Author : Life experiences shaped best-selling novel

Author William Paul Young shared his own life story Thursday night at the University Christian Church as part of Brite Divinity School’s Ministers Week, explaining how his experience turned into his bestseller “The Shack.”

Young said his “great sadness” came primarily from sexual abuse as a child and his father’s stern discipline. While still young, he said he learned the ability to survive.

“God has built into human beings, and even children, a remarkable ability to survive,” Young said.

The need to survive affects the soul, for which Young uses the metaphor of a house.

“The metaphor of the book in terms of the shack is this: it’s the heart and soul of a human being,” he said. “It’s the house on the inside that people help you build. And a lot of us didn’t get good help, and so it’s a shack.”

The book follows the story of a man, Mackenzie Philips, whose daughter was abducted on a family vacation, and evidence that she might have been murdered is found in an abandoned shack, according to a summary on Young’s Web site. Four years later, Philips receives a note from God inviting him to the shack where the evidence was found. His trip to the shack and what he discovers changes his life.

The shack is where people hide all their secrets and shame, Young said. People are terrified that if they tell those secrets, they will lose the affection they have gained from others, he said.

Young said the next thing that happens, especially in the religious context, is that people put up facades to hide the mess of the shack in their lives. Then it is possible to paint it to become what others will perceive as perfect.

He said the character Mackenzie in his book spends a weekend in a shack that represents 11 years of Young’s life, during which he dealt with his fears and concepts of God. He said he begged God to heal him, but to do it without exposing him.

“So He set a trap,” Young said. “And her name (was) Kim.”

Young married his wife Kim and they had six children, all before his facade came crashing around him in a million pieces.

“There’s a lot of us that that’s the only road to salvation and the healing in our hearts is to get caught,” Young said. “And I got caught.”

Young said a friend talked him off the verge of suicide.

“(He said,) ‘Paul, there’s a seed,'” Young said. “In that little seed all my hope came back. That day was the last day I was ever suicidal in my life.”

Young said there is nothing God cannot take and grow something new out of, using his life as the primary example.

“There’s nothing so lost that He doesn’t know where it is,” Young said. “There’s nothing so broken that he can’t heal it.”