The Shack

So many of my friends have read the book the Shack and rave about it. I have seriously thought about it several times, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. And the reason is very personal. I wonder sometimes, when is the right time to blog about something like this. Never, many might say.

My parents, especially, but they have their own reasons for that. Part of the reason I quietly carried my burden alone was to protect them from the pain and the reality of it. But this is my life and this is my story and we all have different ways of dealing with things and I have finally realized that it is ok to be my own person…and the stifling black veil of silence hasn’t really worked out so well for me.

The story line is about a little girl that is abducted and murdered in a ‘shack’, I guess. I am not sure how detailed they get, and I don’t know that I will ever find out. Because though, obviously, I wasn’t murdered, I have my own memories of a shack. And though I didn’t physically die there…in many other ways I did. It has taken me years to realize that I’m just not dead yet…and it’s time to start living.

I have made so much progress in overcoming that event in my life. In fact…it surprises me that I have this strong of a reaction still to even reading about an event that 1, is fictional, and 2, is not exactly the same as what I experienced. It shows me that I still haven’t made complete peace with it all just yet. But I am well on my way.

The shack that I remember was in Arizona. I was 13 or 14. My parents thought it would be a neat experience for me to head out west to visit some long lost relatives for a few weeks on my own. It was such a neat feeling…I was so independent, going to see a whole new world really.

For a nature nut like me, it was pure heaven visually. These relatives lived in the middle of nowhere on a horse ranch…on some flat, dusty plains right near some massive foothills. It was like living in a John Wayne Western. It was an interesting and beautiful visit in so many ways.

One of my favorite memories was when we loaded the 3 wheelers (yes, before they were outlawed or something) and we headed to somewhere – again, in the middle of nowhere. There were mesas and plateaus and all kinds of majestic visions. We rode all day long and saw some breathtaking views. I felt like I was in the U2 Joshua Tree album cover. There was even a natural hot spring to relax in after riding all day. It was a perfectly beautiful day.

It was several nights after that awesome day that changed my life forever. We headed up to the mountains for the night. We – meaning – me, my aunt who was only about 3 years older than me, her fiancé and his brother. I had no idea what to expect, hadn’t thought things through…just going with the flow. We met up with some mountain people (yes…they actually called themselves that) who played some awesome folk music and it was a really cool experience.

My aunt’s fiancé worked for a fire department on this mountain keeping brush fires under control. This also happened to be the same mountain that my future college (The Ohio State University) was in a huge environmental dispute over because they were trying to put a huge star gazing telescope on it. OSU won apparently – I really had no desire to follow the story after what was about to happen there.

It was on this very mountain that there was a certain shack. They called this shack a cabin, but I honestly don’t remember it that way. How it all happened is still a bit of mystery to me, but my aunt and her fiance went in one direction to one cabin and me and this boy went in another direction to a different secluded cabin.

He was older than me, and handsome and I was young and naïve and had no clue about anything, but I was trying to be cool and act like this was just a common occurrence for me. I really didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. I was thinking…cool! Maybe we’re going to watch movies or play checkers or something. I was really that naïve.

But he wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He was drunk out of his mind. I hadn’t really noticed until then. We get into this cabin/shack and it is pitch dark. He is not interested in trying to find the lights. He is only interested in one thing…consuming his kill for the night.

He literally became a raging animal…unstoppable. I tried to fight back, but I literally could not see in front of me. It was totally dark. And in that darkness I was ravaged like prey. I no longer was a girl. I became an invisible, faceless, thing to be conquered, used up and discarded.

I was beaten, restrained and forced to have repeated sexual intercourse, he forced himself into my mouth and when he had satisfied himself enough in all those ways, he moved on to something even more disturbing. He used some kind of utensils and proceeded to…what felt like at the time…stab me internally and destroy me from the inside out. He wasn’t trying to kill me…he was just messing me up…and somehow getting off on it. To this day I am not honestly sure what that was all about. All I know is that it was terribly perverted and evil.

At daybreak while he was still unconscious I limped out of this shack. I found my aunt and we headed back down the mountain to her ranch paradise. I was in shock. I had no words. I had no idea what to say. How could I explain what had happened when I couldn’t even comprehend it myself. When I finally did say that he hurt me and that I was having trouble walking, she only said – “Don’t make a scene and embarrass me in front of my fiancé”.

So I didn’t tell anyone of this event for about 15 or more years. Even when I did, I down played it and minimized it. And I didn’t tell the right people and it was used against me and I was victimized all over again. And it remained a destructive force in my life until I could finally somehow 1) honestly realize that I didn’t cause that or deserve it and 2) realize that I actually do have self worth and 3) figure out a way to forgive this demon of a human.

Honestly…it probably took having my own children for me to really do that. Because for the first time in my life I saw myself as a child…a helpless, innocent girl of a child that did nothing to provoke that kind of event. I thought how I would feel if anything like that would ever happen to one of my girls and I had to become my own advocate in my head.
I had to learn to see myself as clean, pure and full of potential…like my own children…instead of the dirty, discarded, worthless piece of meat that I had become overnight in that event and remained to be thereafter for all those years.

That was a big step. The next big hurdle was forgiveness. Being a mom also helped me get to that place. I had to recognize that holding a grudge or not forgiving this person was not really doing me any good. In fact, by doing so, I continued to feed into that victim/prey role, and live underneath the wrath of his power. He had long since moved on. He probably doesn’t even remember me or that night. But it was me that made that night live on and on…just because I couldn’t forgive.

I had to realize that this was no longer “my” problem. I had to let it go, give it up and surrender this event up. I gave it up to God. I stopped being angry…I stopped blaming myself or God, or wondering where He had been that night. I had to stop wondering why? I just had to accept it and then realize that this is no longer my burden to bear. It was time to make it a part of my past, something that happened, but not something that defined me.

I also had to realize that forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the act. It doesn’t make what was done “ok”. It is not a pardon, so to speak towards that person. It is really a releasing of the burden with the acceptance that you cannot change history. You can not undo what has been done. You have a choice to live in bitterness for the rest of your days enslaved by unforgiveness, or you can release it…and accept that it happened, and then figure out how to make something beautiful from something so ugly. The only real way to do that is to share it and hope that you just might help someone else along the way.

Not until I finally understood that forgiveness was more for the person forgiving than for the person that needs the forgiveness…I was finally able to let it go for the first time ever. When I realized that my lack of forgiveness was making me a crippled person, robbing me of all kinds of potential, and essentially a less effective mom… I knew I had no choice but to forgive. Not for him…for me…and for my girls.

Because the fact is that I DIDN’T die in that shack, though I lived a good 15-20 years or more of my life acting like or thinking that I did. A big part of me did die. My innocence, my security, my self worth…all stripped away.

But that is not where my story ends. As mentioned, I haven’t read the book, but I am curious to know if the two points that I had to come to on my own terms are mentioned in that book. Acceptance, and forgiveness – of self and others.
To live an effective life of any kind it is key to realize those two points – in nearly every situation – big or small. It has been a revelation for me. And as much as that horrific night changed my life for the worse and robbed me of so many years…is some ways – NOW – I can say that it changed my life in a positive way.

Because I don’t just get to read about concepts like this and think…one day I might try to figure out how to apply that good knowledge…I have had to live it. And since I could apply it to something that big…I can apply it to the tiniest of situations…where I feel like a failure of some kind or perhaps I need to forgive someone – and sometimes that someone is ME.

It’s funny. I talked to someone tonight that said that I am a pessimist and kind of a negative person. That bums me out, because I honestly feel like I have overcome SOO much. And this is only one little event in my very wretched beautiful life. Yes…there are more ugly stories to tell at some other point. But I like to stretch these hard to hear topics out over time. One…it wears ME out. Two…I don’t want to be downer. I need to post some light hearted stuff after something like this just for my own benefit.

But for some reason…I just felt like it was time to share that.

The point is this…You don’t have to experience such horrific events to “get” the message.

1. You are valuable. You are worthy. You are someone’s daughter or son.
2. You are going to make an impact in this world…will it be positive or negative?
3. No one can rob your potential to make a positive impact in this world but you
4. It’s never too late to change. You’re not dead yet. Start living now.
5. Forgiveness is about getting yourself out of the way, letting go and moving beyond an obstacle or handicap that you have created by not forgiving.
6. Forgiveness does not condone a terrible event. It is about acceptance of what you cannot change.
7. Realize that you have to work at applying these concepts every day and you will fail consistently.
8. Give yourself a break.

We all have obstacles to overcome. We all have our own versions of our ‘shack’. Despite that actual little shack on that mountain…My REAL shack wasn’t a physical shack or place at all. It was a spiritual and emotional prison that I put myself in for all those years. It’s good to be free.

I return to my shack sometimes. I get hung up in myself…in pride, self pity…you name it. I am currently struggling in forgiving a few people in my life right now…even knowing all that I know. I am still in the process of really forgiving my ex husband for all that he did and continues to do. I am making progress, but this is one of the bigger situations in life that require honesty, and probably just some time. Some people are amazed I have been able to function as well as I sometimes do. That probably has to do with all the lessons learned from my shack.

But I’m still just a work in progress. I go back to that prison sometimes…but now I am just visiting…and I always have my ‘get out of jail free’ card with me at all times.

I’ve found it very helpful and important to surround myself with constructive, like minded people that can accept me as who I am and to be real about this stuff. People who can give me a little sympathy now and then when I need it, but also give me a loving nudge or a push to help get me the heck out of my shack! Because though it is still a bit of a battleground, I know where I really live.

You know…I think I’m going to read that book someday.

7 thoughts on “The Shack

  1. Lee,
    You have such great strength, depth and love. I’m sorry to hear that such terrible things have happened to you but I think it’s great that you are sharing your life with the world so that we can benefit from the lessons you have learned. Thank you for being real, even when its difficult. It would be great if we could all be this way with one another instead of hiding & never healing. God bless you!

  2. Whoever said you’re pessimistic must not listen very well! And 2 crimes were committed in that shack – one by the man and one by the Aunt. Double forgiveness and a lesson to everyone responsible for a child…Big hug out to you – stand in the sun my friend.

  3. Lee,

    You are amazing. I know you are not looking for praise, bu I am continually amazed at the quality of person you have become. So many of us (myself included) would take the blows that have been dealt and either turn them inward into self hatred or outward into hurting others the way we have been hurt. I am so glad you have continued to allow God to shape you and have been open to forgiveness.



  4. Just one more thought. Working where I do and living where I live, I hear so many stories like yours, but the ends have taken them to some pretty self destructive places. I hope you are able to use your voice to be an inspiration to others like you, to show them that was has happened to you does not have to dictate who you become and that there is hope and happiness in foregivness and love.

    • You really do not need to read the book, because you already know the message. However, there is a place in the book where the father goes to the garden behind the shack, and it is filled with a bunch of flowers that don’t seem to belong together, but it’s beautiful. It’s a “beautiful mess”. That garden represents his soul. While it is beautiful, it is also an absolute mess. That was my favorite part of the book because I have always thought of myself as a “beautiful mess”. Thanks for sharing this very personal experience! You are a brave person, and I have never thought of you as a pessimist. If you do choose to read the book, you could even skip to the scene in the garden where the Holy Spirit shares how God sees us. It was a really lovely image.

      • Wow – thanks for sharing. I think I would like to read the book just for that part alone. I always call my life “wretchedly beautiful” and I started a book that so far I entitled “beautiful chaos”. Sounds like like me and the author of the shack must be in a similar frame of mind. That is very interesting to me and now I am really intrigued to read it. I am only afraid now that I won’t ever have to finish my book…because it may already be written!!

  5. Acceptance and forgiveness are only two of the many things you will receive from reading The Shack my dear, sweet friend.
    Like you, I was not interested in reading the book, but for different reasons.
    But I reserved a copy from the library and picked it up last week.
    I had difficulty getting through those first pages filled with words that no parent wants to read but, once I did, what I found was amazing and life-changing. My thoughts, my perspective and my relationship with God have be forever changed by what I found in the rest of those pages – words I believe only could have been inspired my God himself.
    Although you have come an amazingly long way in your healing – in your acceptance and forgiveness – I guarantee you that, if you’ll allow it, this book will push you past boundaries that you didn’t even realize were there.

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