A Sad Chapter in a Continuing Story

I’m getting an increasing number of emails asking whether or not Brad and I are engaged in a lawsuit with Paul Young over the collaboration we experienced in putting THE SHACK together and making it available to the world. Regretfully, we are though not by our choice. The great sadness I’ve been sucked into through this is the unfortunate and unexpected result of simply helping a friend. For those who love the message of this book I’m sure this comes as a huge disappointment, as it has with us.

I have been in this process for some time, and I’ve had some dear friends and older brothers and sisters who have been carrying this with Sara and me in prayer and counsel. I haven’t known how to talk about it publicly and won’t in great detail because it involves people I love in a process that makes no room for love or grace. But as much as we celebrated the joy of our friendship and what it produced, it is fair for people to know there is another side to the story and remind ourselves that not all things bright and beautiful endure in a broken world.

Our current conflict with Paul is a tragic chapter in the collaboration that produced such a wonderful book about God’s love, forgiveness, and passion for relationship. I’ve always seen that story as a gift God gave and bigger than any of us who were part of it. Paul, Brad and I began this journey as well-intentioned individuals working on a story together at Paul’s insistence. Our time of collaboration in writing, publishing and distributing this book over three years was one of the most joy-filled and spiritually enriching seasons of my life. Unfortunately, a collaboration works only as long as each one in it puts the relationship first.

About eighteen months ago, for reasons that are still unclear to me, Paul cut off all personal communication with Brad and I and stopped participating in our collaboration. Over the next year his new management team began to make an increasing set of demands and accusations. We have made numerous attempts to discuss this with Paul and failing that have offered to have others mediate this conflict (both mutual friends and professional mediators), to address any way he didn’t feel fairly treated, and to deal with whatever personal issues compromised our friendship. Every attempt has been refused without comment.

Nine months ago we were served with a lawsuit. The decision to resolve our differences legally is Paul’s alone and I have been forced into an environment that violates everything I love about relationships and all that Scripture asks believers to do to deal with our differences. I did everything I knew to do to avoid litigation, but in the end I have to respond to Paul’s charges in that venue to protect the commitments we have with others, based on his assurances to us.

Nothing in my lifetime has brought greater confusion or grief to myself and my family and I continue to pray and hope for the opportunity to resolve this in the same spirit of friendship and brotherhood that began this journey. We are encouraging fellow believers to take the Lord’s side in this conflict. He is not for us or against our brother Paul, He is for a resolution steeped in the very things we wrote about together—love, grace, truth, forgiveness, and laying down our lives for each other. I’m sure Jesus yearns for a full reconciliation, but lacking that, would at least appreciate a gracious resolution and peaceful parting.

Someone sent me this quote this morning. I don’t know the man who said it, but I pray his words come to pass for all of us:

“Every friendship travels at sometime through the black valley of despair. This tests every aspect of your affection. You lose the attraction and the magic. Your sense of each other darkens and your presence is sore. If you can come through this time, it can purify with your love, and falsity and need will fall away. It will bring you onto new ground where affection can grow again.” — John O’Donohue

Our current circumstance is the middle of a painful chapter and not the end of God’s story of love and redemption.