where he is “stuck.” Young has also pointed out stages that the course of grief and sorrow follow.
Young has concisely pointed out several stages in of grief or dying for posttraumatic patients, primarily through the character of Josh. They include denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, all of which points towards acceptance as the ultimate stage.
Mack’s faith at the beginning of the book is considerably low. One would argue its dead at this point. He is pictured as a very devastated and bitter man. His bitterness is centered upon the belief that God didn’t prevent Missy’s death. Nonetheless, Mack’s faith revives with time throughout the book. Although he is quite obstinate about faith, Sarayu and Sophia manage to change his perception of God. He ultimately believes in God and his goodness.
In the sixth chapter of the book, Mack enters into a conversation with God which will later turn out to be a changing point for Mack. God approaches Mark in the form of a bird as a symbolism that God is limitless and had to embrace limitations of being human when Jesus was created. Further, God stresses on to Mack that there exists multiplicity within God that are meant to facilitate love and relationship. In another setting, Mack is involved in a conversation with Sarayu. Mack is thinking about his daughter Kate as he paddles when, out of nowhere, appears Sarayu on the boat. Sarayu tells Mack that she has always been with him. At this point, Mack asks for clarifications of some religious aspects that popped out in his previous conversations with God. Lastly, Mack also converses with Jesus at the MEADOW. He had just had a conversation with Sarayu. Jesus appears in the meadow and assures Mack that he [Jesus] has been found of him. After that, Jesus calls on the people of the meadow to draw closer where he blesses them each in turn.
The Shack has been written to accommodate various themes cutting across religion and trauma. The topics that are prevalent in the book include but are not limited to Christianity, grief, and gender. Christianity is predominant in the book which is portrayed by Mack as the eventual believer and God in the forms of Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. The book also touches on grief which is explained as the primary challenge that posttraumatic people confront each day. Spirituality is seen as a cure for pain. Finally, gender has also been focused, particularly in a controversial manner. God is seen as a female as well as Sarayu. This approach to God has eloped several discussions and criticism to the book.
Towards the end of the book, Mack embarks on a journey towards home. His return is fueled by the Christianity conviction and belief in God. Spirituality finds its way in emancipating Mack from his posttraumatic state. Various scholars have established multiple links between religion and spirituality, and posttraumatic growth. In my locale, there are several established Christian-based posttraumatic centers. These centers accommodate individuals that have been subjected to trauma in the past. As a general observation, patients are initially reluctant to join. With time and therapies, they develop a positive attitude towards religion, which eventually grows into faith.
A tremendous amount of credit and faith has been accorded to religion and spirituality, making them a source of comfort, consolation, and reference to posttraumatic patients. The Shack has shed light on crucial components of faith and how they can be applied to moderate posttraumatic effects on individuals.