My Shack

When I experienced God for the first time- truly experienced him, several years after salvation and water baptism, my takeaway was this: You know can never ‘unknow’ what you’ve known.

The trouble is, the longer time goes on after the knowing and the exposure to goodness is that you can never be satisfied again, except to move forward and grow beyond that initial taste. The longer one lets time pass without instinctively acting on the need, the desire, and the hunger, the harder it is to be childlike. The intellect kicks in, crowding out organic faith.

Several weeks ago, I found myself surrounded by people full of life, ready to give, ready to grow and take risks. A gift was being offered that I wanted to reach out for, but as I went forward for prayer, all I could see in front of my face was the word PAIN. I felt God’s presence and started shaking.

“I want you to be a little girl. Can you get back into your heart into a place where you’re a little girl, who’s innocent, who longs for more, who loves presents…” Huge swells of pain and secret groaning started bubbling up in my stomach in waves. I cried at the horrible agony of pain and loss, but also like the pain of birth- the pain before a good thing. I thought I knew what I wanted or needed, but I realized all over again how empty and broken I was. How broken I am.

Children instinctively cry out for their needs to be met. They rush into the arms of their parents. They don’t look around with doubt or fear of disappointment when they are freshly created from God’s heart. Disappointment and doubt and fear are learned behaviors that grow in the soil of human depravity, the longer we exist apart from the Father’s arms of love where we were born. Running to the Father should be instinctual and habitual, but often in our pain and trauma we subconsciously guard our hearts from Him instead of surrendering to His love.

I cried my way through The Shack the week it came out in theater, and one scene perfectly describes the condition of my heart right now. Mack found himself back at the shack where his daughter was murdered, and he asked Papa, (God) “Why did you bring me back here?”

I asked the same question as I stood cautiously humbling myself to receive, yet staring the pain of trauma square in the face instead. I remember pain so intense that felt like my spirit slowly drowning until life was squeezed out.

“Because here is where you got stuck.”

No. Not here. Not now.  I heard accusing voices in my head, trying to convince me that I was being humiliated and mocked.  I didn’t open my eyes because I knew I would shut down and go cold to what was happening in the moment. And a big part of me knew God was there-  the safe, perfect, loving Shepherd, beyond any humans around me, past and present. I wanted to stay.

It’s where you got stuck. It’s where you believed that I was the one betraying you. That I was the one hurting you. That I was the one condemning you. I wasn’t. I’m not. Stay in the moment. I’m right here, loving you where your heart was shattered, where you were humiliated, where your trust was broken. It wasn’t me. I’m right here. I want you to go free from this moment. 

Vulnerability, humility, and courage in the location of trauma is excruciating. How ironic is the 23rd Psalm? When he could lavish us only in secret,  it says He prepares a lavish feast before us in the presence of our enemies. Let the giants who roar like lions tremble because their deceit is exposed. The one Lion of the Tribe of Judah is here.

I stood, tears streaming from my eyes. Of course I know he’s a good Father. I’ve always known it. I never struggled with bitterness when my dad died. I never wanted to make the careless driver who hit him feel the pain I did. I never hesitated to forgive; it felt completely natural. I don’t view God as angry. But there’s all this pain, all this fear, all this self imposed pressure. I don’t know who He is in me or when I do, I have no I have no idea how to let Him out. I have no idea how to let go. 

I didn’t know I was broken because I’ve already been healed from and overcome so much. I know I’m still broken because shame and indifference and performance is my default. I know because orphans work for blessing, and children live from love. I know I’m broken because I have no idea how to receive- I have no idea how to not perform for love and blessing and gifts.

I cried and grieved my dad’s death as much as a pre-teen knows how, but I became the queen at adapting and coping and existing in the safety in my comfort zone- the zone where I had faith in God to give me just enough just in time, because he is the Provider for the widow and the fatherless. I knew it well. I still do. Poverty might be associated with humility and godliness, but as I try to receive the father’s love and hit the concrete wall of my self, I realize I didn’t just become familiar with God’s provision, I adapted to being a PAUPER. (God will rescue me just before I die, but I won’t thrive. ) I don’t know much about throwing my head back and laughing with Jesus who loves when I’m silly and ridiculous.

I feel like the disconnect between me and the Father’s love didn’t come with the initial loss of my dad, but in the absence of unconditional love and approval as I went forward. I felt forced into situations beyond my control. I felt trapped and scared and completely alienated, like a square peg in a round hole. I felt shame. I remember dealing with paralyzingly fear. Such intense fear of man and fear of failure that I felt nauseous daily. At first, I stopped eating because of fear and nerves, but eventually it turned to a coping mechanism. My family started noticing how thin my body had become, and I hated that they bothered me and tried to get me to eat more. Everything in my life felt forced on me and in my fear of being exposed as a worthless failure and a shame, I scrambled for something I could control. I remember the day it dawned on me, “They can’t make me eat.” In some strange and sick way, I felt success when people exclaimed over me. I felt love and care when I performed.

The eating disorder is a thing of the past, and I experienced a lot of healing and received a lot of tools in dealing with destructive thought patterns, but much of the visible fear and performance disappeared because the circumstance changed. I adapted and became more comfortable with that particular fear, but when I am faced with new mountains and opposition, the same fear, shame, and performance appears with a different face.

The orphan in me manifested again in the absence of a father’s love and approval as I grew to adulthood, when it was time to spread wings and learn and grow and take risks. As I took my first spiritual steps, I felt it. When I truly experienced fulfillment and friendship with the Trinity and I looked to the sidelines and heard jeers and taunts, when I heard words expecting me to fall. Correction over celebration. Fear over love. Words that schooled in performance instead of childlike need. If your dad were here, you would be a grief to him. Disappointment. Behavior equals worthiness of love. Change. Surrender your will. Then you will be loved. Then God will bless you.

I realized that over and over in my journey with God, (even this past year) I have allowed opposition and questions and my loneliness with the little I did know to create a tough skin around my heart. I want to protect what I experience with God because it is my life and only hope, but in trying to fend off opposition and naysayers, I start guarding my heart FROM HIM, instead of letting him guard my heart. I become a victim of people instead of a daughter of One. Then and now as God is taking me back to my shacks, I still have no idea how to process, to heal, to overcome, except to practice surrender to His love. 

Those of us raised in religious culture are familiar with terms like surrender, but for me, it never felt like welcoming arms. Surrender spoke of control and the loss of my will, the striving for my perfection and disappointment. What I didn’t realize is that God values my will so much, he submitted HIS will to the cross so I can receive the free gift of God. That requires complete freedom to walk away on my part, without the loss of His love, or it wouldn’t be a free gift. 

I know pain. I know shame. I know suppression. I know behavior modification. But a gift? I know about surrender to remove guilt, but it’s shocking to realize that surrender is actually necessary to experience pleasure. Oh, I want that. I know that healing for all the pain caused by misplaced energy of believing and living lies is a doorway to where I’m going.

I’ve spent years suppressing my responses, my worship, my emotions, my gifts, in order to be “blessed.” Don’t be fake. It’s hype. Don’t put on a show. Watch your step. You’re going to fall. Oh look, she slipped. I called it. One failure was all a big validation of what was spoken over my life. I’ve been well versed in what is bad, and yes, I’ve been redeemed from so much. I’ve tasted a little of what is good. 

The spirit of religion, the performance, the form of godliness dictated my external world for years, but as I enter the Spirit realm of fellowship with the Trinity, those same orphan motivators manifest to torment my mind. As I continued to process, I questioned whether I should quit writing. Shall I put everything in my life on hold until I find a breakthrough in my shack? Is everything I’ve ever done or said invalid because I have issues? Am I a hypocrite because I grapple to receive and experience and live the same things I write about or hear God tell me? Writing is my language and in my DNA. It’s how I process and it’s how I most fluently hear God speak to me, but I don’t want to find security in what I’m fluent or gifted at. 

I guess I’m sharing this publicly because I want to be vulnerable and real. By that, I don’t mean that I’ve been fake up to this point, but I want the growth of personal character and deeper love to translate in my public material. The measure of love I have towards others is directly connected to how I let the Father love me. And friends, I am the most broken of you all. I feel saturated in truth, yet far from the whole daughter I am meant to be. I don’t want to defend what I know. I have a messy past. I am in process with all the revelations I write about.  Please forgive me for the moments I’ve been an orphan on my public platform. An orphan either feels inferior or superior. Forgive me for both shame and pride. I don’t want to be rehearsed and repeated and taking my cues from anything than the Father’s eye. I want to get back to instinctual, childlike wonder.

I think birth, sex, worship, and death are the four most vulnerable, divine encounters of the human experience. Having experienced all but the latter, I crave that worship would dictate all. While those are intimate moments for only a few, I want to be the same person in private and in public: known by God– my Daddy. Unfraid to be seen vulnerably by people, because God has already seen me in secret, and he has not made me ashamed. 

©Brenda Kanagy



2 thoughts on “My Shack

  1. Wow, Brenda wow. My heart connected so much with this ❤ I feel like I am on a very similar journey. Thank you for opening up and being honest. It's so encouraging!


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