Reading The Shack was like finding an adult version of The Chronicles of Narnia and delving into a whole new and yet very familiar world. “Always winter and never Christmas” was a line that even as a child I understood was a description of the power of evil and the hopelessness it nourished. I also felt the hair on the back of my spiritual neck stand straight up when the Christlike Aslan was described to the young, Pevensie children, “Of course He’s good. But He’s not safe. He’s not a tame lion!”
It is amazing how the landscapes of fiction (and parables) can do a better job of detailing what is real and true than theological treatises. The Shack did this for many readers; people who wouldn’t delve into a book of systematic theology would pick up this little paperback because it transported them into a real world of pain, forgiveness and identity. For some the journey to real was too hard to experience and they wrote the book off as a fairy tale or theologically defunct. And some of us rejoiced at this description knowing that God enthusiastically enjoys revealing some truths to children while at the same time keeping them from the religiously experienced fuddy-duddies.
Speculating about Paul Young’s next story the past few years excited me. Of course I hoped that it didn’t fizzle, like many sophomore books do (Even Prince Caspian didn’t capture the magic of Lewis’ first chronicle for me, though it was certainly back again in Dawntreader). Young didn’t slump, his writing has more elements of creativity, humor and humanity than even his first book. He is continuing to develop as a writer and storyteller.
Cross Roads examines the last few hours of Anthony (Tony) Spencer’s alert life. He suffers a major brain hemorrhage and his body is being kept alive in a Portland, Oregon hospital. What happens when he is in the coma though is his own Narnia. Tony finds himself in a world that is desolate and mysterious, yet strangely one that he is intimately familiar with. He meets with people in this world that help him understand his life as it has been. His Irish friend Jack explains the following to him:
“There has to be a tearing down for the real and right and good and true to be built. There has to be a judgment and a dismantling. It is not only important, it is essential. However, the kindness of God will not do the tearing down without your participation. Much of the time, God has to do very little. We are masters at building up facades, only to tear them down ourselves. In our independence we are very destructive creatures, first creating houses of cards and then knocking them down with our own hands. Addiction of every imagined sort, the will to power, the security of lies, the need for notoriety, the grasping of reputation, the trading in human souls… all houses of cards that we try and keep together by holding our breath. But, thanks to the grace of God, we must someday breathe, and when we do, the breath of God joins ours and everything collapses.”
And as a book or Narnia would fail without Aslan, so would a Paul Young book without the presence of the Trinity in characters that you might not recognize at first. While Jesus is still in his incarnate form, both The Father and The Holy Spirit get a new, imaginative outfits that help Tony connect with them.
But Tony isn’t stuck in this other world; instead he is given the gift to see and experience life through other people’s eyes. The fun starts when Tony realizes that he gets to interact with these real-world hosts as his spirit inhabits their own. Tony’s cross roads takes place in both worlds as his heart-choices take him where his brokenness never could have. Will he wake up? Will you?
Sharing anymore of the story would rob the reader of the experience of reading it through their adult eyes and interpreting it with child-like hearts.
Cross Roads is one of those books that is worth reading over and over as the story and discussions are redemptive. Enjoy it several times!