Sara and I returned last night from New York where we attended the Worldwide Premiere of The Shack movie with Brad and Kelly Cummings and their daughter, Taylor. (Here are some short videos from our time there: from Central Park, from Times Square and from our hotel as we get ready to leave for the airport.) We walked the “red carpet”, but in this case it was gray and even had a chance to talk to some reporters that were enquiring about the movie.
It was a whirlwind of two days, but gave our families time to celebrate the culmination of a very long journey. Eleven years ago four of us sat in my dining room with a manuscript Paul Young had written for his children, to brainstorm how we could take the heart of that story and make a redemption-themed movie out of it. We discovered that the first thing we needed to do was turn it into a book and if we could sell 100,000 copies of it in 2 or 3 years we might get the chance to make a movie.
Thus began a 16 month journey to rewrite the book and make it more of a story. The months we worked on the book were some of the most spiritually potent and personally enriching seasons of my life. I’ve never worked with two other men who demonstrated such love, generosity, tenderness and wisdom as we sought to get the story right. We were more concerned with serving the story of God making himself known to a man lost in pain and depression than serving our egos. As I look back it is clear to me that God brought three unique individuals together with life-experiences and perspectives to help craft and refine this story. And in the process we were aware that we were part of something greater than ourselves. What came out was bigger than any of us or all of us combined. It was a gift, an invitation God wanted to put into the world and we were merely conduits for it.
Quickly the book found its audience and in a few short months we had already overshot the 100,000-copy runway and interest from movie producers and directors began to pour in. Delight and joy soon gave way to pain as some of the relationships didn’t survive the journey. Even though I knew millions of people were being touched by the story for a time I came to regret my involvement with it. I’d been part of close friends in Jesus separating before, and had promised myself I’d never be part of that again. Yet, here I was despite my best efforts to avoid it.
In the past few months, however, God has drawn me back to that season of collaboration. The sixteen months we wrote together and the eighteen months we were putting it the world as good friends, filled with laughter and friendship and deep, deep sharing of life and heart. And even if others no longer wanted to honor or celebrate it, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t. In the past few months I have come to see this all as an amazing gift God gave through some amazing lives. If you missed that part of the story you can hear Brad, Paul Young and I discuss it in a podcast that aired on January 11, 2008, talk about it here.
I wasn’t involved in the nuts and bolts of making this movie. My friend Brad was, and though he allowed me to look over his shoulder and throw in my two cents worth from time to time, he bore the brunt of an incredibly arduous process. Making a studio movie is balancing a host of agendas and egos that would make you tremble and were always concerned as to how it would come out. This was a painful process in many ways, but honestly this movie would not have come out as true to the book as it did without his hard work and sacrifice. But somehow, through a less-friendly collaboration, God also found a way to shape this gift too. Brad and I could not be more excited at how this movie came out and the touch of Father’s hand that seems to be on it for all kinds of audiences. It stays true to the story and the message and we think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
As Sara and I sat through the premiere showing on Tuesday night, I found myself incredibly grateful for all God has done in this process. As we reminisced with Brad and Kelly it brought such warmth and tenderness to our hearts and an excitement about what this movie might do to invite others to know God. I was asked by a reporter as we went down the “red” carpet what I hoped people would have in their hearts as they walked away from the movie. My answer was that no matter how lost they might be in their own pain or failures, that they would at least wonder if there was a God in the universe looking for them, winning them into his love and freeing them from all the places they got stuck. “If we have to find him on our own, we have little hope. But if he is looking for us then we have all there reason in the world for hope.”
As many of you see the movie you may want to talk about it with others. We are hosting a place at Lifestream for people to comment, ask questions, and process their own journey. You can of course comment on the bottom of this blog, or on the Facebook posting about it. Or, you can go to our Shack Discussion Forum at Lifestream. We’re just going to open a door for people to comment, ask questions, or share your favorite moments. You create the topics you’d like to talk with others about and we’ll manage it just to make sure everybody plays nice. You don’t have to love the movie, either to participate. We realize not everyone appreciates art at the same level or hits them in the same way. However, we’re going to ask you to play nice. Abusive and arrogant postings will be removed.
I do hope you get a chance to see it. And I do hope it draws you ever-closer, not to the characters in the story or those who helped in the process, but to the Father, Son and Spirit themselves. Helping people discover them has been the purpose behind this process. And the frosting on the cake is the friendships it has brought into our lives from all over the world.